- Paperback: 643 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (7 Jan. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841154938
- ISBN-13: 978-1841154930
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.1 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Paperback – 7 Jan 2008
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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
‘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 TribuneSee all Product description
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The novel is highly episodic but with recurring themes notably magic and escapist artistry. It's highly inventive and always keeps you guessing - and full of clever things. If I didn't ultimately warm to it, that's because I think I found the behaviours and decision taking of the central characters very hard to fathom. Perhaps we are not meant to understand Jisef but just go along for the ride...
Josef Kavalier escapes from Czechoslovakia at the start of WWII and arrives at the house of his aunt and cousin Ethel and Sam Clayman in New York with revenge against the Nazis in his heart and extraordinary talent in his fingertips. The novel traces the cousins' lives through their growing friendship and their artistic partnership in the era of comic books during the 1940s and 50s. Chabon cleverly switches between chapters that explore the relationship between the two cousins and those that tell the story from one or the other's point of view in immersive and wonderful detail - I thought that this created a really rich and layered story with believably flawed characters. Chabon maintains the momentum throughout as well and despite this being a long read (600+ pages of close type), I felt utterly compelled to turn page after page after page. A great literary adventure.
Having read it over a decade ago, I did not recall all the plot points, so it was very enjoyable throughout. You can read it as a ripping yarn, an analogy for the plight of Jews during and after the war, and not worry too much about how deep it is. For me. this is Chabon's second best book, behind the recent Telegraph Avenue - which is better written, and just as entertaining.
Chabon's three early books have a homosexual character and storyline, and the one is K&C is central to the plot. I am not sure why he does this, but I am glad he doesn't do it anymore. It does not detract in any way from the tale, but it is peculiar that he felt compelled to include this 'twist.' Here, it makes sense.
For my money, this would make an amazing film, but it would be a long and bumpy one. Perhaps not, better as a book. If you haven't read it, you won't be disappointed, but you must be patient. It's long.
I loved the first part of this book where Josef's journey is charted, and the atmospheric descriptions of the pre-war New York in the 1940's. But the book soon begins to meander, and I was struggling to see a plot emerging. However, the language is beautiful, and when I thought, 'where are we going now' a beautiful or witty sentence would pull me back to the novel.
This is a book for boys about boys. It's a story about fathers, sons, cousins and brothers. There's only one major female character, which I must admit also made me identify with the story a little less. It didn't help that I'm also not particularly interested in comics (or graphic novels) - a major theme here.
Hence only three stars.
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