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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by…
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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

by Michael Chabon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,766336193 (4.23)1 / 647
  1. 174
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
  2. 112
    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. 71
    The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  5. 83
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Othemts, questionablepotato)
  6. 20
    Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer 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
    The Escapists by Michael Chabon (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.
  8. 31
    Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (tmspinks)
  9. 10
    The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: A little birdie told me this was a great fit!
  10. 32
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (alzo)
  11. 10
    The People's Act of Love by James Meek (alzo)
  12. 00
    Join by Steve Toutonghi (47degreesnorth)
  13. 00
    Crossing California by Adam Langer (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  14. 11
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Miranda_Paige)
  15. 00
    Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (sturlington)
  16. 45
    Captain America: The Classic Years, Volume 1 by Joe Simon (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Trailblazing comics from a real-life Kavalier & Clay.
  17. 03
    Underworld by Don DeLillo (igorken)
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English (330)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (336)
Showing 1-5 of 330 (next | show all)
This is an amazing epic spanning decades of time and multiple lives. Kavalier and Clay are comic book writers who break into the industry at the very beginnings of Superman. The book is a ready-made classic because it has bits of many genres: romance, sci-fi, heroic tales, fiction, war, and drama. This is a book you can easily lose yourself in. Go dive in. ( )
  KatelynSBolds | Nov 12, 2018 |
This novel was released in 2001, then subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize. I admired Chabon's previous books and I began to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a few years ago after reading Wonder Boys (I absolutely LOVED Wonder Boys). But I had to put Kavalier & Clay down at the time because, mostly, I didn't have the necessary attention span for it. There is a density and intricacy to Chabon's sentences that require a certain amount of reader fortitude; a distracted mind will not find comfort in his prose. This time around, I found this novel to be a very enjoyable read and a marvelous book. It certainly deserves the praise and accolades it has received.

Here's this novel's brief description: Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America - the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men.

If you are familiar with this era of the Comic Book Golden Age (1930s – 50s), then some of this story will seem a little familiar. Kavalier and Clay serendipitously propose and create a comic book hero called The Escapist for a disinterested businessman. He agrees to publish their comic book after learning of the popularity of Superman and the like and has them sign a boilerplate contract where their creation belongs to his company. This was commonplace at the time as a business practice. But when their creation becomes immensely popular, the creators are left out of the bulk of the wealth, having signed the ownership over to the company; many comic book creators during that time suffered the same fate, like Superman's creators Siegel and Shuster. Kavalier and Clay did make some nice dough as paid employees, but the owner received most of the fortune (millions of dollars). This part of the novel was meticulously told and Chabon's discussions with comic book legends Will Eisner, Stan Lee, and Gil Kane (as revealed in the novel's Author's Notes) bore great literary fruit.

After finishing this book, one of the more interesting aspects of the novel to me was Kavalier's background as an illusionist's understudy and the different levels this played out in the narrative. Obviously, his background in magic and escapism was an inspiration to the character of the Escapist. Chabon also reveals his great love for magic and sleight-of-hand, not only with enhancing Kavalier's personality and mode of operation, but with writing this novel. A good third of the novel reveals Kavalier's adeptness at vanishing, whether for self-preservation or to get what he wants. But ultimately, it's Chabon's sleight-of-hand that propels the narrative. Many, many times, there were moments where I couldn't believe that something was going to happen to Kavalier or Clay, then find out in subsequent chapters that what I feared was going to happen actually didn't happen. But Chabon's coup de grâce, his grand finale—literally in the last sentence of the book—is the revelation that the title of the novel may not be about who you thought it was. It was an amazing feat of literary perfection.

I only had a couple of issues with this novel. 1) Chabon can sometimes be a bit... long-winded. He has a peculiar habit of traipsing down asides like he has other stories he really wants to tell but shouldn't. And, as I said earlier, there is a density and intricacy to his prose that requires a certain amount of reader stamina and attention. 2) The content of the entirety of Part V of the novel is superfluous. If the almost 50 pages had been summarized in 5 pages, then the other 45 pages wouldn't have been missed—at all. After finishing the novel, I realized that this section of the novel (as unnecessary as it seemed content-wise at the time) was another bit of sleight-at-hand from Chabon, enhancing the powerful revelation in the last chapter. These two issues are quibbles, though.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a fantastic novel and well-worth the read. Funny, endearing, magical, and exquisitely written, I highly recommend it. ( )
  scott_semegran | Oct 25, 2018 |
4.5 stars ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
What a brilliant book! It manages to tell a story of WWII and America and comics, of love and escape and family. About the guilt of the survivor, and how hard it can be. About being an outsider. There's also a slightly odd section in Antartica, I'm not sure what that was about. It is sad and funny and informative. It's long, but a lot is packed in there. I really enjoyed reading this one. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Oct 17, 2018 |
The first thing I urge you to do is look beyond the kitchy cover (which actually does have relatability to the book, but cannot be appreciated as such until the book has been read) and the title (which immediately called to mind Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure...and turned me off). Buried within the pages is a story of two WWII era Jewish cousins, one American and one Czech, who become a part of the rising comic book industry with their creation of a superhero The Escapist.

The story is very complicated and takes several unexpected turns. At times, Chabon digresses into other stories, stories written for the imaginary comic books being created by his characters. At times, the story itself takes a left hand turn when you are expecting a right and it throws you across the car seat and makes you wish you had buckled your safety belt. For the most part, it is fun and interesting.

I wanted to feel more personally connected to the characters than I did, but they often seemed to be cutouts from a cartoon strip themselves. I did feel for the overall situation in which Josef found himself. Who would not feel a genuine sadness for anyone who might find himself separated from family, helpless to save those left behind, and waiting to hear the most horrible details of their fate. How does one celebrate life or success, knowing that everyone you knew and loved has been stripped of everything that they have achieved or loved in their own lives? For the reader, knowing what happened in reality to the Jews of Prague, it did not take much imagination to know what fate awaited Josef’s family or how miraculous his own escape was.

The book might be a little long. There are probably 100 words that could be cut and never missed. I didn’t object, though, because the story was fast-paced and active for the most part, and without any feeling of being bogged down. I would read Chabon again. He exceeded my expectations.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 330 (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.
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
We have this history of impossible solutions for insoluble problems
--Will Eisner, in conversation
Wonderful escape!
--Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Wakefield"
Dedication
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.
Quotations
"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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:51 -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)

» see all 10 descriptions

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