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

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
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Mar 29, 10

bookshelves: literature, history, read-in-2010
Read from March 25 to 29, 2010

Michael Chabon is a craftsman. In Kavalier & Clay he builds his story of the Golden Age of comics sentence by masterfully constructed sentence. The pillars of this structure are not the titular characters, who despite having well-developed arcs can sometimes seem vague and distanced, but pop cultural motifs: superhero comics, escape artists, golems, and the impossible fantasy of punching Hitler in the face. Kavalier & Clay is exhaustively well-researched and of definite interest to any comics fan, although those with some knowledge of comics history will have to skip past a couple expository clumps. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this novel keeps the scenes of its main characters brushing coats with famous people fairly few, and even sometimes makes them work (like a hilarious appearance by Salvador Dali.)

Admittedly not everything in this novel flows together well -- the part with Kavalier in Antartica, for instance, feels like it's from a different book. But the plot seems almost unimportant next to the wonder Chabon finds in the most derivative of pulp entertainment, a sense of joy that makes me want to find a time machine and go back to 1939, despite all of that era's horrors that are portrayed here, and see if I can't pick up some Escapist comics. I haven't read any of Chabon's other books, but from what I understand this was a way of transitioning from straight literary fiction into more genre-oriented work, and it definitely feels like a defense of escapism and the fantastical. And, well, he has me sold.
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