Best Novel Set in the East Bay: Homage to KALX

The Fortress of Solitude

National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novelist Jonathan Lethem isn’t from here. He’s from New York, which he recaptures lovingly and frequently in such works as the popular Motherless Brooklyn. But after graduating from Bennington, he spent ten formative years living just off Telegraph Avenue and clerking at Berkeley bookstores. The best friends — one black, one white — at the crux of Lethem’s latest, The Fortress of Solitude, start life back East in the pop-culture-pumped ’70s, devouring comic books and graffiti and early hip-hop. Then white-boy Dylan moves to Berkeley, where he expands his consciousness and DJs at KALX-FM. Never a staffer himself at the UC Berkeley station but a devoted listener and lifelong wannabe, Lethem writes in this book about real-live KALX DJs including Gail Warning, Marshall Stax, and Sex for Teens. Meanwhile, African-American pal Mingus faces harder luck, battling a crack addiction and finding himself behind bars. Can memories bring redemption? Ask the balladeer.

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