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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clayby Michael Chabon
The story of two young comic book artists in 1940s New York City, Jewish boys, one of whom fled the German steamroller heading toward his home in Czechoslovakia in a coffin, Chabon's third and best novel is utterly original, a generous fictional addition to the literature of twentieth century New York.
Chabon's agile prose guides readers through the ins and outs of comic book history; his language delights in retelling of original comic book stories about The Escapist and Luna Moth. From Prague to Levittown to Antarctica, the story spills from page to page with unbridled momentum, a war story, a romance, a fictional biography, a historical record of the comic book industry, all at the same time.
Synopses & Reviews
In 1988 Michael Chabon published the novel he had written for his master's thesis. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was a critical sensation and the most talked about novel of the year — not bad for a twenty-something grad student. After a successful collection of stories, the "young star of American letters" set to work on an ambitious second novel called Fountain City. A bit too ambitious. Chabon could never quite pull the story together and eventually abandoned the project in favor of a story about a failed academic having problems finding the ending for a too-ambitious second novel. Wonder Boys had all the virtues of his first novel — charming characters, flawless prose, playful wit — with an additional dose of world-weary adult cynicism. Still, though an excellent effort by any standard, Wonder Boys didn't quite meet the expectations of Chabon's greatest admirers. His third novel far exceeded them.
At the heart of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier, two cousins who forge a comic book empire in forties New York. What's so extraordinary about Chabon's novel is how much ground he is able to cover. Sprawling across several decades and a handful of continents — from war-torn Prague to New York City, California, and even Antarctica — Chabon's remarkable characters provide a virtual tour through the classic themes of the human experience: good, evil, romance, friendship, longing, despair — the whole package. Like all artists, Chabon accesses the power of the universal through the idiosyncrasies of the particular. And it's fun, to boot. Kavalier and Clay was both a critical success, receiving the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and an international bestseller, and is widely regarded as one of the best novels published in the past ten years. Farley, Powells.com
With this brilliant novel, the bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century. Like Phillip Roth's American Pastoral or Don DeLillo's Underworld, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a superb novel with epic sweep, spanning continents and eras, a masterwork by one of America's finest writers.
It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is 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 collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.
"The depth of Chabon's thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement." Ken Kalfus, The New York Times Book Review
"I'm not sure what the exact definition of a 'great American novel' is, but I'm pretty sure that Michael Chabon's sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenching new book is one." Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine
"[A] novel of love and loss, sorrow and wonder, and the ability of art to transcend the 'harsh physics' of this world....Recommended." Library Journal
"It's absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal — smart, funny, and a continual pleasure to read." The Washington Post Book World
"[A] towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book....The themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book's sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page. Newsweek
"Well researched and deeply felt, this rich, expansive and hugely satisfying novel will delight a wide range of readers." Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)
"Elegant, lyrical writing meets gentle comedy." San Francisco Chronicle
"Product of a sparkling intelligence, undeniable talent and consummate skill." Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"A page-turner in the most expansive sense of the word: its gripping plot pushes readers forward....Chabon is a reader's writer; with sentences so cozy they'll wrap you up and kiss you goodnight." Chicago Tribune
"This is a gladhearted novel, rich in story and character and invention, and a great escape." Orlando Sentinel
"Starts out as one of the most pleasurable novels of the past few years. It ends as one of the most moving." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This brilliant epic novel set in New York and Prague introduces us to two misfit young men who make it big by creating comic-book superheroes. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America the comic book. Inspired by their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the "Escapists," "The Monitor," and "Luna Moth," inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men.
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist
New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award
About the Author
Michael Chabon is the bestselling author of Werewolves In Their Youth, Wonder Boys, A Model World, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. He lives in California with his wife and children.
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