"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, May 3, 2023


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Book Beginnings quote:

In later years, holding forth to an interview or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos to his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, seal and hog-tied in the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.

Friday56 quote:

The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash. But everyone knew that it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place.


A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. The story spans continents and eras. It is one of the defining novels of American literature. (Publisher)

Review: In preparing myself to write this review, I asked the Internet why The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the year after it was published in 2000. The reward of my search was finding this essay by Gail Caldwell, "An ode to the golden age of comic books heroics." The book, she says, "is full of pizzazz and testosterone and street smarts, with a moral center that tethers its intelligence. Like the writing of Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace, the novel is big and blustery and self-assured, and its reach and dynamism speak well to the future of the form. This is boy fiction in the purest sense: like a young colty quarterback running, on an autumn night, for the love of the game."

One of the duties of Pulitzer committee is to select the best American novel of the past year, one which tells an American story. That thought kept running through my head as I listened to all 24+ hours of the audiobook version: I am reading an American story. While the world was consumed with war and rumors of war abroad, American children (and some adults), were completely enthralled with comic books here at home. When Josef Kavalier, a young Jewish teen, escapes from Prague by the skin of teeth and arrives at the doorstep of his aunt in Brooklyn in 1939 he is not so quick to shake off his past. In fact he creates his first superhero, The Escapist, as a hero who fights and beats the Nazis. Others in the comic book industry urge him to take a lighter touch, after all America is not involved in that awful war in Europe. The Nazis weren't our enemies (at that time.) 

Though the book was long, over 600 pages, it was full to the brim with STORY. Even the subplots captured the mood and the era, and seemed as important and as delightful as the main plot. Caldwell referred to it as "a bountiful story, with infinite flights of fancy." Who knew, for example, that golems were hidden in buildings by Jewish congregations as a form of protection; or that comics about Superman, the first superhero, spun off thousands of copycats; or that the US Navy had a post on Antarctica during WWII? Just when I would settle into one plot line, the story would shift, keeping both it and me on our toes.


Gail Caldwell closes her essay with this: "...throughout the rousing, sometimes beautiful expedition that Chabon has charted here, there's the sense, both exhilarating and consoling, that he's given us a novel that actually matters. And that all those collective years spent in the company of Green Lantern and Spider-Man really mattered, too. Holy Toledo!"

I found it. The answer to my question of why The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer Prize -- Because it is a novel that actually matters. And I'll give a second 'Holy Toledo' to that!

Challenge: I read this book as part of my personal Pulitzer Challenge to read all Pulitzer Prize winning novels published in the 21st century. With the completion of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay I have but three books to go to completion, counting the 2023 winner which will be announced next week! Yippee!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.The Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

I look forward to your comments and interactions! Join in the conversation.