A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
A novel's greatness can often be seen in its timelessness and it globalness. This novel escapes the boundaries of time and place. It is as real today as it must have been when first publlished. There is something both poetic and banal in the solidarity and brotherhood that surrounds war, death and the madness of man's struggle for survival in the midst of the dark and chocking abyss that floats in the trenches of war.
Let's just get this out in the open -- Michael Chabon is an amazing prose stylist. Occassionally, I imagine I can grow up one day and become a writer, then I read Chabon and I recognize just how HIGH that hill can be. His dexterity with the English language borders on magical. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is at once playful and soulful.
Listening to AAoK&C, I was reminded of Saul Bellow's ability to dance with language while also keeping the novel briskly centered on its well-paced story. Chabon's characters are boyantly alive, cinemagraphiclly painted, and infused a with dialogue that seems to require a high level of stereophonics (all enhanced by Colacci's amazing reading).
Even in comic books, good doesn't always win over evil, but it seems like with Chabon love still conquers all. A fantastic novel to view the 20th century through. Chabon expertly captured the colors, smells, and magic of New York. Anyway, Kavalier & Clay is a world I don't ever want to escape from.
100 pages in and it is hard to miss that this isn't just a nominal sequel to Wolf Hall, but rather the first book's logical annex. There is no drop-off in complexity. No laxity of language. Still Mantel manages to shift form, change structure and reinvent her style. She even manages to give the character of Thomas Cromwell more depth and complexity, a feat which seemed near impossible after finishing Wolf Hall.
Anyway, Mantel is one of the finest writers of English prose living. Each sentence is crafted like a unique piece in an Italian inlaid music box. She has a purpose for each comma and can make words seem to dance, fall and recover right off the page. She pulls the history out of the history and has written Tower interrogations so deft and chilling, one is left afraid of both language and the law. As readers, we watch Cromwell destroy men, overthrow queens, and change history with words, paper and a sharp understanding of men's motives. We aren't afraid because Cromwell is a monster, but because he is so heroically human.
I think I missed the meeting when my book club chose this book, so I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I downloaded it into my phone and began to listen. Within a few sentences, I found myself laughing out loud. I don’t know if a person reading the book would get as much of the snarky humor inherent in this book (particularly the beginning) but it definitely comes across in the audio version as expertly brought alive by Clive Mantle. Just the way Mantle pronounces “Serrrrrrge” with a heavy, sardonic emphasis on the “r” made me laugh every time. And don’t get me started on the scene in the men’s room—hysterical!
The beginning chapters are a bitingly droll commentary on upper middle class life in the early 21st century. I absolutely howled with laughter at the descriptions of the pretentious restaurant, the self-important maître d’ (and his pinky!) and the ostentatiously named food. Side trips into the protagonist’s memories were also—at first—amusing, particularly the passage about the garden party.
Which brings me to another thing I loved about this book: the way the author described things. Like the woman at the garden party with a “voice like the sweetener in Diet Coke.” I also really liked it when the author described something and then wrote something along the lines of “well, no . . . it wasn’t exactly like that . . . it was more like . . .” and then went on to give a fantastic simile that left no doubt what he had in mind. In chapter 15 he gives three different descriptions of Serge’s face, each one more telling than the last: “like a new car that got its first scratch,” “like a cartoon whose chair has been kicked out from under him,” and finally “if he wore that face asking people to vote for him, no one would give him a second look.”
There is much, much more to this book, and once the action starts to heat up the comedy is replaced by a chilling look behind the scenes of these “normal” lives. Societal issues including racism, homelessness, parenting, violence and morality are presented as I have seldom encountered them before in a novel. The end . . . well, I don’t want to give anything away, but it was sort of like in the Road Runner when the coyote realizes the cliff has dropped out from under him. A great listen!