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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, Deckle Edge CDN $21.32  
Paperback CDN $14.44  
Paperback, Aug. 25 2001 --  
Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook, CD CDN $9.99  

Book Description

Aug. 25 2001 Bestselling Backlist
This brilliant epic novel set in New York and Prague introduces us to two misfit young men who make it big by creating comic-book superheroes. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America the comic book. Inspired by their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapists, The Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men.
 
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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Like the comic books that animate and inspire it, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is both larger than life and of it too. Complete with golems and magic and miraculous escapes and evil nemeses and even hand-to-hand Antarctic battle, it pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages brimming with longing and hope. Samuel Klayman--self-described little man, city boy, and Jew--first meets Josef Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed, telling him to make room for their cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. It's the beginning, however unlikely, of a beautiful friendship. In short order, Sam's talent for pulp plotting meets Joe's faultless, academy-trained line, and a comic-book superhero is born. A sort of lantern-jawed equalizer clad in dark blue long underwear, the Escapist "roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains!" Before they know it, Kavalier and Clay (as Sam Klayman has come to be known) find themselves at the epicenter of comics' golden age.

But Joe Kavalier is driven by motives far more complex than your average hack. In fact, his first act as a comic-book artist is to deal Hitler a very literal blow. (The cover of the first issue shows the Escapist delivering "an immortal haymaker" onto the Führer's realistically bloody jaw.) In subsequent years, the Escapist and his superhero allies take on the evil Iron Chain and their leader Attila Haxoff--their battles drawn with an intensity that grows more disturbing as Joe's efforts to rescue his family fail. He's fighting their war with brush and ink, Joe thinks, and the idea sustains him long enough to meet the beautiful Rosa Saks, a surrealist artist and surprisingly retrograde muse. But when even that fiction fails him, Joe performs an escape of his own, leaving Rosa and Sammy to pick up the pieces in some increasingly wrong-headed ways.

More amazing adventures follow--but reader, why spoil the fun? Suffice to say, Michael Chabon writes novels like the Escapist busts locks. Previous books such as The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys have prose of equal shimmer and wit, and yet here he seems to have finally found a canvas big enough for his gifts. The whole enterprise seems animated by love: for his alternately deluded, damaged, and painfully sincere characters; for the quirks and curious innocence of tough-talking wartime New York; and, above all, for comics themselves, "the inspirations and lucubrations of five hundred aging boys dreaming as hard as they could." Far from negating such pleasures, the Holocaust's presence in the novel only makes them more pressing. Art, if not capable of actually fighting evil, can at least offer a gesture of defiance and hope--a way out, in other words, of a world gone completely mad. Comic-book critics, Joe notices, dwell on "the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life." Indeed. --Mary Park --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Virtuoso Chabon takes intense delight in the practice of his art, and never has his joy been more palpable than in this funny and profound tale of exile, love, and magic. In his last novel, The Wonder Boys (1995), Chabon explored the shadow side of literary aspirations. Here he revels in the crass yet inventive and comforting world of comic-book superheroes, those masked men with mysterious powers who were born in the wake of the Great Depression and who carried their fans through the horrors of war with the guarantee that good always triumphs over evil. In a luxuriant narrative that is jubilant and purposeful, graceful and complex, hilarious and enrapturing, Chabon chronicles the fantastic adventures of two Jewish cousins, one American, one Czech. It's 1939 and Brooklynite Sammy Klayman dreams of making it big in the nascent world of comic books. Joseph Kavalier has never seen a comic book, but he is an accomplished artist versed in the "autoliberation" techniques of his hero, Harry Houdini. He effects a great (and surreal) escape from the Nazis, arrives in New York, and joins forces with Sammy. They rapidly create the Escapist, the first of many superheroes emblematic of their temperaments and predicaments, and attain phenomenal success. But Joe, tormented by guilt and grief for his lost family, abruptly joins the navy, abandoning Sammy, their work, and his lover, the marvelous artist and free spirit Rosa, who, unbeknownst to him, is carrying his child. As Chabon--equally adept at atmosphere, action, dialogue, and cultural commentary--whips up wildly imaginative escapades punctuated by schtick that rivals the best of Jewish comedians, he plumbs the depths of the human heart and celebrates the healing properties of escapism and the "genuine magic of art" with exuberance and wisdom. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IN LATER YEARS, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing! May 27 2005
Format:Paperback
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" is a work that's difficult to describe. The 600+ pages cover the years from 1937 until 1954 in the lives of Josef Kavalier and Sammy Clayman, two Jewish cousins and best friends. Kavalier flees Prague in 1937 under intriguing circumstances (that are too good to give away), and ends up with Sammy's family (Sammy's mother and both boys' grandmother) in New York City. They're poor, they're approximately the same age (17 at the beginning of the novel), and they both have dreams of bringing the rest of Josef's family to America before the anti-Semitism burbling in Central Europe does more harm to the family.
Through happenstance, careful planning, and skill, the two boys end up creating a super hero comic book. Their hero, "The Escapist," fights crimes with the talents of an escape artist (a career that Joe once aspired to) and eventually superhuman strength. He wears a mask (of course), and a blue suit with a gold key emblem emblazoned on his chest. The book uses as a template the careers of many Golden Age comic book artists, but especially that of Siegel and Schuster, the creators of the greatest of all, Superman. Joe and Sammy work together, and The Escapist is catapulted to the top of the comics heap, originally conceived as a Nazi-fighter (before fighting Nazis was cool) and an outlet for Joe's rage and impotence, and an outlet for Sammy's creativity. They build up an entire comics company, Empire Comics, and their fights with editors, radio producers, and serial producers fuel the need for conflict in the book--as there aren't many between these two friends.
The novel follows them and their comic book creation through World War II, and into the 1950's...and it's not a smooth ride for anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Kavalier And Clay: A Letter From A Fan May 23 2013
By Scoopriches TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Dear Mr Kavalier and Mr Clay

I would like to start off by saying what an incredible honour it is, as a life long fan of The Escapist, to write to both of my childhood heroes. My excitement is only outmatched by my recent completion of that fantastic autobiography, and winner of the coveted Pulitzer Prize, all about your lives and creative history. It is truly a wonderful book of pulse pounding thrills and incredible human drama, with tons of behind the scene craziness.

But darn it all, I still wonder how The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay, written and researched by the fantastic Mr. Michael Chabon ever came out. And I am not just talking about its over 600 hefty pages of glory, or the occasional informative footnote, but the amount of information, both private and public, that you both reveal is astonishing.

I gobbled this book down, all because it told the complete story of how you, Mr Joseph Kavalier and My Sam Clay, created the greatest comic book character of them all, The Escapist. From that first fateful meeting, late one night in 1930’s New York, to your walk the next day that gave the world your greatest gift, almost everything is chronicled.

In fact the massive detail put into virtually all aspects of how The Escapist, and almost all of your other wonderful creations, came about is fantastic. Even the parts about the ones you helped make are amazing. I knew your fingerprints were on those characters as well, just like the legends and lore had suggested!

And the astonishing, prolonged, flashback telling the often hinted about tale of how Mr. Kavalier escaped the prosecution of his people in Europe, and the long and winding road that brought you to your cousins, Mr Clay’s doorstep.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite all time book. June 8 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love it completely. Chabon is my favorite author and this book is his absolute masterpiece. I've read everything he's written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Colossal Bore March 25 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
To be honest I couldn't even finish this book.
I'm a comic book collector. My brother is a comic book writer. I know comic books. I know the history of comic books.
I also know this book is boring and is uninteresting after the boys get their comic book career off the ground.
Also, call me "homophobic", but does the author have to put a homosexual writer in every book? (Wonder Boys had one as well) This just didn't ring true - it had the feeling of "I need a homosexual writer" rather than Sammy NEEDING to be a homosexual writer.
After it got boring, it got stupid - the entire World War 2 segment in particular. We went from quasi-realistic to soap opera mush in the span of about 10 pages.
Please skip telling me that it "ended great" - because I don't care. I'm off reading GOOD books now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irritating Sept. 15 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book actually deserves two stars. But given that it's received such a high rank here, I thought I needed to a little more to counteract those effects. After all, there's so much better literature out there that you could spend your time on. Some people have criticized this book for being too flowery in its language -- on the contrary, I felt that Chabon writes beautifully, and well. I could stand for even more complex language. Others have taken it to task for coming from a perspective only those with a knowledge of Golden Age comic books could appreciate. I disagree. Even though I was a comic book fan in my youth, my experience with comic books is much more up-to-date. I'm in my 20s. In fact, I found Chabon's constant reference to comic book history a little irritating, because half of his references weren't true, but he wrote as if they were, and those of you who didn't know couldn't ever tell. The most disappointing thing about this book though, was that it was written with precisely all the ham-handed skill of an old-fashioned comic book. (Maybe that was his intention?) None of the characters are very complex, some of them go so far as to be cartoons. Josef is literally some Jewish superhero, almost a copy of Batman. Sammy, the closeted gay man. Rosa, the faithful girlfriend. Mr. Saks, the adoring father in law. Anapol, the avaricious but respectful boss. And Carl Ebling, the bumbling Nazi sympathizer. It was as if Chabon himself was avenging the wrongs done to Jews with such simpleminded work as the Jewish cartoonist, like Joe, once did. If that's true, it's a cute technique, but unworthy of a Pultizer, certainly, and probably easier as a simple comic book. (And besides, isn't it time to let the Germans be, and get over it? Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible novel
One of my all-time favourites. Glamourous, magical and with incredibly vivid characters. This is a book that I keep coming back to.
Published 26 days ago by elizabeth jefferson
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Pulitzer prize winner,Very good read, quite a page turner obviously. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves reading.
Published 2 months ago by Will
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I read this book in high school after taking it out of my library. I never really had the chance to buy it until now. Read more
Published 17 months ago by azi
5.0 out of 5 stars Kavalier & Clay is fascinating
Kavalier & Clay depicts what it was like to live in occupied Poland during the war. Joe Kavalier is followed from his youth in Poland to his early 20's and 30's in New York. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2010 by Jennifer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing
Just a short note to add to so many other reviews.

I used to collect comics as I kid but I actually enjoyed the characters more in this story than the comic book... Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2009 by ron bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic Book Guy Would Love This Too
This book was incredibly dense, rich and full of comic book lore goodness.
The detail and research that went into this book is staggering, the birth of the characters was... Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2008 by D. Nixon
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as grand as the title suggests.
I picked it up thinking that it looked right up my alley. Don't be fooled by the title or the back jacket. That said, it was still an immensely well written book. Read more
Published on June 15 2007 by M. Catalano
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
This is an enormous book (600+ pages) that you just can't put down. The story weaves and dips, taking us on a fascinating journey through 3 decades of comic and real world... Read more
Published on March 1 2007 by David Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Escapism
The story of The Escapist and his creators is good escapism. I picked up this novel because it won the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most reliable sources for good literature. Read more
Published on April 9 2005 by Courteous
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures galore
Recently I've read three great books: THE LOVELY BONES, CHILDREN'S CORNER by McCrae, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2005 by Starkweather,
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