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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Paperback – 7 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 643 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (7 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841154938
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841154930
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of seven novels - including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union - two collections of short stories, and one other work of non-fiction. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Like the comic books that animate and inspire it, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is both larger than life and of it too. Complete with golems and magic and miraculous escapes and evil nemeses, even hand-to-hand Antarctic battle, it pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages lurid with longing and hope. Samuel Klayman--self-described little man, city boy and Jew--first meets Josef Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed, telling him to make room for their cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. It's the beginning, however unlikely, of a beautiful friendship. In short order, Sam's talent for pulp plotting meets Joe's faultless, academy-trained line, and a comic-book superhero is born. A sort of lantern-jawed equaliser clad in dark blue long underwear, the Escapist "roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains". Before they know it, Kavalier and Clay (as Sam Klayman has come to be known) find themselves at the epicentre of comics' golden age.

Suffice to say, Michael Chabon writes novels like the Escapist busts locks. Previous books such as The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys have prose of equal shimmer and wit, and yet here he seems to have finally found a canvas big enough for his gifts. The whole enterprise seems animated by love: for his alternately deluded, damaged and painfully sincere characters; for the quirks and curious innocence of tough-talking wartime New York; and, above all, for comics themselves, "the inspirations and lucubrations of five hundred ageing boys dreaming as hard as they could". Far from negating such pleasures, the Holocaust's presence in the novel only makes them more pressing. Art, if not capable of actually fighting evil, can at least offer a gesture of defiance and hope--a way out of a world gone completely mad. --Mary Park, Amazon.com

Review

‘Dazzling. Chabon has not so much attempted the great American novel as brought to life the idea that it had already been written – week by week, in the humble heroism of the comic book.' Independent

‘An adventure story that keeps you up until 4am with the bedside lamp on, eager to learn if the Escapist, and Chabon himself, can free the enslaved and lead them home.' Observer

‘This is one of those books that makes the reader want to race through to the find out what happens, while at the same time wishing it will never end.’ Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

‘Proof of the abiding power of complex, serious, engaged, but above all entertaining story-telling.' Times Literary Supplement

'A page-turning epic, sketching World War II as seen through the eyes of two comic book writers.' Time Out

'A novel of towering achievement.' New York Times

'Absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal.' Washington Post

'An exciting, emotional, exuberant delight. Read it.' Chicago Tribune


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
IN LATER YEARS, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By nicklamb@hotmail.com on 25 July 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a large book but a quick read - the cover is a little off putting with its 'historical drama' typeface but it is immediately apparent that the author has some serious social comments to make. He makes you interested in characters and the world events that have formed them. More impressively he jumps between the present, the recent past and key historical moments with ease - sometimes disorientating the reader but always to positive narrative effect.
What differentiates this from other historical american novelists such as Bellow or Roth is it's magical, child-like merging of the fantasy world of the comic book with the real horrors of the holocaust. Whereas for someone like Bellow this is always there but often unsaid or unspeakable, popping up in the cracks of modern relationships (think of Herzog), here it is more explicitly dealt with, the comic book world becoming a less than subtly metaphor for world events overtaking them.
I relished the way pre-war America was evoked via comic books - the half-stolen, half original plots and superheroes, the tawdry relationship between sponsorship and 'art' etc . . . I also enjoyed the sheer scope of the novel's abmitions - covering the horrors of anti-semitism, exile, warfare, suppressed homesexuality and what makes a 'family'. This shows great breadth of research, and my only complaint is that at times this can be worn a little heavily - the potted histories of the comic book industry did however make me hungry to find out more about this archetypical slice of 20th Century American history. Furthermore, this historical and geographical leaping about can lead to the narrative being over-reliant on the fantastic coincidence to tie things together.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 22 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
Like his superheroes, author Michael Chabon has pulled off an amazing feat of his own, challenging the dark forces of intolerance and elevating and empowering the little man in this terrific novel. Set in the late '30s and early '40s, the novel follows Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia, and his cousin Sam Clay, creators of superheroes and producers of comic books which attack the Nazis and inspire those who oppose them. As the reader learns about the comic book industry and the sociological conditions which made comics so popular, s/he also experiences the cousins' personal frustrations as they work to gain freedom for Joe's family, deal with industry "moneymen" who take advantage of them, and search for enduring love.
No brief summary of the action, however, can begin to convey the depth and scope of this imaginative and original novel. Chabon manages never to lose sight of the Nazi menace while putting it into completely new contexts, including magic, superheroes, Houdini-like escapes, golems, and comic book characters, and ranging from Prague to New York and Antarctica (a section that could have used some pruning). It is a novel of huge scope--and it is hugely entertaining! Mary Whipple
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. A. Spencer on 29 July 2011
Format: Paperback
Michael Chabon's 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is an outstanding novel. Despite being 639 pages long I did not think of it as a long book most likely because the storyline was so enjoyable, replete with humour, pathos and plenty of adventure.
The main foundation of the novel is the relationship between the two main protagonists, Josef Kavalier and his cousin Sam Clay (real name Sam Clayman) who first meet as teenagers, one night in 1939, in Sam Clay's New York bedroom. Josef has arrived, rather circuitously from Prague, his family sending him to his aunt's to escape the unrest that is developing in Europe. This journey is covered brilliantly by Chabon in the first part of the novel.
The novel continues following the burgeoning relationship between the two cousins as they discover shared interests and ambitions, with Josef becoming more accustomed to his new life in America. Both realise they have a love of comic books and it is through this media that their fortunes begin to improve. However, for Josef there is still the memory of his family in Prague and his desire to free them and bring them to safety in America is all consuming and is an integral part of the storyline.
In fact the author takes the reader through varying facets of the two characters lives as they grow older and develop differing relationships whilst retaining their inherent friendship. Furthermore, to list all the occurrences here would be unnecessary and ruin the enjoyment for future readers. Needless to say the author manages to portray these situations in a thoughtful and sometimes funny manner whilst retaining the overall charm of the novel.
Personally, I enjoy novels that have elements of true history within them whilst also portraying some of the vicissitudes of life within a familial surrounding which I felt this novel achieved. I would happily recommend this book and will certainly be reading other novels by Michael Chabon.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. W. Macfarlane on 22 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You can see what Michael Chabon was aiming for in this bold novel of comic heroes and escapism. The author obviously has a fertile imagination, but if you have a fertile soil you need to be a good weeder and pruner. Prune "Kavalier and Clay" and you would have a terrific - because tauter - read. As it stands, it is a great effort: but sometimes an effort to read. So, although the basic conceit is clever, I was willing the writing to reach the same level.

There are great bits in amongst it all, but searching out those special sentences that make you look away from the page, is - and the gardening metaphor ends here - like searching for blooms in a thicket. The first half tries hard to set the pace, but is hampered by conversations between friends and associates that slow it down, being mundane and neither particularly interesting nor especially amusing. In places, you could skip pages and have missed nothing. Armistead Maupin dialogue it is not; if it was music, you might call it note-spinning.

There is a curious middle section that sticks out like a sore thumb: the bit about Antarctica that feels like a completely different piece, re-worked to make it fit but really a chunk of stand-alone writing that would have made a decent novella or long short story. When we get back to the characters after the War, some of the drive has gone. The Escapist has escaped yet again, but by that time it has perhaps happened once too often and even the author has tired of telling us how it was done. To my mind, the set piece of the-bungee-jump-that-wasn't is robbed of drama by the lengthy reminiscence that interrupts it. If this had been the theatre the audience would have been going, "Get on with it!".
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