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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

7 Jan 2008

Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic – from the author of ‘Wonder Boys’.

One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay’s cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and even more fruitful business partnership. Together, they create a comic strip called ‘The Escapist’, its superhero a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world. ‘The Escapist’ makes their fortune, but Joe can think of only one thing: how can he effect a real-life escape, and free his family from the tyranny of Hitler?

Michael Chabon’s exceptional novel is a thrilling tight-rope walk between high comedy and bitter tragedy, and confirms his position as one of the most inventive and daring of contemporary American writers. In Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, he has created two unforgettable characters bound together by love, family and cartoons.


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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 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,107 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characters and lots of research 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly adventurous! 22 Sep 2003
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work 1 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback
Loathe though I am to set myself against the weight of popular opinion, I found this book too long, too laboured and very hard work. The story and the style lacks nothing in originality, and although I enjoyed the first half, the long and languid style of prose began to bore me about two thirds of the way through.
I persevered and cannot criticize the content, the characterisation, or the peaks and troughs of the heroes' lives and careers. It is an admirable book, but the point is I felt I had to 'persevere' with it, and the best stories compel me to read until I must sleep and then I feel disappointed that it had to finish. Not the case here.
I would not recommend the reader to avoid this book. It is a 'horses for courses' read. And many will no doubt entirely disagree with my views. Decide for yourself.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fertile imagination - but needs pruning 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Alive with detail and emotion - totally captivated
I was cautious when I bought this book, as I'm a huge fan of Gerard Jones' factual book about this period (Men of Tomorrow) and I didn't think that anything could stand up against... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. James Haythornthwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrived exactly as described
It was a book I had read previoulsy but lost my copy of, so this was just a repurchase. Great.
Published 5 months ago by Ger
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I loved this book.
Colourful, evocative and spellbinding.
A real glimpse inside very different worlds! Read more
Published 5 months ago by miss dt hadfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, entertaining, funny and moving
Intelligently written and yet highly readable, 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' is both funny and moving. Read more
Published 7 months ago by BookWorm
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun
A fun read, but not as 'simple' as you might first expect for a novel about comics. As a comic fan I really enjoyed it, but I don't think you need to be a comic fan to enjoy it. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Adomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
It was just wonderful. Love and loss and sacrifice and heroism and just all the humanity that there could be.
Published 10 months ago by Ian McKinney
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay
I have nothing I disliked about this book. I just found it difficult to get into, and then stay into it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Melissa Kerman
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read
This book was a privilege to read. I was filled with happiness, wonder, sorrow, yearning and belonging from every page.
Published 11 months ago by Shelley
1.0 out of 5 stars A very self conscious piece of writing
This was a very difficult book to read. Clearly the author had done a great deal of research on various topics and he was determined to ensure that his reader would not forget the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jean Jaques
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful language but meandering plot
In 1941 Josef Kavalier escapes Prague from under the noses of the Nazis and lands in the Brooklyn bedroom of Sammy Clay, who reluctantly shares his bed with a cousin he's never met... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Helena Halme
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