Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Titles > Did anyone loathe Kavalier and Clay?

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message 1: by Maggie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Maggie (nymaggies) I did.


message 2: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Steve I only got about 20 pages in. Not sure I stopped b/c I loathed it, or b/c it was too daunting at the time. I'm definitely going to pick it up again.


message 3: by Jess (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:50PM) (new)

Jess | 7 comments I started reading this book years ago and didn't make it very far. Then I tried again and forced myself through and it ended up being one of my favorite books. I think the beginning seems a little slow, but in the end it was worth picking it up again!


message 4: by Laila (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Laila | 2 comments I fully exected to loathe this book, as the subject matter really did not interest me. It turned out to be one of my favorite books ever. Although Chabon's new book "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" was very hard to get in to and I gave up after 150 pages or so.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 27 comments I loved it. Sorry. :)


message 6: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture Chabon is my very favorite author. I thought I'd hate a book about comic guys, but I absolutely loved Kavalier and Clay. I did find the Yiddish Policemen's Union hard to get into as well. I pretty much hate all detective genre fiction, so that has something to do with it. But I plowed away and eventually finished it. The least satisfying Chabon-read ever. The only thing that kept me going was Chabon's excellent writing.

Side note: I love Chabon so much that my son is named Grady. Yes, that is after Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys! We were considering Clay (after Kavalier and Clay) but Grady sounds better with our last name.....


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean Little (seanpatricklittle) How does someone "hate" all detective fiction?


message 8: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 1 comments I didn't exactly loathe it but didn't enjoy it. I couldn't wait for it to end so I could be finished with it.


message 9: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture I'm just not really a fan of the detective genre.


message 10: by Gwyn (new)

Gwyn Lewis | 4 comments Kavalier and Clay is one of my favorite books! It starts off a bit slow, but once it gets going I can't ever put it down.


message 11: by Steve (new)

Steve I picked it up again after having given it a try a couple of years ago. I read it all, and really enjoyed it.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't LOATHE it, but I didn't think it was very good. I also read it quite a while ago, so my memory of some parts is hazy. Dunno if this is necessary, but LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD.
A SUMMARY OF MY GRIPES:
Point #1: Creaky plot mechanics.
The absolute standout example of this is the Bambi-esque death of Kavalier's younger brother. Seriously, did anyone not see that coming from miles away? That kid had about as much chance of surviving as one those red-shirted dudes from Star Trek, so I spent a big chunk of the novel just waiting for the hammer to fall so Kavalier could get on to the next clearly demarcated part of his life.

Other examples of this: the last section with Sam married and all suburban is mostly a ridiculously drawn out game of wait-for-the-more-interesting-character-to-reappear, and the initial section is wait-for-the-Holocaust-So-Kavalier-can-use-his-escaping-skills. Also, I don't remember how I did this, but I guessed really early on that Sam was gay, so that coming out was pretty anti-climatic. Hahaha, climax.

Point #3: Inconsistent Characterization
Kavalier is emo and Sam is closeted gay. There, that's the extent of their characters. They both have absurdly baroque backgrounds, and neither display the slightest hint of it. They're both actually astoundingly sane; Kavalier, for example adapts miraculously to American culture and finds the love of his life, with whom he has a committed, respectful and caring relationship. Neither drink heavily or use drugs, or really have any serious vices at all (that I remember).

Nor do I really remember any preferences. They hang out with a bunch of artists, but I never got a sense they were particularly interested in art other than comics. Or music. Or politics, other than Nazis. I think a lot of this comes from Chabon's habit of telling, rather than showing. Sam is supposed to be the one with the instinct for pulp stories, but for the life of me I can't recall a single really pulpy idea he ever had.

Point #4: Programmatic Themes
There sure is a lot of stuff about ESCAPE and/or ESCAPISM in this book. Joe practices ESCAPE magic, and ESCAPES from the Holocaust. Sam uses comics to ESCAPE from his unpleasant family life, and then they team up to write a comic (a genre accused of wish-fulfillment and ESCAPISM) about a superhero named The ESCAPIST whose superpower is ESCAPING. Later there is a lot of ESCAPING from social norms or situations. Jesus Christ, this isn't a theme, this is a jackhammer to the face. Couldn't the superhero be Awesome Man, with the power of laserbeam eyes or something?


message 13: by N (new)

N (feevishpickle) Terrible, terrible book. And SO LONG. I suppose the weight of the book made it easier to bash myself over the head with it.

Was I supposed to find Chabon's female characters contemptible? Because -- during the few instances when they were actually there -- they were limp and unbelievable. The representations of homosexuality also got my hackles up. Why is the gay character so miserable and prone to catastrophe? You trying to tell us something, Chabon?

Also, Chabon's writing honestly drove me insane. He wrote almost every scene in exactly the same way. Namely: the scene began in medias res, and the reader would not know what was happening; then, after a couple of pages, he'd explain what was going on; context established, he would continue with the action. ONCE, it's a pretty cool structure. TWENTY times and it begins to feel like one long creative writing exercise. It's okay to write in a linear fashion, Chabon! You can still retain your literary cred!


message 14: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Oh my God I can't tell you HOW MUCH I loathed it!!! I couldn't get more than 20 pages through!!!!!


message 15: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 27 comments Oh, come on, that doesn't even count! 20 pages? I hate the first 20 pages of half the books I read.

I wouldn't call the book non-linear at all, even if most scenes (sure, a major weakness, just for the repetitiveness) start without much reference. There really isn't much about surprise-beginnings that is super-literary. And for 1940, what did you expect from your female characters? I thought some of them were remarkable for their era (and some of them, like the JewishMom, were hackneyed). If it's written in 2004 about 1940, I prefer the characters behave like 1940, not 2004.

It's not an easy book. I found it rewarding, but it appealed to my geeky side and was set in persecutory WWII besides, which always gets my sympathy.


message 16: by Ronando (new)

Ronando | 7 comments Are you MAD? The book was fantastic. Come on. 20 pages is nothing. I give 75, used to be 100, to every book I read. If anyone has an appreciation of comics, they will find this to be a more than splendid book.


message 17: by Erica (new)

Erica | 66 comments I particularly liked the history of the comic book, and the history of the Empire State Building. As I have a sensitive stomach, I did have "difficulty" with some of the "gritty realism;" those of you who've read the book know what I mean. See, I can't even talk about it! If my daughter were here she would be laughing her head off.

So, mostly I loved it, but I only recommend it to people who aren't too dainty. And I think I won't read it again.


message 18: by Mavis (new)

Mavis Davis (thundercat22) yep, one of my favorites of all time...
I literally gasped at the heading of this subject line



message 19: by Peter (new)

Peter | 10 comments "Kavalier" is a fine book, but I don't think it's a great one.

There's a theory floating around that the two biggest trends in "serious" American literature are "literary pulp" and "pulp-ized literature."

The "pulp-ized literature" are all the serious novels set in the real world, but you read the dust jackets and they all sound kind of same-y, like the only "serious" literature getting published right now has to fit a clockwork plot as mechanical as any detective novel.

The "literary pulp," which cater to both the nostalgia crowd and the mass media sponges, take pulp subjects and then explain ad infinitum what used to be subtext. So it's not enough to have a superhero beating up Nazis, you have to explain how his creators were Jews and how the Holocaust effected them.

This is why so many recent superhero movies are so long and pretentious.

"Literary pulp" is a genre like any other, no better or worse, but it can be grating if the authors/filmmakers come at you with too big of a chip on their shoulder, if they're too obnoxiously iconoclastic, and too congratulatory to everyone who's already on their side. If they're too obvious that doesn't help either, but what's subtle to someone who's been reading for 10 years is obvious to someone who's been reading for 40.


message 20: by Ron (new)

Ron (RonRon) | 2 comments I really don't know what to make of this book. I started it once a few years ago but tossed it aside quickly, maybe too quickly.

I'm now 250 pages in and it seems like torture. It is fun at parts, but the development & backstory of every character is a bit much. Like others I also feel like this is a vocabulary quiz throughout. I enjoyed Mysteries but read it maybe seven years ago.

Chabon just seems to be trying too hard, it comes off as forced to me.

I don't like giving up on books, but rather than being happy to sit down and read for an hour, I feel like I'm in pain. I can't decide if I should stick it out or give up.

It seems a bit contrived to me, a bit too forced.

Maybe the fact that I just read Vonnegut's Deadeye Dick isn't helping. His creativity seems boundless and natural, and his sentences are so nice and short.

More than once I've wondered what the hell Chabon is talking about. Where am I? What is going on?


message 21: by Zachary (new)

Zachary | 5 comments I thought there was a lot to like in the book but I don't understand the reverence and awe with which people seem to talk about it. It is extremely flawed in my opinion.

Someone else mentioned liking the history of comics aspect of it and I agree. I think the first third of the book at least (maybe half) is pretty decent. My big complaint is that there is a switch at some point where the book clearly becomes about Kavalier and ignores Clay. Kavalier's story has been done to death. Jewish immigrant coming to grips with the guilt of leaving his family in Europe and their eventual deaths? Heartbreaking, yes but not especially original.

I thought Clay's story was way more compelling. A closeted gay man in the 1940's who begins to open up to who he is and then is forced to live a lie to help his cousin's family? You don't hear that story much and it is completely ignored once Sam decides not to go to California. After that the whole book is about Kavalier and his story. That whole section in the Antarctic? Ridiculous.

Like I said, there is enough to like in the beginning of the book that I still recommend it to folks but it surely did disappoint me.


message 22: by Ron (new)

Ron (RonRon) | 2 comments Sherri - wow, great comments & they really put it in perspective for me. I like the book, it's okay, but I don't really want to spend any more time wit it and there isn't much pleasure in read it, for me.

I've also had that feeling that maybe this is in fact a book I'm supposed to like, due to public opinion. But heck, that's not why I read books.

Zachary - good comments as well. You're right, not an especially original story. The comic book stuff and the historical aspect of some parts is interesting, but this still is not leisure reading for me. It feels like I've been assigned to read it.

Thanks for the comments (though they weren't particularly addressed to me!). I think I have my answer - time to move on to the other stack of books I want to read.


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