Jul 20 2007

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Published by at 7:35 am under Books

by Michael Chabon

The title of this book turns out to be an appropriate description of the story with more emphasis on Kavalier’s adventures than on Clay’s. A very good story with lots of twists and turns along the way to a rather weak “The Graduate” style ending (it essentially leaves the characters standing and waving goodbye).
It is a period piece that runs from 1938 through 1954, starts in Prague and then moves to NYC from which it then makes a few side trips. Joe Kavalier is a Jewish teenager from Prague who has been trained by a magician and in an art school before the Nazis gain control. He is then sent to freedom by his family and with the help of the magician who has trained him. In NYC he comes to live with his cousin, Sammy Clay who is an aspiring comic book writer. Joe wants money to free the rest of his family, Sammy sees how well Joe can draw, sells his boss on starting a comic book series called the Escapist which is a hit and various adventures, tragedies and farces ensue.
Comic books, magic tricks, and Jewish customs and stereotypes play a very large role in providing a context for the story. I almost wrote ‘stories’ since the book is divided in major sections with breaks in time and place. Comics, their creators and their role are hit on many times. Seemingly with good historical accuracy, but I can’t be sure since I don’t know that history. Real people and events(?) are mixed into the book which I always find a little unsettling. I’d like a better sense of what is real and what is fictional but don’t want to do the research or historical reading to find out. That always bothers me a bit.
Good story, good characters, complex twists in plot, but strains credibility at times. But then the title is Amazing Adventures……..

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