Monday, September 22, 2008

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon

Posted by lea at 12:21 PM
I finished this weighty book just this minute and the lingering sense is one of pensive melancholy - strange, considering that it started with such jubilance. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is set around the lives of two cousins who create a comic book hero, The Escapist, who becomes a phenomenon. Sammy Clay is a boy whose imagination and brash enthusiasm overcomes the weakness of his polio-infected legs and breathes life into their creation. The artwork is brought to life by his cousin and partner Joe Kavalier, the sole survivor amongst his family since his escape from Prague during the Nazi regime just before World War II.

The story begins with success - two Jewish boys make it against the odds. As the story chronicles their growth during the golden era of 1930-50s New York, it's a case of real life intruding on a fairytale. Sammy struggles with his unspoken and unacceptable (at the time) personal proclivities while Joe joins the army to kill the Germans who have been haunting his dreams. I won't go further into the plot because the discovery of their journeys is central to the enjoyment of this book.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Kavalier and Clay is truly beautifully written - a hefty tome that pays homage not only to the rise of the comic book industry in New York and its accompanying social implications, but also to the fictional two men who contributed towards its popularity. It's what you'd call an 'epic novel' as it spans decades and portrays complex relationships, love, art, loss, dreams and regret with incredible depth, but Chabon's touch has the light and shade of a graphic novel - much like the final creation of Joe Kavalier.

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