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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,556 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

4.1 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 500 REVIEWER on 22 Sep 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 The Pamphleteer on 27 May 2009
Format: Paperback
A great sprawling work about some very well-trod topics (the 20th century (male) American experience, the Holocaust, the existential crises of writers and thinkers, being Jewish in New York) and some more neglected ones (magicians, comic books, Golems). 'The Amazing Adventures...' is the kind of book that sucks you in whether or not its subject or its style is to your usual tastes. It is well-paced, engrossing, frequently funny, and often touching. It will please anyone who enjoys the actual experience of reading, the turning of pages and the chasing of narratives.

The prose is emminently readable, which leaves Chabon free to built our affection for his characters and their obsessions. And despite the easy flow of text, Kavalier and Clay do throw up their own surprises. A sub-plot about Prague and the history of the Golem delights, as do the descriptions of what cannot be conveyed between these covers - the actual panels and inks of the comics on which Sam and Joe invest their energies and their fears. Several plot twists are set-up and then stepped away from, which was strangely pleasing to this reader. There are sustained moments of tension and thrill and some wonderful supporting characters - especially the enigmatic magic-guru Bernard Kornblum and Carl Ebling, bitter white supremacist and President of the Aryan-American League. The titular Joe Kavalier is by far the most interesting figure and the shifting settings of his journey, across polar ice and Nazi checkpoints, Empire state buildings and freezing European rivers, animate the bulk of the book. There is also an exceptionally entertaining scene featuring Salvador Dali.

Despite all this, this does not quite deserve the top ranking it is sometimes given. Its pleasures are a little too easy for that. Rather, this is a wonderful example of writing as a craft, as a medium for expression that catches your interest as a good story, well told.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jackie on 26 Dec 2008
Format: Paperback
The book started off really well, and by page 35 I was so fond of the characters that I had tears in my eyes when they had to say goodbye to each other. This is a very rare event for me, as I don't often cry when reading. There are perhaps five books that have managed to move me to tears in my entire lifetime, so this just goes to show the power of the writing in this book.

It continued well, and I loved the detail of the magic tricks, and Joe's escape from Prague in 1939 to his cousin's flat in America. Then everything went wrong. There were about 200 pages of boring details about life in a comic book office. I completely lost interest in the book, and at one point I nearly gave up on it. I'm really glad that I didn't though, as the last third of the book was as good as the beginning. The plot was clever, the vivid characters were back and the ending was very satisfying.

An amazing book, with a long, dull bit in the middle. It could easily have had 4.5 or 5 stars if the boring bit had been condensed to about 10 pages.

Recommended, as long as you are able to get through a long slow section - it is worth it in the end!
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