Monday, November 1, 2010

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Comic of the DayIt took me many trips to the gym, but I finally finished Michael Chabon's 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Most of my reading of Chabon's book took place on the stationary bike at the gym. Reading makes the time spent biking go by quickly, especially when what you are reading is well done.

The non comic of the day book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, is a fictional story about the lives of 2 comic creating Jewish cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman and their journey through life during the late 30's to the mid 50's. Just after Superman burst onto the comic book scene Joe and Sammy combine to create their first and greatest character and story, The Escapist. The idea of escapism is key to the novel. Joe literally escapes Europe during the rise of Nazi power and consistently tries to escape his feelings of sadness, anger and guilt which Joe has due to  leaving his family in Europe and their unfortunate fate. Sammy actually is the son of a father that escaped from his responsibility and family. As the book progresses Sammy's denial about who he is slowly changes, and his escaping from who he really is is a constant battle.

Chabon does a great job presenting side stories which establish an important connection to the present story of Joe and Sammy. The use of the Jewish magician Harry Houdini (an escapist) and a particular instant where he simply could not succeed in escaping a lock without the help of his wife was a particularly nice comparison to Joe who needed to accept help from his loved ones to escape his mental restraints. I also really enjoyed the exploration of why there were so many young superhero sidekicks (such as Batman's Robin). This is a topic explored much later in the book, but very relevant to the characters and book as a whole.

This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction which is a wonderful read for any comic book fan. Not only does it recall comic book's Golden Age and great names in comics such as Jerry Siegel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay describes a period of time which was dominated by radio entertainment, advertising, the progression of an expanding culture of art and of course, war. The book is a period piece which revolves around the comic book industry making it accessible to comic book readers who do not often venture into picture-less literature.

One thing to understand about Chabon's style before entering his novel is that the man describes a scene and does not pull punches. At times the scene can be a bit crude...slightly vulgar language which you do not expect in a comic related story. Also, since the novel is not a comic Chabon ends up having to use very long elaborate sentences to describe a scene or what is happening within a scene. Some sentences are literally half a page long. But do not be discouraged because as I mentioned above, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is very well done.

Michael Chabon has created a modern day classic which any well read comic book fan, historical fiction fan or person who enjoys good books in general would be a fool not to enjoy. It's almost as good as The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Yeah...that good.

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