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)
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Michael Chabon is one of those writers that has been recommended to me and I have been meaning to read for a while. I didn’t really know anything about it, but The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 so it seemed like a good choice when I saw it on sale a while back.
Joe Kavalier escapes out of Prague just before World War II breaks out and moves in with his Aunt and cousin Sam Clayman in New York City. Sam finds out that Joe is an artist and together with Sam primarily writing and Joe primarily drawing, they become the great comic book writing duo of Kavalier and Clay.
Their main comic book hero, the Escapist has great success, but World War II breaks out and things that have been going well, no longer are going well.
I really do not want to give away the story, but it is a wide ranging story. There is war, love, death, family, magic and more. Chabon is a great descriptive writer and this is a long book, but I was engaged virtually the entire time.
Toward the last third of the book I started getting a bit frustrated because it seemed everything was going wrong. But at the end I was also a bit frustrated because the book was wrapped up a little too nicely.
I have zero regrets that I read it. It is one of my favorite books I have read this year and I will totally read more books by Chabon. But endings are hard and it seems to me more and more that there are really very few good endings.
originally published on my blog at Bookwi.se
Hopefully this gets easier, but I'll preface this review with what I stated in my title. I have read sci-fi/fantasy books almost exclusively. "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" was my first full foray into Fiction. That being said, I think this was a great intro book for a person of my "type". It was accessible to me, with it's Comic Book and Magic Trick undertones, yet it introduced me to the mixing of non-fiction and fictional events. Which is obviously common in this genre, but was new to me. I would recommend this book to anyone really. It's a solid listen/read.
I was surprised by Chabon, probably mostly related to the fact that I'd never read a book outside of the Fantasy genre before, but I found his command of description entrancing. He obviously had a lot of real life elements that he could use to help him, but it was detailed and familiar in it's presentation. A thing wasn't just a thing, it was almost alive the way he presented it, the lamps, the lights, the sky, all of it. It would be what I might expect a detective "noire" to read like.
For years I listened to the Abridged version, blissfully unaware that it was abridged. It has been so much my favorite that I have listened to it easily hundreds of times, delighting in David Colacci’s masterful pacing, accents, and just overall verve—a perfect match for the story and characters.
Then, the other day, I heard a reading on Selected Shorts from the book that I could not place. THIS is from my favorite book? I thought. I went to look it up and, sure enough, I was listening to the abridged version! How thrilled I was to realize there were 16 more hours of magnificent story out there! So excited!
Well, color me bummed out. All of my favorite things about Colacci’s performance the first time around are just ruined. He’s slow, disconnected from the story, and all the accents are really off. The bottom line is, the humor is missing. Scenes that used to be hilarious between Sammy and Joe are now labored. Joe’s accent has gone from eastern European to straight-up Transylvanian and it’s genuinely annoying.
So disappointed… heartbroken, really. I’ll continuing slogging through the book, but… I mean, I wonder if the publisher would consider a do-over? This recording sounds like they clonked Colacci over the head and dragged him into the recording booth to make the unabridged version with a gun to his head. I love Colacci and on the strength of the Abridged recording have listened to several other books just because he’s the reader. I know he can do better this and a book as wonderful as this one deserves the best!
This is a wonderful novel, funny and poignant, imaginative yet grounded in history. One of the best contemporary novels I've ever read. The narration is excellent.
Although it took me awhile to get through this, I am glad I stayed with it. There were times I would get lost in one aspect of the story line and forget where it was going and suddenly we were back in NYC. What a whirl wind time in history between 1938 - 1958. I so wanted Sammy to figure out life and be happy.
What a terrible, empty flat, almost mechanical voice. And apparently he thinks germans all sound like Count Dracula.
This is my third purchase in two days with a terrible narrator. Up till now I've had great luck Very disappointing.
I had really high hopes for this book. I know it was supposed to have a comic feel, but I felt like the narrator dragged it out very slowly. He has a great voice, but I think I would have enjoyed this more had I read it. The voices were very well done, just the pacing grated on me.
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.
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.
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