traflet, June 22, 2013 (view all comments by traflet)
I first read Wonder Boys and liked it a lot. So I thought I'd be getting another quiet, pensive novel in Kavalier and Clay. Boy was I wrong. At one point where the title characters are racing around New York skyscrapers at a mad pace, I felt the same urgency - on the edge of panic - that I felt when the Hunchback and Esmeralda were racing through the streets of Paris!
This book is so valuable on so many levels, it's just not fair to other novelists to drop it in the hat for awards. The main story is placed in my favorite decade (1940s) in my favorite city (New York) about my favorite character set (Jewish boys), so I had a head start in my adoption of this novel as a "best five" winner for the new century. But it just goes on and on like whipped cream under the beater, getting sweeter and creamier and gaining body and substance.
You know -- if you're inclined to write -- how reading a really good book makes you itch to write? Well, Michael Chabon is so good, he makes me give up the notion of ever producing anything readable myself. I have a longstanding love for the writing of John Updike, John Barth and John Gardner. Chabon is every bit as good.
donnapetel, May 2, 2013 (view all comments by donnapetel)
Beautifully written story about cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay. During the early 1940's they create a series of comic books--one, "The Escapist," deals with a hero fighting against Hitler and his forces in Europe. The story follows these two lives through both tragic and beautiful circumstances. I fell in love with these characters and was unable to read anything for a month after I finished this book. I was still living in that world.
Lafcadio, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Lafcadio)
Frequently during the reading of this book, I would return to a sentence after having sped past it in the midst of the gripping story, to appreciate what a great sentence it was. Some books are known for their descriptions, and usually that means that they'll take pages and pages to describe a particular setting. That style bores me to tears. Chabon can distill the essence of what you need to know into a single sentence.
"A fourteen-story office block faced with stone the color of a stained shirt collar, its windows bearded with soot, ornamented with a smattering of moderne zigzags, the Kramler stood out as a lone gesture of commercial hopefulness in a block filled with low brick 'taxpayers' (minimal structures generating just enough in rent to pay property taxes on the land they occupied), boarded-up woolens showrooms, and the moldering headquarters of benevolent societies that ministered to dwindling and scattered populations of immigrants from countries no longer on the map."
Granted, that's a really long sentence, but it gives you a very good sense not only of what the building itself looks like, but the entire neighborhood as well as the mood of the surrounding area. Chabon doesn't describe every architectural detail, or every person who walks down the street, or the weather, or the sounds. He doesn't get into specifics about each business on the block, or what lies beyond the block in question. And yet, in one (paragraph-like) sentence, you can picture what it must be like to stand on that street, and look up at the Kramler building.
This book is long, but it's not long because of lengthy descriptions. All of the descriptions are as concise as above (many more so). So, a book this long with concise descriptions means you're getting that much more story, that much of a deep sense of the characters and the world in which they live.
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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Picador USA -
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.
by Ken Kalfus, The New York Times Book Review,
"The depth of Chabon's thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement."
by Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine,
"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."
by Library Journal,
"[A] novel of love and loss, sorrow and wonder, and the ability of art to transcend the 'harsh physics' of this world....Recommended."
by The Washington Post Book World,
"It's absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal — smart, funny, and a continual pleasure to read."
"[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.
by Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review),
"Well researched and deeply felt, this rich, expansive and hugely satisfying novel will delight a wide range of readers."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Elegant, lyrical writing meets gentle comedy."
by Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel,
"Product of a sparkling intelligence, undeniable talent and consummate skill."
by Chicago Tribune,
"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."
by Orlando Sentinel,
"This is a gladhearted novel, rich in story and character and invention, and a great escape."
by Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
"Starts out as one of the most pleasurable novels of the past few years. It ends as one of the most moving."
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.
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