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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Hardcover – 1 Aug 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Aug 2005
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679450041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679450047
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 3.6 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,136,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

PraisegMichael Chabon

About Wonder Boys

"Mr. Chabon is that rare thing, an intelligent lyrical writer." --The New York Times Book Review

"The young star of American letters . . . a writer not only of rare skill and wit but of self-evident and immensely appealing generosity."
--Jonathan Yardley,
The Washington Post Book World

"Wonder Boys caught me up and carried me along like some kind of flying carpet. . . . Michael Chabon keeps us wide awake and reading." --Alan Cheuse,
All Things Considered, National Public Radio

"[A] beguiling and wickedly smart novel."
--Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

About Werewolves in Their Youth

"A loving craftsman and the author of superb, seemingly alchemically rendered sentences, Chabon has been producing pitch-perfect, at times even dazzling, fiction."
--Michael Carroll, Los Angeles Times Book Review

PraisegMichael Chabon
About Wonder Boys
"Mr. Chabon is that rare thing, an intelligent lyrical writer.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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