Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The day has finally arrived for discussing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

. One month ago I decided to host a readalong for this book, and some of you along the way have dropped by to say if you loved it or hated it. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the story of Joe Kavalier, an escaped Jew from Nazi-invaded Prague, and his cousin Samuel Klayman who lives in New York City. When Joe arrives in New York Sam doesn't know what to think really, but they bond over a love of art and comic books. Together they decide to create a comic book that will fight the Nazis and hope to earn enough money to bring the rest of Joe's family to New York. Joe is the artist, the creator, the escapist. Sam is the brains and negotiator. Together they battle monsters throughout this epic story by Michael Chabon.

When I started this book I was still in a bit of a slump from Middlesex. I just loved Middlesex, and every book I read after it felt a little pointless. I mean, it just wasn't going to be as good as Middlesex. But when I started The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay I got that same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I did within the first ten pages of Middlesex. That feeling that whatever I'm about to read is going to be absolutely amazing. They're very similar in some ways. They both have long, breathy prose that makes you want to read slowly and soak every last page in. They're both terrifyingly long, but difficult to put down even though neither have them have super exciting plots. There are exciting moments in Kavalier and Clay, like when Joe is escaping from Prague or when they find out they've been cheated by the owners of the company who publishes their comic books-- but Chabon is not a suspenseful writer. If Kavalier and Clay were written by Dan Brown the story would have been more of a page-turner in those instances. What keeps the pages turning with Chabon is his well-developed characters and recognizable relationships.

Oh, and did I mention Chabon is the master of bringing comic books alive in prose? Because he totally is. Check out this passage for proof: "His eyeballs seemed to clang in their sockets. He felt as if someone had opened an umbrella inside his rib cage. He waited, flopped on his belly, unblinking as a fish, to see if he would ever again be able to draw a breath. Then he let out a long, low moan, a little at a time, testing the muscles of his diaphragm. "Wow," he said finally. Sammy knelt beside him and helped him to one knee. Joe gulped up big lopsided gouts of air. The German man turned to the other people the platform, one arm raised in challenge or, perhaps, it seemed to Joe, in appeal" (192). The book is full of examples such as this, where Chabon can slow down town just through words. And when he slows down time his writing becomes the panels of a comic book. One line is one panel, and as you're reading you see everything happening as if it were drawn for you. It's masterful.

And the epic quality of his writing is perfection, this passage stopped me cold on the bus, "So much has been written and sung about the bright lights and ballrooms of Empire City--that dazzling town!--about her nightclubs and jazz joints, her avenues of neon and chrome, and her swank hotels, their rooftop tea gardens strung in the summertime with paper lanterns. On this steely autumn afternoon, however, our destination is a place a long way from the horns and the hoohah. Tonight we are going down, under the ground, to a room that lies far beneath the high heels and the jackhammers, lower than the rats and the legendary alligators, lower even than that bones of Algonquins and dire wolves" (267). The light changes in this passage. In just two sentences Chabon takes the dimmer switch from dazzling and dancing bright lights, to dark, low light where shadows are everywhere. It plays with your emotion. You're entranced by the beauty of the city, then frightened by unknown underground.

I could go on and on about Chabon's writing and how much I loved Kavalier and Clay-- but I think I'll give some other people the chance to discuss. What did you like about this book? What did you not like about it? Did you even finish it? Have you ever read anything about Chabon before and after experiencing this do you think you will again?

Oh I'm giving this an A by the way, like I even have to say it. In January Books on the Nightstand is hosting their own readalong of this book-- so if you didn't catch it this time around try to get in on theirs! And if you have a review of this book please add it to the Mr. Linky. If you don't have a review, please leave a comment with your thoughts!

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay + TIME