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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 19, 2000


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 639 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679450041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679450047
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (870 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 and even hand-to-hand Antarctic battle, it pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages brimming 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 equalizer 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 epicenter of comics' golden age.

But Joe Kavalier is driven by motives far more complex than your average hack. In fact, his first act as a comic-book artist is to deal Hitler a very literal blow. (The cover of the first issue shows the Escapist delivering "an immortal haymaker" onto the Führer's realistically bloody jaw.) In subsequent years, the Escapist and his superhero allies take on the evil Iron Chain and their leader Attila Haxoff--their battles drawn with an intensity that grows more disturbing as Joe's efforts to rescue his family fail. He's fighting their war with brush and ink, Joe thinks, and the idea sustains him long enough to meet the beautiful Rosa Saks, a surrealist artist and surprisingly retrograde muse. But when even that fiction fails him, Joe performs an escape of his own, leaving Rosa and Sammy to pick up the pieces in some increasingly wrong-headed ways.

More amazing adventures follow--but reader, why spoil the fun? 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 aging 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, in other words, of a world gone completely mad. Comic-book critics, Joe notices, dwell on "the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life." Indeed. --Mary Park

From Booklist

Virtuoso Chabon takes intense delight in the practice of his art, and never has his joy been more palpable than in this funny and profound tale of exile, love, and magic. In his last novel, The Wonder Boys (1995), Chabon explored the shadow side of literary aspirations. Here he revels in the crass yet inventive and comforting world of comic-book superheroes, those masked men with mysterious powers who were born in the wake of the Great Depression and who carried their fans through the horrors of war with the guarantee that good always triumphs over evil. In a luxuriant narrative that is jubilant and purposeful, graceful and complex, hilarious and enrapturing, Chabon chronicles the fantastic adventures of two Jewish cousins, one American, one Czech. It's 1939 and Brooklynite Sammy Klayman dreams of making it big in the nascent world of comic books. Joseph Kavalier has never seen a comic book, but he is an accomplished artist versed in the "autoliberation" techniques of his hero, Harry Houdini. He effects a great (and surreal) escape from the Nazis, arrives in New York, and joins forces with Sammy. They rapidly create the Escapist, the first of many superheroes emblematic of their temperaments and predicaments, and attain phenomenal success. But Joe, tormented by guilt and grief for his lost family, abruptly joins the navy, abandoning Sammy, their work, and his lover, the marvelous artist and free spirit Rosa, who, unbeknownst to him, is carrying his child. As Chabon--equally adept at atmosphere, action, dialogue, and cultural commentary--whips up wildly imaginative escapades punctuated by schtick that rivals the best of Jewish comedians, he plumbs the depths of the human heart and celebrates the healing properties of escapism and the "genuine magic of art" with exuberance and wisdom. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland.

He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. You can visit Michael online at www.michaelchabon.com

Customer Reviews

A great story with amazingly well developed characters.
Vickery
The characters had a way of jumping off the page and the story moved very well.
10kbizarredad
Chabon's prose is at its most elegant and artful in this novel.
A. L. Cochran

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

274 of 287 people found the following review helpful By The Gooch on December 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" works on so many different levels. It has the thrills, action and pacing of a comic book, yet also has the beautiful language, fully developed, memorable characters, and moving, non-manipulative drama of the finest literary novel. It is rare to see excitement, sadness, history, and humor mix so seamlessly together. I hesitate to write too much about the plot, because this is the type of novel where if you learn too much about the fate of the characters ahead of time, it will ruin much of the fun in letting yourself get absorbed in the suspense of the novel. There are so many things done right in this book that it seems like a disservice to not try to mention as much as I can about its qualities. Chabon is able to include in this novel the history and development of the comic book, Jewish mysticism, mid-20th century American culture, the Holocaust, US involvement in WWII, Houdiniesque escape and magic, all without ever letting this researched information interfere with the flow of the story. It is also rare to read a novel where the setting is so vividly created for the reader. A large part of my enjoyment of the novel, aside from the story itself, was using Chabon's prose as a guide to transport me to New York during the middle portion of this century. This may be the one of the first enduring literary works of our new century.
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100 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Ilana Teitelbaum on July 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I read this book, I didn't even know that it had won the Pulitzer Prize--there's no trace of that information anywhere on the library hardback that I read. So I was blissfully unaware that I was reading what was supposed to be a Literary Masterpiece, and I would have been surprised if I had known.
There's no doubt that Michael Chabon is a master of his craft; his writing is a mix of the matter-of-fact and flights of fantasy, and often reality is granted an additional glow of the magical. His characters are real from the start: Sammy, Joe, Ethel and Kornblum are not talking heads, but characters who are distinct and touching in their fallibility.
Probably the best aspect of this book is where it deals with art, and art and escapism are themes that are tightly woven throughout this story until they become inseparable. At first art is the means to manipulate one's personal reality, as Joe convinces himself that he is fighting the war against the Nazis by having his hero fight them in the comics; and later this idea is carried further, so that art is not only used to manipulate reality, but to escape it utterly; and this is viewed as the ultimate goal of the artist.
Another high point of the novel is its moments in which the blend of art and realism are so seamless that at first it is difficult to tell where reality ends and the art begins. These moments are consistent with the magical atmosphere that marks Kavalier and Clay's "Golden Age," as well as with the theme of art as a means of escape.
The theme of art and its relationship with escapism is the one theme that threads consistently throughout the novel.
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142 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a stunning novel about the adventures of two boys who write comic books during what was known as the Golden Age of comic books in the 1930's. This book about Joe, Sammy, and Rosa and their lives spans continents, eras, and many years of love and much hardship. The details of their lives is written in such beautiful language it makes you feel you are living in this time period. I have never been so involved in what I was reading as I was in this book, all 636 pages of it. It's a long story but one you will think about long after you have finished it. The characters you will never forget. So I guess I am saying Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, who can certainly capture the attention of his readers. He has a florid way of writing and I really enjoyed that.
I was never a great reader of comic books, but you don't have to be to enjoy this book. I could go on and on about the story, but you just have to read the book description for that. It's all there. I would highly recommend this wonderful book if you have the time to read it. You'll find yourself staying up late till you reach the last chapter. What a great movie this would make. I really enjoyed Michael Chabon's other three novels, but I think this is his best yet.
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105 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Mike Stone on October 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
"A faster read than a Grisham book. More powerful than an Oprah pick. Able to win Pulitzer Prizes in a single bound edition. Look! Up on the bookshelf! It's pulp fiction! It's serious literature! It's `The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay'! Yes it's `The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay', written by a strange visitor from Pittsburgh who came to the literary world with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay', a book that can change the course of mighty literary trends, bend public discourse in its bare hands, and which, disguised as Michael Chabon's latest novel, a mild-mannered bestseller for a great metropolitan readership, fights a never-ending battle for Truth! Justice! and the American Way!"
Pretty cheesy, that. But good cheese, no? Actually, the above is just a thinly veiled attempt to usher you into the world of super-hero comic books that Michael Chabon has created for this book. It is a world of convenient coincidences, of nick-of-time rescues, of unbelievable happenstance, and hyper-romanticism. It's a world whose characters are drawn in two tones (black or white), where good and evil combat in epic struggles, and little boys pay ten cents an issue to read about it. It's an entirely made up world, embracing its own fictionality, but one that the reader can easily get lost in. Chabon has written a book that takes the conventions of the comic book and exploits them. If you encounter a situation here that tests the boundaries of reality, try reading it as if spread over six cheerily drawn panels. It'll make much more sense that way.
The reason for this technique, if I may be so bold as to articulate it, is quite simple: Escapism.
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