Bryan Schwartz's Reviews > The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
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's review
May 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: pleasure-reading
Read from May 03 to 28, 2012

It seems only appropriate to compose a review of this book now given the sudden comic book news that's been filtering through the internet over the last few days.

In case you missed it, there are a growing number of fairies in the comic book universe. Northstar is set to marry his "civilian" partner in an issue of Astonishing X-Men, Marvel revealed that their newest incarnation of the Green Lantern bats for our team, and, as far as I know, Hulkling and Wiccan are still an item. Oh, and yes, there's some girl-on-girl action too but that doesn't interest me as much. Sorry.

Even though we have a few out and open super heroes we've always had some measure of subtextual homoeroticism in the comic book world (*cough* Batman and Robin), right? Wrong. At least, according to Mr. Chabon's book. Frankly, after hearing Chabon's argument, I'm inclined to side with him on this issue. That whole Batman gaygate thing always seemed, to me, like the masturbatory fantasies of greedy American senators rather than an intentional allusion.

But, I digress...

Michael Chabon's book does deal with post-World War II America's homophobia but the book's themes are so numerous that it's difficult to pinpoint which theme is the "most important". Is the book about Judaism? Is it about war refugees? Is it about New York, the gays, suburbia, or family dynamics? In truth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is about all of those things but the linchpin of these subthemes, and the most convincing argument for the book's "main theme", is the American comic book and its place in popular culture.

Now that we've established the book's central theme, let's move on to the more interesting bits.

First I should explain that, while I though it a bit long, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The plot was exciting and interesting and, to the best of my knowledge, completely original. The reader is taken on a winding journey from Nazi occupied Prague to Prewar New York City (complete with Salvador Dali cocktail party), to Antarctica and then back to postwar NYC. And, yes, these disparate settings do work well together.

Chabon's use of setting is wonderful and pretty but it is his writing that truly shines. Perhaps I've spent too much time in the hell pit of popular fiction (see Collins, Meyer, et. al.) recently but this book showcased an almost perfect command of the English language. I can't rave enough. The grammar was nearly flawless, the syntax blessedly varied, and the diction was superb. Chabon clearly cares as much about his writing as he does about his story. And, judging by the level of detail in this book, I'd say he cares an awful lot about his topic too.

The one grievance that I have with this book lies in its plot transitions (or lack thereof). Each of his chapters move relatively fluidly but the larger sections of the book lack the same easy cohesion. It's possible that these rough breaks were meant to simulate the style of comic books but I hardly think spotty transitions can be excused as a stylistic device. That's just sloppy.

In short, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a fascinating and entertaining piece of fiction for anyone interested in post-World War II America, popular culture, and, of course, comic books. I recommend it as highly as it was recommended to me.
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