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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing!
"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...
Published on May 27 2005 by Derrick Caldwell

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3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven Epic is Decent Intro to History of Comic Books
Comic book fans & collectors are really split on this one! I say, read it if you don't know a thing about comic book history, but it's not good enough for the old guard.
True: it's an engrossing epic that touches on roots of popular comic book culture, especially superheroes. Any comic book fan will totally enjoy the format, which is oriented to the origins of the...
Published on Sept. 1 2003 by Renee Thorpe


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing!, May 27 2005
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (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. It involves marriage, children, mysterious disappearances, and cameos from the elite of the time--everyone from Orson Welles to Salvador Dali (who nearly drowns at a "surrealist party"....and he doesn't drown in water...or even liquid for that matter) shows up, along with a Jewish Golem, Eleanor Roosevelt, and eight enormous braided rubber bands. We travel to many locations, the most exotic I've seen in a terrestrial book, but I don't want to give them away, because the locales themselves are major twists of the plot.
Now, just because this is ostensibly about comic books, many of you will be turned off--don't be. That's like saying you're not interested in "Death of a Salesman" because you don't like...uh...sales. The book is about human experience--about love, death, fear, regret, longing...but the two major players (of many) happen to be a comic book writer and artist. Now, if you happen to BE a fan of comic books, you'll love the scenes where comic books are discussed--Chabon references the Greats of all time: Schuster and Siegel themselves, Bob Kane, Gil Kane, Gardner Fox, Milton Caniff, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee....and uses them sparingly (for non-fans), but some of you may recognize the creators of Li'l Orphan Annie, Superman, Batman, Flash, Hawkman, The Human Torch, Captain America, The Sub-Mariner...this truly WAS a Golden Age; and although Chabon is careful to point out that "Golden Ages always seem to be in the past," he also says this was indeed a golden time for these people. So recently out of the Depression, not yet subjected to the full horrors of World War II, the bulk of the book is suffused with a hope that transcends the material.
Now, let's just say you're not a fan of Super-Heroes, of Escape Artists, of New York City, of the 1940's, or of Jews. Why on earth are you still reading this review? And why should you pick up "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay?" This is quite honestly the BEST novel I've read in a long time, possibly years. There were moments that made my eyes well up with tears, and scenes that had me laughing out loud. Chabon is literate, and has a beautiful style. His vocabulary is enormous, and it was delightful to read a novel that had words in it that I had to actually look up--or gather meaning from context. It was such a wonderful, active, immersing experience to read this book.
I give it my absolute highest recommendation. It made me want to create something important. Something lasting. Something I can be proud of. And I already have the cutest baby ever made, but this made me want to get out there and LIVE. This is a joyous (even when heartbreaking) book that you should make a part of your library. Read it. Another quick recommendation: "The Losers Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez -- a much shorter but lively, very entertaining book I enjoyed .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Escapism, April 9 2005
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
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. I wasn't disappointed. Whether you are a comic book fan or not, this is a powerful story about an important part of history. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic Book Guy Would Love This Too, Nov. 29 2008
By 
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
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 compelling (I would love to read both the Escapist and the Luna Moth stories) and I was transported back to the golden age of comics witnessing the breakthroughs and devices that would change the medium forever from pulpy hokey hero comics to the complex and exhilarating graphic novels that I cheerfully bankrupt myself on to this day.
The character of Josef Kavalier was given exceptional depth, following his escape from Prague to his cousin's bed in New York City with enough poignant detail that his struggle against the happiness in his new country and the impotent rage at himself and the war never feels forced.
Sammy's portrayal, in comparison, is shallower; paralleling the conventional plots he spins as the idea man up until the end of the book when his own struggles and escape come out.
The stand out moments for me were the scene atop the empire state building between Sammy and Bacon and the moment where Josef sacrifices his dog to a doomed fool's errand that leaves him stranded in the South Pole, shot and hooked on morphine. I still can't believe they killed the dog.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, Jan. 17 2009
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
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 angle.

I really enjoyed this book though I did skim over some of the longer detailed passages. Funnily enough I would then get into some dialogue and often went back to the detail to read it anyway.

Very enjoyable.
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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 (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (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. So many psychological implications to all to all these sensational adventures! My mind raced to connect the dots to all your other published works, just to try to guess their origins. And Mr. Clay, the smaller flashbacks about your time growing up in New York were equally thrilling, with the performing aspect you imputed into The Escapist being part of your DNA. The casual fan might attribute this to Mr. Kavalier and his stage magician training, but only diehards like myself can see where it really came from.

After the play is all set and your famous character is about to premiere, Mr. Chabon does the mighty yet again by gently moving us fans forward in the narratives in your impressive lives. All these myriad and uncanny details of those early fun adventures in that oh so young industry brings about the most fantastic tingles in my Geek senses. While the comics are undoubtedly thrilling, these true life, and sometimes two-fisted tales, of life before Pearl Harbour provides so much context for the unparalleled creativity you both exhibited.

The old and familiar adage that real life is stranger than fiction becomes even more apparent as time marches on in your lives. I was thoroughly caught off guard by all the later developments in your journeys. By the end of this suspenseful trip so many secrets and lies are revealed, some predating the start of your marvelous collaborations, that it is amazing this story is not labeled as fiction.

Much of the credit for the verisimilitude of your biography goes to Mr. Chabon. The author has done a wonderful job researching all these thousands of facts, getting everyone to open up so very much, and weaving it all together into a complete, detailed, and metaphor laded narrative. Mr. Chabon must be a real detective, comics piled up all the place, in order to get all this geek history right.

Some of my friends have argued with me, both online and off, that your tale is very similar, at the beginning at least, to the famous story of the creators of Superman. While I do see some parallels with Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster, anyone who gets past the first hundred pages or so can tell the difference. No slight to those mighty giants, both no longer with us unfortunately, but Kavalier and Clay are more a pure world parables of what might have been. Or does that explanation sound to fanboyishness?

With all that said, I still greatly enjoyed the crossover event in the late 1970’s between The Escapist and Superman. It was wonderful for you two to return and work on the comic with Siegel and Shuster, all to tie into the major motion pictures featuring these wonderful characters. And Paul Newman was such a fantastic Escapist! Having Tracy Bacon play Max Mayflower was also a stroke of genius and brought tears to this fan’s eyes.

But one of the main reasons for this long drooling (I admit it) letter was to ask a favour. Is it possible for me to send copies of Mr. Chabon’s book AND the Masterwork Archives edition of The Escapist for you both to sign? I know it is a lot to ask, but I am an even huger fan than ever before, all thanks to now knowing the true story of everything about The Escapist.

Many thanks to you both, Mr. Kavalier and Mr. Clay, for all your hard work in creating one the greatest characters of all time. And thank you for allowing Mr.Chabon to chronicle the entire smashing story.

Yours Sincerely,

Scoopriches

Author’s Note: This letter was delivered to me, the wrong Scoopriches. It came by Owl Mail, which popped up through a wormhole generated by a bean grown by a giant. It is obviously from a different dimension, possibly Earth-Prime, because on our Earth The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay by Michael Chabon is listed as fiction. But we all know, this entire tale happened to someone in somewhere at someplace, don’t we?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures galore, Feb. 2 2005
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
Recently I've read three great books: THE LOVELY BONES, CHILDREN'S CORNER by McCrae, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES. Of the three, AMAZING ADVENTURES was the best and held my attention the longest. It was the colorful illustration of the Empire State Building that drew me to this novel. As I adore NYC, I admit that I judged a book by its cover :) Fortunately my superficial purchase paid off, and I ended up learning a lot about the individual's view of the WWII era, the American can-do philosophy, and, surprisingly, comic books. In fact, Michael Chabon so phenomenally created the characters of Sam and Joe that their passion for comics actually rubbed off on me - an utter comic book virgin who now can't wait to try reading one. As the plot summary is just above, let me only add that the author is well aware of some of today's red-button social issues, and he doesn't hesitate to incorporate just about every one of them into his WWII-period novel. Despite some eyebrow-raising topics, you must admit Chabon's imagination is incredible and his imagery should rightly be termed as beautiful. Upon finishing, you'll be asking yourself how on earth can this man create such realistic fiction?! The book is long, but it does progress with some speed. Overall, you have a mix of sections that are page-turners and others that simply aren't. I enjoyed the book a tad less than immensely but a notch higher than really. Eventually, you should read this novel, but it is possible to let it wait on your bookshelf until you have finished up whatever you currently have your nose in---------------------------Also try the Sebold and the Jackson McCrae book for a great time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A serious novel that manages to be full of joy and mirth, July 19 2004
By 
Eric D. Austrew (Brookline, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the first book I've read in a very long time that manages to convey a sense of genuine realism and emotion without descending to the sort of maudlin hand wringing that many authors seem to think is required if their novel is to be taken seriously. Kavalier and Clay are two Jewish cousins, one a refuge from Nazi occupied Prague, the other a kid from Brookland. Together they create one of the first superheroes of the golden age of comics. The plot is original and touching and although the protagonists are put through the ringer, you get the sense when the book is done that things will, ultimately, work out.
One of the interesting things about this book is the way that it switches back and forth from being inside the heads of the protagonists and acting as if it was in some ways a scholarly research paper, complete with footnotes. The descriptions of the popularity of Houdini and other "escapists" as well as the loving detail put into the print descriptions of several comic books (surely a first in a pulitzer prize winning book) indicate that a great deal of time and effort has been put into making the book as accurate as possible within the confines of the story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A serious novel that manages to be full of joy and mirth, July 19 2004
By 
Eric D. Austrew (Brookline, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the first book I've read in a very long time that manages to convey a sense of genuine realism and emotion without descending to the sort of maudlin hand wringing that many authors seem to think is required if their novel is to be taken seriously. Kavalier and Clay are two Jewish cousins, one a refuge from Nazi occupied Prague, the other a kid from Brookland. Together they create one of the first superheroes of the golden age of comics. The plot is original and touching and although the protagonists are put through the ringer, you get the sense when the book is done that things will, ultimately, work out.
One of the interesting things about this book is the way that it switches back and forth from being inside the heads of the protagonists and acting as if it was in some ways a scholarly research paper, complete with footnotes. The descriptions of the popularity of Houdini and other "escapists" as well as the loving detail put into the print descriptions of several comic books (surely a first in a pulitzer prize winning book) indicate that a great deal of time and effort has been put into making the book as accurate as possible within the confines of the story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This Truly is an Amazing Adventure!, July 11 2004
By 
B. Merritt "filmreviewstew.com" (WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
The glory days of the comic book come to life in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Chabon. Unlike Chabon's earlier works (THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH and WONDER BOYS), which seemed a bit stymied by their shorter lengths, the author here is able to broaden the characters and landscapes, giving the reader a much greater feel for people, places and times.
The story begins with Samuel (Clay) Klayman being awakened by his mother as his cousin, Joseph Kavalier, arrives in America from war-torn Prague, having escaped the tyrannies of the Third Reich's Jewish persecution.
Joseph feels helpless and lost in America. He can't get over the feeling that something horrible is befalling his friends and family back in Prague. But he's just a very young man. What can he do?
Come to find out, a lot more than he ever thought. Sam soon discovers that Joe can draw comic book sketches as well as Da Vinci painted. And with Sam's ability to write great stories, they soon launch into a profitable and controversial empire of comic book superheroes (The Escapist, Luna Moth, etc.). With their first ever episode, Joseph and Sam's 'Escapist' delivers a powerhouse punch to Hitler's bloody jaw. Since America isn't in the war...yet, this begins a series of chess-like moves between what Joe wants to accomplish with his art and those who print the comics.
The battles between real life artists Joe and Sam and their big-bad superheroes who fight the world's evils against the backdrop of WW II pulls this story along at an incredible pace (even at 639 pages). Not to mention Chabon's crisp and concise use of narration in his prose! All of the characters are well thought out, necessary to the story, and make you sympathize with their various causes (from trying to bring Joe Kavalier back to the 'real world' after a series of terrible events, to the ridiculous claims of homosexuality in comic book characters after a main protagonist is exposed as a gay man).
In the end this story is about accepting what we cannot change (but never giving up on trying), and those tight relationships that form out of respect, family and mutual understanding.
Some might be put-off by the words 'comic books' and it's connotations within the book and this review. My advice to those who haven't yet read this is "Don't be put-off by that." Although this is what ultimately draws Sam and Joe together, it isn't necessary to have intimate knowledge of the comic book world in order to enjoy THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing adventure indeed!, June 19 2004
This review is from: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (Paperback)
This is a wonderful read. You don't even have to be a big comic book fan to love this novel. Michael Chabon has outdone himself with this brilliant effort. The story is wonderful and is big enough to fill the 600 plus pages in the novel that took me two weeks to finish while I read others. What I really loved is the writing. Chabon has so much fun with words and it is a pleasure to read every sentence.
We meet Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman when they are in their late teens. It is pre-WW2 Brooklyn and Joe has just escaped (and daringly so) from Prague. We follow them as they create a comic book character which lifts Sammy out of the dull life he has been leading and allows Joe to follow his dream of vengeance against the Nazis who in effect forced him to escape Prague and leave the family he loves. Sammy marries and has a child, but Joe fights in the war and then disappears (but not for the reader). Their story is fascinating and wonderful. The characters are hilarious and compelling at the same time. Michael Chabon has done a tremendous job. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is funny, touching and engaging -- a true delight.
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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel by Michael Chabon (Paperback - Aug. 25 2001)
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