Peter Kurth likes Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude (a portion of which recently was excerpted in The New Yorker). The novel is to some degree based on Lethem’s own experience of growing up as one of the only white kids in a predominantly African American neighborhood. According to Kurth:

The book is a Bildungsroman in the exact sense, the story of Dylan’s self-development in the context of place and time. It’s also a comedy, a history and a fantasy, where the strange and supernatural mix freely with the solid and austere, as they do in life, in memory, in everyone’s autobiography.

In a recent interview, Lethem discussed the structure of the novel and his intentions for the story and its protagonist:

I did want to portray the kind of dream quality that childhood has. Being pulled out of it at the end of that section is sort of a rupture. Even though on the face it’s a difficult childhood that Dylan has, it seems like a paradise lost once it’s lost.

Here Lethem talked with two other writers about growing up white in a black neighborhood, and I already linked to The New Yorker interview with Lethem about his old neighborhood, its gentrification, and what it was like to write the book there.

Lethem is one of my favorite writers. If you haven’t read any of his novels and aren’t inclined to try this one, do pick up Motherless Brooklyn or Gun, With Occasional Music.

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