Brian's Reviews > The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
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's review
Nov 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: american-lit, pulitzer
Read in December, 2009

The underlying appeal of comic book superheroes lies not so much in their superhuman abilities, but rather in the fact that these superheroes were at some point ordinary. Thus, it seems possible that you or I, given the right tragic accident or childhood trauma, could easily become one. Indeed, Chabon’s novel takes place in a New York (as well as a Prague and an Antarctica) as real as their prototypes, and it depicts very realistic characters; and yet there’s a certain transcendent quality to it that begins to cross over into that other world of not so much what is real, but what is imaginatively possible.

Though never a fan of comic books, I found this book engaging from the get-go. Chabon’s writing style, very reminiscent of the likes of Fitzgerald, is at once fresh and of a rougher cut: his details are painstakingly precise, and he finds a way to describe ordinary events in a highly imaginative way (befitting the comic book theme of the entire novel). He can transform the making and drinking of a cup of coffee a highly entertaining event, relating the origin of the vessel used to contain it, discussing for several paragraphs when the character first started drinking coffee and why, describing the kind of spoon used to stir the coffee and cream as well as make several allusions as to what the coffee looks like as the cream and sugar are blending into it (note: this does not refer to an actual event in the novel--I use it for illustrative purposes). In other words, associative details often interrupt present narrative, whether these details have to do with past events or the mere personal reflections of the character. This is often done well, although occasionally the shift back to present narrative is a bit jarring (as in Fitzgerald). In short, Chabon is a very reflective writer, who marinates his prose with a savory variety of precise, thoughtful details.

I look forward to reading more of him.

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11/19/2009 page 139
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Brian Going to try something contemporary for a change (yes I realize it was published almost a decade ago. That's still rather contemporary to me ;) ).

message 2: by Mr.G (new)

Mr.G This pulitzer prize winning book is awesome!! I read a book called "Men of Tomorrow" just before reading K & C by pure coincidence. Men of Tomorrow tells the true story of the origins of comic books with special emphasis on Siegel and Shuster, the teen creators of Superman. Kavalier and Clay is a novel told by one well-versed in the saga of Siegel and Shuster.
Chabon, to me, is one of the greatest living writers. I'd also recommend Gentlemen of the Road, a novel about a "Frankish" Jew and an Ethiopian Jew pulling capers in the 13th Century in the Caucasus mountains. I'd also recommend The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a Chandler-esque crime novel set in an alternate history in which a Jewish homeland is established in Alaska instead of Palestine.

message 3: by Mr.G (new)

Mr.G Wow. Awesome review!

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