"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

TITLE: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
AUTHOR: Michael Chabon

I'm a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to read this. The trade paperback was too heavy to carry around and there were other books to read, and now it's been a lot of years and the pages are starting to yellow at the edges. When I finally sat down to read it, I couldn't put it down. There's a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize: It's brilliant.

Clay is Sammy Klayman, a Jewish teen in Brooklyn, dreaming of a career in comic books. The year is 1939 and the success of National's new superhero, Superman, has other publishers looking for their own superheroes. Sammy can write, but his art hovers around ordinary. Enter his newly arrived cousin Josef Kavalier, from Prague. Joe has studied magic and illusion and is obsessed with bringing his parents and younger brother to safety in the US. Joe is also a brilliant artist and together, they create The Escapist, which they present to Sammy's boss at a novelty company. Suddenly, the novelty company is in the comic book business.

Though successful, the cousins make a tiny fraction of the money their comic book creations earn for their publisher, to whom they'd sold their rights for a pittance. Chabon's prose seems effortless as he takes us through hope and disappointment, telling the coming-of-age story of these two cousins against the backdrop of World War II and the Holocaust, as well as an exploration of popular culture and mid-20th Century New York City. Chabon did his research and I had to look up a number of characters to see if they were/had been real or not. This is a long book I didn't want to end. I love Sammy and Joe and Rosa, the woman Joe fell in love with. Thanks to Chabon's narrative voice, I quickly became emotionally invested in their lives and as I closed the book on the last page, I wanted to know what came next. That's the best compliment I can give a book. To anyone who hasn't yet read it, give it a try.

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