Book number 38 for the year – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon. What a book! It’s all about men, comics, violence, war and yet, it manages to be emotional, warm and the kind of novel that you want to read before you go to bed. The kind you never want to end. Haven’t in the longest time mourned the fact that a novel is going to end, even before reaching the half-way point.
‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ is about two young Jewish boys who dream of making big money by drawing comics in the 1940s. Joe Kavalier is an aspiring magician, illegally shipped to America, to escape the eventual deaths that await his kin in Prague. Sammy Clay is his wildly imaginative American cousin, who immediately sniffs out Joe’s talent with pencils. The two then dream up a superhero called ‘The Escapist’, a magician who travels around the world and frees the oppressed.
Chabon spins an emotional tale of friendship, of two young men finding fame during the ‘golden age’ of comic books. But their own personal demons are no less epic than their caped comic heroes. While Joe devotes all his time in working obsessively to earn enough to secure his family’s passage to America; Sammy struggles with his identity. Their friendship and professional partnership however survives all sorts of trials, even after suffering a major blow in between.
Along their journey, we meet some interesting characters, like the charmingly handsome Tracy Bacon who plays the Escapist on radio; Joe’s love interest Rosa Saks, who goes on to become one of the first woman comic artist in Chabon’s fictional world. As a reader, you will fall in love with the way the author intersperses details from the real American comic scene, including a look at its violent origins. You’ll come across mentions and appearances of Harry Houdini (the magician), Joe Shuster (creator of Superman), Salvador Dali and many others.
But it’s not all magic, action and escapism. Chabon also dwells deeply into the psyche of the characters, their motivations, fears and other internal turmoils. This 600+ pages novel is an intricate, expansive tale, richly weaved in with comic-book history that will leave you wanting for more. I cannot wait to read more of Chabon’s work! It’s a 5/5 from me.
Please check our podcast by the same name on YouTube – AbstractAF.
If you want graphic novel recommendations, listen to episode 15.