Friday, February 11, 2005

The Fortress of Solitude

This book is marvelous. I hope I will give it a chance to change my life. Where has Jonathan Lethem been for all of it? The musical criticism is apt. A scene puts the hero , Dylan Ebdus, at the beginnings of hip-hop at a block party in Brooklyn, and he goes through the next twenty years of rap resenting rappers for being able to talk about their street experiences. This and Robert Woolfolk's extremely tough rap gives an East Coast perspective on the local hip-hop station. (One of my beefs with said local hip-hop station is that it is very tentative to play East Coast hits. Lloyd Banks got arrested there, then was let go. The outlook is Southern, and IMHO there is only so much crunk you can listen to, except at a club. I think Kelefa Sanneh is enamored of crunk because it's exotic there.) Dylan gets out of his bad neighborhood by getting into Stuyvesant, but otherwise is less than the hero of his own life. He represents the "middle space". At the end of the book, he is perhaps ready to be the hero. Music will give him a way out!? If he is still interested in writing his script about the Prisonaires, his actual experience in the prison will be more important than his self-pity. The POV on graffiti is refreshing, too.
The book took more than care of a personal desire to hear a story. I may be able to put off I Am Charlotte Simmons for a while longer. After about 100 pages, I testify that the strength of that book is the desire to hear a story and to know what happens next. (And the savage take on college basketball...) I know from the reviews a few things that happen to Charlotte, but I'm not far enough to know how she rises above the things that happen to her, as I am assured that she does.

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