Shovelmonkey1's Reviews > The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
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Jan 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 1001-books, read-in-2012
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list and a chance encounter in a book shop
Recommended for: anyone looking for a philip roth-lite

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is amazing. Well, some of it is. To be specific I found it fairly amazing up until about page 429. Then it got slightly less amazing which was sad really because, prior to that it was zipping along so nicely like Superman with a new stream-lined cape sliding in and out of the slip stream. After page 429 it became a bit more like Superman trying to erratically jump over tall buildings with Dr Octopus tied to one leg and the Juggernaut tied to the other. You just know that weighty baggage like that is going to slow our hero down and make him a lot less agile and graceful. Yes, yes, before people write in and complain I know they're not all from the same comic book stable... it's just a metaphor alright?

The book starts off light and agile. The prose is nimble and immediately I was engrossed which was great because this was a spur of the moment purchase which had to see me through a long day of waiting for builders to decide to do nothing for a very large part of it (now you see how I get so much reading time in!)

Cousins Kavalier and Clay are thrown together by a secret transatlantic crossing where Joe Kavalier escapes from Prague, the Nazis and certain death. His first introduction to his cousin, the redoubtable Sammy Clay is when they are forced to share a bed together. Not the most conventional of first meetings for those who wind up being business partners, although maybe this is how it goes on Wall Street and I am just ignorant of the fact. It quickly becomes apparent that Joe's talent for drawing and Sammy's quick-fire pulp fiction brain are together the most unstoppable comic strip writing duo that American has ever seen. And so that's what they do. Write comic books.

With the Nazis invading most of Europe and implementing their programme of anti-semitism the backdrop to the entire book is the havoc wreaked by war in the Old World while America gamely attempts to negotiate a political minefield without having to immediately send itself into the fray. The tactful negotiation even extends itself as far as the mild censorship of comic book content. The comic books and their heroes represent not only a decent wage and but a shift towards the American dream for Kavalier and Clay who quickly find that with fame comes responsibility. A conduit for the anti-Hitler message the Kavlier and Clay hero "The Escapist" represents a force for good but is also symbolic of Joe's escape from Europe.

The shiny potential for happiness created by Kavalier and Clay quickly becoming the embodiment of the 1930s American dream was great but obviously, like life, things can't always be great for long and this is when the book began to take a bit of a faster-than-a-speeding-bullet style nose dive. Still I stuck with it till the end like a faithful sidekick should and was rewarded with the tying off of a few loose ends and one last act of escapology, albeit an emotional rather than physical one.
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Reading Progress

January 3, 2012 – Started Reading
January 3, 2012 – Shelved
January 3, 2012 – Shelved as: read-in-2012
January 3, 2012 – Shelved as: 1001-books
January 3, 2012 –
page 40
6.26% "So little happened in work today that I finished the book I took with me and had to go and buy another one at lunch time. A most excellent day."
January 3, 2012 –
page 100
15.65% "Ok so someone has noted that this was kicked off the 1001 books list? Shame on you 1001 bookmasters!"
January 4, 2012 –
page 320
50.08% "brilliant. loving this!"
January 5, 2012 –
page 470
73.55% "the best "picked it up by chance read" of 2012 and possibly of 2011 too."
January 6, 2012 –
page 500
January 6, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus *rummages around The Monkey's kitchen* Hey, where'd you hide the olives?

So glad you liked this book. It's a guilty pleasure of mine.

Shovelmonkey1 Plenty of olives here... two tubs plus freshly homemade olive tapenade available here tonight! Really liked this one but did feel a tiny bit underwhelmed by the ending although I'd recommend it to anyone listening!

message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus I had a late bachelor lunch: toasted panne pugliese spread with black olive paste, with slices of Brie atop, washed down with a raucous Malbec from Chile.

I think I'll chop some garlic stuffed green olives to go on my pasta this evening. Something about cold days and olives, they just go together.

Shovelmonkey1 There's the hidden Epicurean speaking!

message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Hidden? At *my* size? Short of the Hindenburg eclipsing my bulk, I suspect there is little else could hide me.

Epicurus doesn't get enough attention from the spiritually dissatisfied so rife in today's world.

Shovelmonkey1 Agreed on the later part but surely you jest about dirigibles sir? Your photo makes no such suggestions.
Also I too am a fan of the malbec but health and safety limits me to a large Americano with skim milk as my luncheon beverage of choice.

message 7: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Agreed on the later part but surely you jest about dirigibles sir? Your photo makes no such suggestions.

I am what is colloquially referred to as "the Giant Economy size." 1.9m tall, 115kg. The Baron Harkonnen's skinny little brother.

Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Also I too am a fan of the malbec but health and safety limits me to a large Americano with..."

Dire. Just dire. And isn't the nanny state going a bit far, preventing you from a little bibulous bash now and again (like every night)? Those health and safety people! What is a tipsy archaeologist going to do, anyway? Trowel someone to death? Most of those you work with are dead already, or you would have no call to work with them!

Shovelmonkey1 very true but tragically part of my job also involves directing large earth moving equipment and no one wants a drunk in charge of a 40ton 360 Digger or a tower Crane. You can become mighty unpopular when you swing a boom and gib through the side of a building

message 9: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus I hope with all my heart never to find out, from either side of that equation.

message 10: by Jeffrey (last edited Jan 10, 2012 04:01PM) (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I have this setting on my shelf waiting patiently for me to finally give it THE NOD. I've read The Yiddish Policemen's Union and LOVED IT. I'm sure I'll love this one as well. Great Review.

Shovelmonkey1 Read it! I'll be looking out for the rest of the Chabon back catalogue once i've cleared more room on my bookshelves.

Raphael Laude Although I agree with you that until the last section of the novel, things were much more stimulating, I think that the last section finished with it's lackluster as to illustrate the natural senescence of life, as to reinforce his previous theme of the hopeful excitement, and impassioned years of youth.
Still, not having my protagonist around for some time was a bit annoying. And his return as a borderline self-exiled nut was disheartening.

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