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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 19, 2000
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : Random House; First Edition (September 19, 2000)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 639 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0679450041
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679450047
- Lexile measure : 1170L
- Item Weight : 2.14 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.53 x 1.37 x 9.51 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #79,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The tale of Sammy Clay and his cousin, Josef Kavalier, who has just managed to escape Nazi-occupied Prague, is one of boot-strapping success, but also one of tragedy, repression, lost love, and broken hearts. It is, however, in the end, about redemption, being true to one's self, and second chances.
Chabon writes with his usual inimitable style, creating a unique vision of mid-century New York City, populated with fantastic characters almost as big as the larger-than-life four-color heroes and heroines they create. We see Sammy's greatest dreams realized, his hopes for true love crushed, the precarious balance he finds in later years, and finally, his one last attempt at self-reinvention in a life characterized by little else. We watch Joe escape the clutches of true evil, but agonize when he loses nearly everything, until he slowly reconstructs himself as the man he has always wanted to be. And we see the two cousins, lives intertwined inexorably, support each other, help each other, and ultimately, act as the source of the other's salvation.
There are few writers of Chabon's talent and skill working today, and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" is one of his best.
The author is a great storyteller, a writer with a rare gift for bringing vividly to life the fascinating idiosyncrasies of human behavior that give the best fiction the ring of truth. His metaphors in particular are the freshest and most accurate I have ever come across, and even though they dazzle and surprise, you'll appreciate that Chabon is not just showing off; rather, he is simply nailing it again and again in describing the truth of small things and events that bring a novel to life.
Concerning Chabon's peerless skill as a storyteller, there is a chapter in 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' that takes place at a party hosted by Salvador Dali. The occasion builds to a moment of exultation that was as affecting as any I have experienced in print. Its impact is comparable to what I've sometimes felt listening to a sublime passage from a symphony or a quartet, or watching a key scene in a great old movie.
Chabon's wry sense of humor is as sharp as can be. We've all read passages in novels that caused us to laugh aloud. Chabon, however, is the only novelist I've read who made me laugh out loud a half-dozen times in the space of just two pages. He was describing a grizzled old newspaper reporter who'd returned from the boondocks after a decade's banishment. His physical appearance, manner of dress and professional background are described in a way that is reminiscent of some of the most memorable characters from Thomas Mann's final novel, 'Felix Krull, Confidence Man.' Chabon is a writer of the first rank, even when compared to the exalted likes of Mann, whose works I have read, studied and enjoyed for more than 50 years.
Tragedy strikes, and Joe runs away. For 11 years, Sammy and Joe's girl - Rosa - search for him to no avail. It isn't until Rosa's son, Thomas, starts to disappear into New York City, skipping school, to visit a mysterious man at a local magic shop. Soon Joe is back in their lives and everything changes for he and Sammy.
This book was.....okay. First of all - it was way too long. Very wordy. I found myself skimming sometimes just because there wasn't a lot of dialogue and too much explanation. It is a writing style - I get it - it just isn't for me. Second of all - I did not like Joe. His character was frustrating and extreme. There was a fairly good size chunk of this book during the part that Joe is absent that I felt could have been eliminated all together. Or at least shortened. It completely derailed the story, and didn't fit. The beginning, though, and the ending, when Sammy and Joe were together - was entertaining. Sammy is a witty character and had some great lines. He kept the story afloat and moving forward, unlike Joe's character.
This book is definitely for folks who love comic books. They talk quite a bit about the comic book greats throughout this book and mix true history into the story of these fictional writers. My husband - who is a total nerd for these types of stories - is going to read it next so I will be anxious to hear his take on it.
Top reviews from other countries
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.