So I started writing it down any artist/band references, and songs or albums that are referenced or coincide with the time mentioned. Man... 135 songs later I knew that it needed some whittling down and better guidlines. So I decided to only include songs from albums mentioned along with songs mentioned. Whew... that took it down to a manageable 54 songs, or about 3 CD's worth.
Playlist: Novel Sndtrck - Fortress of Solitude
Lethem has said this book is meant to work like a CD Box Set for a band. With the first section being music from the band (omniscient perspective and main story,) the second section being liner notes (quite literally, liner notes written by main character,) and the third section being the solo releases later on by the group (in this case, stories told in the first person by main characters Dylan and Mingus.)
The story takes place in 1970s Brooklyn, specifically Gowanus (or as it's known now through gentrification, Boerum Hill.) Young Dylan Ebdus' parents are among the first white folks to arrive, much the way Lethem's were in the early 70's. And from the start, Lethem throws you in the deep end and lets you learn how to swim in the miriad of details. This turns many a reader off at first, but it's purpose, I believe, is three-fold. One is to put you absolute in the time and place. Two is to create the incredible juxtoposition of the sequences involving the magic ring (more about that later.) And three is to highlight the 4 views you get through the novel, with the first holding you closer to the story then you want to be.
It starts you off with a bang:
Like a match struck in a darkened room:It just continues with poetic prose that I had to resist from underlining when I read it at first - I cannot desicrate a library book... I just don't have it in me (now that I have the paperback, it's still too precious of a book for me to ruin, but it's chock full of scraps of paper w/ notes!)
Two white girls in flannel nightgowns and red vinyl rollerkates with white laces, tracing tentative circles on a cracked blue slate sidewalk at seven o'clock on an evening in July.
The girls murmered rhymes, were murmured rhymes...
refers to the 'secret sanctum' of Superman... an imprenetrable hideout carved into the solid rock of a mountain somewhere in the arctic, where Superman goes to relax, and conduct experiments.
Here I can keep the trophies and dangerous souvenirs I've collected from other worlds. Here I can conduct secret experiments with my super-powers and keep souvenirs of my best friends! I built it here in the polar wastes because the intense cold keeps away snoopers.This all relates metaphorically to the story with plenty of isolation that the various superheroes (read: characters) take upon themselves. Then the Superman reference is taken quite literally as the book takes on a magic realism turn with a magic ring that bestows superpowers upon it's bearer. The superhero turns are both jarring and enchanting as the book lies in such realism throughout, you get a headrush whenever it takes a pass at the ring.
from Action Comics #241
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Coincidence, or dual shout-out to both comic book and magic realism heroes?
One more thing that the book will be remembered for is it's description of the changing of grades at school.
Second grade was first grade with math. Third grade was second grade with a period in the schoolyard to play kickball...( follows with kickball story -p. 30)Brilliant stuff... he nails inner city public schools, but universally, much rings true - seventh grade especially... that might just be mankind at it's absolute cruelest. Throughout the stages of school, Lethem points out that no one stays the same, everyone's a moving target: "Dylan never met anyone who wasn't about to change immediately into someone else." And so the same goes for the ring, it seems to be changing, as it's bearer requires different powers as they change throughout. With all these moving targets, it's no wonder why people don't connect.
Fifth grade was fourth grade with something wrong. Nothing changed outright. Instead it teetered.... The ones who couldn't read still couldn't, the teachers were teaching the same thing for the fifth time now and refusing to meet your eyes, some kids had been left back twice and were the size of janitors. The place was a cage for growing, nothing else.(p. 62)
Seventh grade was sixth grade desublimated, uncorked. It was Lord of the Rings trilogy to sixth grade's The Hobbit, the real story at last, all the ominous foreshadowed stuff flushed from the margins and into view. It wasn't for children, seventh grade.(p. 116)
In the end, when Dylan's listening to Brian Eno in the car, he recalls a moment in high school where he tried to share a new Clash or Ramones album with his father and ask him:
"Do you hear it? How great it is? There's never been music like this!"The book, as a whole, is about trying to find someone who hears the same song you do, and realizing you never will; or that, if you do, you'll never fully know it.
"Sure," he'd say. "It's wonderful."
"But do you really hear what I'm hearing? Can you hear the same song I do?"
"Of course," he'd say, leaving me perfectly unsatisfied, leaving the mystery unplumbed...
Click here for the playlist
The Amazing Adventures of Lethem and Chabon
James Frey's My Friend Leonard
Novel Soundtracks: Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live
Novel Soundtracks: Hudgen's Drive Like Hell
tags: playlist, books, Jonathan Lethem