The Bard of Brooklyn

Jonathan Lethem's amazing, ambitious novel is full of funk, punk, race and love in 1970s New York City

Hey, here's a really horrendous idea for a novel! Two boys growing up together on a bad block in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1970s--one's white and introverted, and one's black and cool. The white kid's name is Dylan, and the black kid is called Mingus. And they can fly. Want me to go on? Not really? But listen: if you skip out now, you'll miss one of the richest, messiest, most ambitious, most interesting novels of the year.

The hero of Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude (Doubleday; 511 pages) is smart, scrawny, sensitive Dylan Ebdus. He's 5 when his parents...

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