Jason Spiegel-Grote, January 01, 2010
I'm sure this sentiment is shared dozens if not hundreds of thirtysomething white guys, but I do feel like this book was written just for me. I lived a debased, Jersey version of Dylan's journey, growing up as one of the few whites left in an inner city, retreating into a shield of drugs, comics, and homoeroticism. The main difference would be my parents' belated white flight into suburbia, where I learned how much more savage an all-white school could be - that's a sort of badly-kept American secret, that all of the behaviors that white people fear in black people are things that they (we) them(our)selves have mastered for generations.
This is a truly beautiful book. It managed to do a couple of rare things that I always want from literature, but rarely get: first, the sensation that it is articulating things that I have always known on some sort of deep-seated gut level but never had the words for, or even acknowledged as a thing. It threw the world into relief in the way that only great books can. Second, it broke my heart, over and over and over again, seemingly without effort. The bit on the Promenade where the white lady comes over to "save" Dylan while Mingus and his crew vanished literally knocked the wind out of me (or took my breath away, depending on how you look at it), with its sense of longing and missed opportunity, and the awful inevitability of race that is interested in us even if we are not interested in it. I knew the crack epidemic was coming, and yet I wished I could save Barry somehow. Ditto for Mingus' free-fall through the system, Arthur Lomb's transformation into Brooklyn landlord and opportunist, and, well, pretty much everything about Dylan. Third, the utterly satisfying magic-realist narrative arc of the ring, which speaks for itself.