The Fortress of Solitude

the-fortress-of-solitudeJust in time for the start of June, behold May's book club selection!  Laura hosted our May meeting and chose a book that had a lot of potential: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.  Lethem's 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn won the National Book Critics Award, and practically every major publication in America had rave reviews for The Fortress of Solitude.  A quick description of the book from GoodReads:

This is the story of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. They are friends and neighbors, but because Dylan is white and Mingus is black, their friendship is not simple. This is the story of their Brooklyn neighborhood, which is almost exclusively black despite the first whispers of something that will become known as "gentrification."  This is the story of 1970s America, a time when the most simple human decisions—what music you listen to, whether to speak to the kid in the seat next to you, whether to give up your lunch money—are laden with potential political, social and racial disaster. This is the story of 1990s America, when no one cared anymore.

Of the members who attended this month's meeting, only Laura actually finished the entire book (I came in close second).  Although the topic and setting (pre-gentrified Brooklyn) of the book seemed promising, the novel disappointed.  Lethem spent more time describing the surroundings of Dylan and Mingus than delving into the characters themselves, which left us feeling as though we never developed an affinity for either of the boys.  Though we did feel pretty sad when Dylan got beat up ALL THE TIME (beginning at age 5).  We should reserve a little bit of judgment, though; according to Laura, the last 60 pages of the book were fast-paced and enjoyable.

Our May meeting helped us learn one of the cardinal rules of a successful book club: keep the meeting day consistent.  Since our inception, our book club has always met on Thursday evenings.  In order to accommodate Karen busy schedules, we agreed to meet on a Tuesday evening in May.  The result: disaster.  We had very low attendance (mostly due to last minute work commitments), and we instituted a new book club rule as a result.  From this moment forward, every book club meeting will take place on the fourth Thursday of the month.  Except for the July meeting, which will occur on the fifth Thursday since our hostess JTS will be out of town (alright, I guess our new rule isn't as ironclad as we'd hoped).  MR is up in June, and she's chosen a book that is billed as light-hearted and hilarious.  We'll see if it delivers...

Now that summer has arrived, look for more book reviews from HCG in addition to the monthly book club post.  I've got a stack of books just waiting to be tucked into my beach bag and enjoyed on the sand every weekend in Cape May.