Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2001
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's 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 partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book.
Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and the otherworldly Mistress of the Night, Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. The golden age of comic books has begun, even as the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a stunning novel of endless comic invention and unforgettable characters, written in the exhilarating prose that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to Cheever and Nabokov. In Joe Kavalier, Chabon has created a hero for the century.
©2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Michael Chabon can write like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader with their beauty and their style." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
Other than being way too long, this was a pretty good book! I really like the ending and felt a great affection for the characters by then. The writing was terrific. Chabon's is great at characterization. His use of imagery is fantastic, as evidenced by this passage about Rosa's letters to Joe after he left her.
"(Joe)... took out the thick sheaf of letters that he had received from Rosa after his enlistment at the end of 1941. The letters had followed him, irregularly but steadily, from basic training at Newport, Rhode Island, to the navy's polar training station at Thule, Greenland, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he had spent the fall of 1943 as the Kelvinator mission was assembled. After that, as no reply from their addressee was ever forthcoming, there had been no more letters. Her correspondence had been like the pumping of a heart into a severed artery, wild and incessant at first, then slowing with a kind of muscular reluctance to a stream that became a trickle and finally ceased; the heart had stopped."
The history of comic books in America was interesting, and I liked the way he connected a variety of themes to that history. Mostly, these themes centered on the idea of ESCAPE. For example, Chabon showed Sammy and Joe working tirelessly for the Jews' escape from Hitler's bondage in their "The Escapist" comic books, Sammy finding himself and beginning to escape the bonds of America's prejudices toward gays, and Joe escaping from his "survivor guilt" after his immigration to America as well as working for his little brother's escape from Prague, and also Joe's escape from Rosa after what happens to Tommy.
Chabon showed a caustic sense of humor, too. For example when the name of the bedroom assigned to the gay lovers is revealed as "Ramcock." There were lots more examples, and I chuckled out loud quite a few times.
I felt so touched by the close bonds between the main characters at the end and they way they dealt with the way their lives had unfolded. I just wish Chabon had left out the whole episode of Joe enlisting in the Navy and traveling to Antarctica. That was over the top and way too drawn out. Other episodes could have been edited out or cut down as well, and then the book would have made a bigger impact. (You're probably thinking the same thing about this review, if you got this far :)
I am new to audiobooks and am reveling in their power. I'd picked up "Kavalier and Clay" several years ago and gotten bogged down by the sheer size of the volume--a real doorstop of a novel. But I'd always wanted to read it, and am grateful for this superb audio version. In that sense: yes, the audiobook was better for me than the print book.
The historical sweep, the sense of what World War II meant to Americans and Europeans on a personal, experiential level, the complexity and reality of the characters, and (as always with Chabon) the delicacy, respect, and sensuality with which he treats gay characters. I'm not sure where this straight author's fascination with homosexuality comes from, but he is one of the greatest of our "gay" writers. He dramatizes the struggles of Jewish people and the struggles of gay people with an almost uncanny empathy.
David Colacci nailed everyone, but his portrayal of Joe Kavalier took my breath away.
"K & C" has the sweep and depth of a classic nineteenth-century novel--a book of great intelligence, imagination, and depth.
Farm girl, voracious reader, lover of wine & whiskey.
I might. I know for good reason a lot of people that are not me really love this book. I am a BA, MA English graduate and I feel slightly guilty for not enjoying it more than I did. It's certainly well-written and the characters well crafted. I personally, though, just never really fell in love with the book. I found myself anxious for the book to be over so I could start reading something else. There were bits and pieces that moved me and I will always remember, but I can't say that for the book as a whole.
This is a beautifully written novel with very human characters who are brilliantly brought to life in this audio production. The heading for my review, 'masterpiece,' says it all though. Having listened to well over 200 audio titles, this is one of my top five.
Chabon creates a story and characters that are so real and so richly fleshed out that you are drawn into their lives and left hanging on his every word. Against an existential backdrop that would be more appropriate to a Gothic novel if it weren't true, his characters are almost Zelig-like in their interaction with historical events.
Many of my friends who read the book had a difficult time dealing with the sentences that seem to go on as long as the trials and tribulations of the characters. But the audio version makes it not only an easy, but an emotionally compelling, way to spend 26 hours and 20 minutes of your life.
I couldn't decide whether the narrator was terrific or terrible; and decided that he was a bit of both. On the one hand, it is generally quite enjoyable listening to him and he easily handles the frequently-convoluted prose in a way that mades it simple to follow the story. However, his accents are too often cringe-worthy. Joe Kavalier's Czechoslovakian accent, sounding more like a bad caricature of a Russian cab driver, almost ruined this richly drawn, romantic, character for me. Even worse, what the narrator did to Yiddish is what Hitler did to the Jews of Czechoslovakia. Chutzpah (which I am sure the narrator would have pronounced "joots-puh") can be a good thing, but trying to bluff/wing his way through "bubeleh", "kenehora", et al? Not so good.
Memo to Audible - your narrators don't have to be fluent in all the languages appearing in a book, but they do have to have the common sense to ask for help when they encounter unfamiliar words.
No, never if written by Michael Chabon.
Too much detail about the sex life of Kavalier (hetero) and Clay (homo) ruined for me what otherwise had the potential to be a great story.
Colacci could have used better voices. Some of the accents were thick and the reading was stiff, and I disliked the voices he used for the women and a gay character, Tracy Bacon. It didn't seem like what the character should sound like, and was a little insultingly faye.
A lot of things happen that are improbable and almost sadistic towards the characters. A long line of improbably awful things happen without much to counterbalance it, and it becomes a chore to read. Additionally, as a comics fan I just sat there and felt annoyed because the characters were being lauded for being the "first" people to do things with comics that Jack Kirby and Will Eisner did, and it felt like bad forties fanfiction.
Additionally, this might have been meant to be a reflection of the writing of the time, but female characters were distressingly hard to come by. The only two prominent women are one character's mother and another's girlfriend, with unnecessary sexual details given about both. They barely existed outside of their attachments to the men in their lives, and never spoke to other women.
Possibly. His narration is a bit dry, and I wasn't crazy about the way he did some of the voices, but I wouldn't forgo an audiobook just because he was narrating.
I am sure I would have liked this story, the premise sounded great, but after 23 minutes of every piece of dialogue ending with said I just couldn't stand it any more. If that doesn't worry you, give it a go.
I don't think so.
Yes. He was OK.
Not much of anything.
I grew up reading comics. I found a huge stack of them in the attic of my grandfather's old farm house and devoured them. As boys, my older brother being inspired by heroes in tights, talked me into jumping from our garage roof. I can connect with heroes but this story was about a couple of putzes that left me unconnected and unmoved.
I really wanted to like it but I actually gritted my teeth and got through the book just out of stubborn determination. I probably learned not to give up on a bad situation from a cartoon character in a ridiculous costume. That's ironic.
Yes. This touched on many aspects of the human experience: family, heritage, sharing, adventure.
The best scene was the bungee jumping scene. It included the adventure of our hero with his creativity and ability to find new solutions and tricks.
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