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Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)

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kavalier_clay_smallHello world! I’m back! Let’s see how long my re-found blogging mojo lasts this time around. Anyway, before it leaves me again I want to talk to you guys about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It tells the stories of two Jewish cousins, Josef (Joe) Kavalier and Sam Clay (Klayman) during and after WW II. Joe has a a traumatic escape from Third Reich Prague and joins the side of his family who has emigrated to the US. Together, Joe and Sam start a comic book series, centred on a super hero called The Escapist. Joe is a gifted artist, Sam is the story man behind the outfit. As two slightly naive hot heads eager to get their ideas out there, they get royally ripped off by the people they sell their stories to, but they have a very good time of it. At the same time, the Escapist’s adventures sort of function like a therapy for them both: Joe uses the hero to fight the Nazis in his imagination, while his cousin, who suffered from polio as a child, can do things he can’t do in “real life” through him. Both meet people: Joe meets Rosa Saks, an artist, and Sam meets Tracy Bacon, the Escapist’s radio voice. For a while, they’re almost carefree, if it weren’t for Joe’s continuous obsession with helping his family escape from Prague.

But then a tragedy happens, and Joe joins the army. Sam goes on an adventure with Tracy Bacon that goes wrong as they’re arrested for homosexual action. Joe is sent on a mission to Antarctica, while Sam takes a decision that shows the deep relationship he has formed with his cousin. I won’t tell you what happens after Joe returns from the war, because I don’t want to give too much away – even though this isn’t a novel mainly built on the tension that comes from not knowing (but it’s nicer that way).

I liked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay a lot. The story checks out beautifully and I really enjoyed the novel’s unpretentious style. There’s no over-the-top drama, which helps you use your own imagination, but the story line never lags. The same goes for how he deals with Sam’s homosexuality – it obviously causes problems, but it’s not the main subject everything revolves around, as seems to be the case with some books with LGBT characters. And even though I’m everything but a comic or graphic novel buff, I really liked the way Chabon works some of the stories Kavalier, Clay, and Rosa develop for their characters into the action.

To me, Kavalier and Clay never got boring, even though it’s a long book and it took me quite a while to get through it because of how little I get around to reading these days. I’d actually say it’s a great book to take on a holiday when you want an engaging, but not shallow, read and you have some reading time available. But this is also fine to read in bite-sized chunks like I did, just be prepared for it to take a little while.

German title: Die unglaublichen Abenteuer von Kavalier & Clay
Spanish title: Las asombrosas aventuras de Kavalier y Clay

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Author: bettinathenomad

Nomadic fan of books, food, the outdoors, and water. International Relations geek. Chlorine is my perfume.

2 thoughts on “Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)

  1. Hi Bettina – if I’d read your review first I think I’d have had a more realistic expectation of the book. Love the widening of your focus. Good luck with it.

    • I hate it when I go into a book with expectation and then it doesn’t match them. I picked this because I wanted something engaging and light, but not trivial, and that’s what I got, so I enjoyed it. Had I gone into it expecting a literary masterpiece, I probably would have liked it a lot less – so I can see where you’re coming from!
      Re: my widening of focus – thanks! 🙂 We’ll see how it turns out.

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