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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • August 14, 2006


    [54] The Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem

    The Fortress of Solitude follows the adolescence years of Dylan Ebdus, a white kid who grows up motherless in downtown Brooklyn, which renders him a minority, in the 1970s. The novel owes its beguiling power in delineating social and private realities not only to the vivid painting of Brooklyn life, which is richly infused with street rhythms, rhymes, sland, and pop lyrics, but also to a close description of a fledging inter-racial friendship that must find a way to negotiate the racial divide. Between his friendship with Mingus Rude, the son of a singer, and his own ethnicity Dylan finds himself striving to cultivate this imaginary "middle space" in which he can preserve his true identity. Surviving the streets to him means more than just conforming to the jargon and the careful slurring of certain words. Rooted somewhere deep heart in the heart is something more than a polyrhythm of fear and panic: a burning desire to be invisible, to be lost in the flow of anonymous faces after school as he leaves the building, hoping to be carried a distance down the street disguised in a clot of bodies before exposing himself as the solitary white boy.

    Imagine living a life that is not your own anymore because of the standards to which you are constantly demanded to conform, for the sake of safety and survival. In a racial disaster area where one can read the stress in the postures of teachers, cops, security guards, store keepers standing akimbo at the troubled kids, how can a solitary white boy not to cover? How can he not hide under his skin and pine for invisibility? Whereas the man in The Invisible Man laments his under-appreciated and unreognized presence, Dylan longs for that invisibility.

    In the checkered lives of the street characters Jonathan Lethem daubs picture of Brooklyn life with the utmost verissimilitude. Tugged in the language of the arresting prose are vestiges of racial politics and class struggle, so inevitably and indomitably that they impervade lives like words carved on stones. No less impressive is the verbal proliferation of the graffiti and tags which compete for ubiquity. The irresistible urge for the lonely art, in the form of the doodling tags, could impart such courage in the kids to purloin industrial ink. Behind the tags are numerous stories nobody would have known and paid attention to--maybe that is why the tags read like secret codes of one's untold history. The incomprehensible and meager progress in school, the desultory air, the learning disability, and lack of discipline are sadly conducive to a cage for growing--a rehersal for prison. The most poignant message from The Fortress of Solitude is confusion of right and wrong. In negotiating between right and wrong, or teetering on the line between what is allowed and forbidden, one realizes a greater and more urgent need to surivive.


    Blogger matty said...

    This sounds like a great book. However, if you're looking for a truly interesting and revealing read you really need to check out The Importance of Being Barbra! has changed my life.

    8/14/2006 8:46 PM  

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