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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay…

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (with bonus content): A Novel (edition 2012)

by Michael Chabon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,544277157 (4.23)1 / 517
Title:The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (with bonus content): A Novel
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 704 pages
Collections:other novels, Historical Fiction

Work details

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

  1. 163
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
  2. 102
    The World According to Garp by John Irving (alzo)
  3. 71
    The ten-cent plague : the great comic-book scare and how it changed America by David Hajdu (legxleg, questionablepotato)
    legxleg: The Ten-Cent Plague is a nonfiction book about the crackdown on the morality of comics that the characters of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are so affected by.
  4. 73
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Othemts, questionablepotato)
  5. 51
    The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  6. 20
    Lily Renee, Escape Artist by Trina Robbins (WomensSeqArtLibrary)
    WomensSeqArtLibrary: A graphic biography for younger readers about a real-life Kavalier; the true story of a young Jewish woman who escaped Nazi-occupied Vienna and became a legendary comic book artist
  7. 31
    Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (tmspinks)
  8. 31
    The Escapists by Brian K. Vaughan (WomensSeqArtLibrary)
    WomensSeqArtLibrary: Companion book about group of young artistic friends trying to re-imagine the Escapist for the 21st century, by one of the hottest comic book writers of our age.
  9. 10
    The People's Act of Love by James Meek (alzo)
  10. 33
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (alzo)
  11. 00
    Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (sturlington)
  12. 11
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Miranda_Paige)
  13. 46
    Captain America the Classic Years (Marvel Comics (Paperback)) (v. 1) by Joe Simon (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Trailblazing comics from a real-life Kavalier & Clay.
  14. 03
    Underworld by Don DeLillo (igorken)

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English (271)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (277)
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
An unlikely masterpiece crackling with originality. ( )
  dele2451 | Aug 1, 2014 |
Too much comic book history for me. ( )
  RitaAW | Jun 29, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.


Comic Books Aren't Trash

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a novel that is set during the golden age of comic books. The eponymous heroes Kavalier and Clay team up to create their own series of comic books that features The Escapist, a superhero that has powers of escape and liberation. These superpowers are drawn from the creators' own desires and fantasies to escape their own chains: Joe Kavalier wants to free his family in the Nazi-dominated Europe while Sammy Clay wants to free himself from the bigotry of the New York City of that decade. Written in a compelling language that manages both to be profound and geeky, this is one book that every comic book lover who has a knack for good writing should not miss.

Joe Kavalier meets his cousin Sammy Clay in the latter's bedroom one night after he successfully escapes from Prague at the cusp of the WWII. This meeting allows the two to discover each other's interest in magic tricks and drawing. Joe's illustrating talent and Sam's narrative gift allow them to convince the latter's boss to invest on comics and introduce a new superhero to the already booming comic book history. With the boss's nod, The Escapist is born.

And the adventures begin. But what else are borne out of this team up? What struggles and successes await the cousins? What does The Escapist mean to Kavalier and Clay? What are they escaping from?

The Escapist who reigned among the giants of the earth in 1941 was a different kind of man. He was serious, sometimes to a fault. His face was lean, his mouth set, and his eyes, through the holes in his head-scarf, were like cold iron rivets. Though the was strong, he was far from invulnerable. He could be knocked cold, bludgeoned, drowned, burned, beaten, shot. And his missions were just that--his business, fundamentally, was one of salvation. The early stories, for all their anti-fascist fisticuffs and screaming Stukas, are stories of orphans threatened, peasants abused, poor factory workers turned into slavering zombies by their arms-producer bosses. Even after the Escapist went to war, he spent as much time sticking up for the innocent victims of Europe as he spent as he did taking divots out of battleships with his fists. He shielded refugees and kept bombs from landing on babies. Whenever he busted a Nazi spy ring at work right here in the U.S.A. (the Saboteur's, for example), he would deliver the speeches by which Sam Clay tried to help fight his cousin's war, saying, for example, as he broke open yet another screw-nosed "armored mole" full of lunkish Germans who had been trying to dig under Fort Knox, "I wonder what that head-in-the-sand crowd of war ostriches would say if they could see this!" In his combination of earnestness, social conscience, and willingness to scrap, he was a perfect hero for 1941, as America went about the rumbling, laborious process of backing itself into a horrible war.

Every superhero has a tragic story hidden behind the mask or slipped under the tights. The novel, despite its lighthearted humor, does not forget to reveal this underlying tragedy. Joe, a survivor of the Holocaust, carries a deep remorse for merely surviving, as if it were a grave sin to survive. The Escapist, with his uppercuts connecting to the jaws of Joe's illustrated version of Hitler, and his general anti-Nazi propaganda in his comic book battles and adventures, help him earn a lot of money, money which he puts away to take his family away from the impending war in Europe.

But it's not enough. It is frustrating not to be able to get something when you have the money to pay for it. Not even The Escapist can help him and his family escape. So as a result of the rage that is built up within him and that is caused by the world events that the Jews are suffering from, he goes out attacking anything that is remotely German, which is something that almost leads him to self-destruction.

Sam, on the other hand, has to deal with his sexuality. He realizes that he is not like most men are, that he is someone whom people in those days would call a fairy. This slow realization is consummated at the height of his career not without the disdainful attitude of bigoted people towards homosexuals and the almost unbearable pain of letting go of a love that is deemed forbidden.

Appearances from various big men in the comic book industry are interspersed in the novel with gusto, and such stuff is something that will be relished by the comic book fan as if it were the definitive source of the industry's history. The reader is also given some insight on the ins and outs of this industry, particularly the heydays that are often accompanied with the ruthlessness quietly unleashed by the big people behind it.

There is also the myth of the golem, an artifact created by a rabbi centuries ago that is believed to save the Jews from its oppressors. But will this giant made out of mud actually bring deliverance to the Jews from the Holocaust, or will it just remain forever hidden and send signals to people in distress to help them escape or, more importantly, find personal freedom?

There is geekdom and nerdiness. There is magic. There is artistry. There is pop culture and world history. There is fame and heartbreak. These are the amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
This book would get 5 stars - the prose is amazing and the plot plays to many of my existing interests and favorite themes (WWII-era Czechoslovakia, comic books, 1940s New York City/Brooklyn, family, evolving platonic relationships) but I found the third act to be particularly plodding and languidly-paced when the current period of events shifts dramatically. The rest of the book could be considered plodding as well, but I had to push a bit harder at the end to get through. Thankfully, the book ends on a strong but even-handed note. Chabon writes like a master, but ultimately I feel like the book could be a bit tighter. At the same time, I can't remember the last time I was as deeply in a book's world as I was in "The Amazing Adventures..." A truly remarkable read, with a refreshing amount of redemption and optimism that fails to be cloying.

NOTE: I listened to the audiobook narrated by David Colacci from Audible.com. I highly recommend this version. ( )
  marthaearly | Jun 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
It's like a graphic novel inked in words and starring the author himself in the lead role: Wonder Boy.
This is definitely New York, the old-school version. In the fusion of dashing young men in fresh new $12 suits, the smell of newsprint and burned coffee and laundry, and the courage to face unrelenting evil with pluck and humor, Chabon has created an important work, a version of the 20th century both thrillingly recognizable and all his own.
added by ty1997 | editsalon.com, Amy Benfer (Sep 28, 2000)
Although suffused with tragedy, ''The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay'' proves to be a comic epic, generously optimistic about the human struggle for personal liberation.
With ''The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,'' Mr. Chabon has fashioned a big, ripe, excitingly imaginative novel and set it in the world of his grandfather, a New York City typographer at a plant where comics were printed... In loving if sometimes windy detail, since his great book is buried inside a larger and more meandering one, the prodigiously talented author of ''Wonder Boys'' leads readers into the world of Sam and Joe's pop collaboration.
Chabon is a genius --- there is no other way to describe his ability to blend Hitler, comic books, brotherhood, first love, fame and the pitfalls of celebrity, Brooklyn Jewish home life, the European struggle against the Third Reich, America's growing prosperity, and good-looking women who use their smarts and their curves to get ahead in the world together in such a cohesive, complete story.

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Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We have this history of impossible solutions for insoluble problems
--Will Eisner, in conversation
Wonderful escape!
--Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Wakefield"
To my father
The Gabrielov Family
First words
In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.
"We have the idea that our hearts, once broken, scar over with an indestructible tissue that prevents their ever breaking again in quite the same place."
"The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost that they might never have existed in the first place."
It was a mark of how fucked-up and broken was the world - the reality - that had swallowed his home and his family that such a feat of escape, by no means easy to pull off, should remain so universally despised.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born writer named Sam Clay—both Jewish—before, during, and after World War II. Kavalier and Clay become major figures in the nascent comics industry during its "Golden Age."
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312282990, Paperback)

Like the comic books that animate and inspire it, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is both larger than life and of it too. Complete with golems and magic and miraculous escapes and evil nemeses and even hand-to-hand Antarctic battle, it pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages brimming with longing and hope. Samuel Klayman--self-described little man, city boy, and Jew--first meets Josef Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed, telling him to make room for their cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. It's the beginning, however unlikely, of a beautiful friendship. In short order, Sam's talent for pulp plotting meets Joe's faultless, academy-trained line, and a comic-book superhero is born. A sort of lantern-jawed equalizer clad in dark blue long underwear, the Escapist "roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains!" Before they know it, Kavalier and Clay (as Sam Klayman has come to be known) find themselves at the epicenter of comics' golden age.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:41 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

With this brilliant novel, the bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century. Like Phillip Roth's American Pastoral or Don DeLillo's Underworld, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a superb novel with epic sweep, spanning continents and eras, a masterwork by one of America's finest writers. It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun. The brilliant writing that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to John Cheever and Vladimir Nabokov is everywhere apparent in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Chabon writes "like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader," wrote Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times about Wonder Boys-and here he has created, in Joe Kavalier, a hero for the century. Annotation. With this brilliant novel, the bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century. Like Phillip Roth's American Pastoral or Don DeLillo's Underworld, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a superb novel with epic sweep, spanning continents and eras, a masterwork by one of America's finest writers.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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