I tried reading Fortress of Solitude again, after finishing Coming through Slaughter. It was a poor choice. The experience is like stepping off a treadmill your first time after a long time, walking with odd-step, awkward-gait. After the bouncing jazz, Fortress of Solitude is just too slow. It’s good, and I liked it the first time, but the second time the lack of agency is painful. It feels too, too much. It’s not overtly literary, but it is at the same time, with its speed.
And I can
I can deal with slow. Some slow has to do with intensity. Building up the moment. Obsessing on the little, relevant details. The background building to a crescendo in your head. Sergio-Leone-slow. But Fortress of Solitude feels like old concrete painted in a yellow-brown-wash. It’s almost too nostalgic. What appealed to me at first was the nostalgia. When I first read it, I remembered my early days in a brownstone, wearing second-hand clothes. How true it is!, I thought. Now it’s too much.
What the book is is a segment of Sesame Street from an early episode. Children in a city-park, caught with their coats on, slightly off sound-quality, the children’s voices doing odd things at the edges of the spectrum, mixed with the old equipment. A black kid missing a couple teeth reciting a nursery rhyme, over and over, while, in the foreground, mixed girls in pony-tails jump rope.
It’s good, it’s good, and if you want to read that, read that.
But I can’t take it now. It’s something about the speed. About the overwhelming nostalgia. About knowing the course of the story, the fates of the characters. What I remember most about the first time was waiting for the characters to explode. I thought something big, something big-big, was going to happen, spurred on by Slow and the cover’s bright, bold style. I thought the book was going to erupt like a Marvel comic, for reasons you’d understand if you read it. But it kept at that pace, and made small gain, small gain, small gain. I’ve been wanting to re-read it for years, but now that I’ve picked it up, it’s easy to put down.
I think was confused when I first read it, and I didn’t understand as much as I do now. About my own taste. About the state of the book. About the importance of agency, and the need to not stress symbols and squeeze truths. I’m re-reading Neuromancer now. I think it’s a much better fit.