by Julie HaleSeptember 2004
The Fortress of Solitude
Spanning a turbulent 30 years, Lethem's expansive new novel examines issues of race and class in his native New York. When Rachel and Abraham Edbus move to Brooklyn in the early 1970s, they're one of the only white families in the neighborhood. This spells trouble for their son Dylan, who must attend predominately black public schools and defend himself against the local toughs. Fortunately, he finds a friend in Mingus, an African-American boy who is a talented artist. The pair share a love of comics books, graffiti and funk records. But a consuming drug habit makes Mingus an increasingly distant figure in Dylan's life, and he soon begins a tragic downward spiral. Dylan goes on to become a music journalist, and the novel itself has an extensive soundtrack, so to speak, as Lethem references the history of hip-hop, blues and pop music. This is a smart, ambitious novel from one of America's finest writers. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.readinggroupcenter.com.