Summary and book reviews of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 636 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2001, 656 pages

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Book Summary

A serious but never solemn novel about the American comic book's Golden Age, from the late 1930's to the early 1950s. 2001 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction.

Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.

With this brilliant novel, the bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century. Like Phillip Roth's American Pastoral or Don DeLillo's Underworld, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a superb novel with epic sweep, spanning continents and eras, a masterwork by one of America's finest writers.

It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.

The brilliant writing that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to John Cheever and Vladimir Nabokov is everywhere apparent in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Chabon writes "like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader," wrote Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times about Wonder Boys--and here he has created, in Joe Kavalier, a hero for the century.

Part One
The Escape Artist

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. "To me, Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing," he would learnedly expound at WonderCon or Angouleme or to the editor of Comics Journal. "You weren't the same person when you came out as when you went in. Houdini's first magic act, you know, back when he was just getting started. It was called 'Metamorphosis': It was never just a question of escape. It was also a question of transformation." The truth was that, as a kid, Sammy had only a casual interest, at best, in Harry Houdini and his legendary feats; his great heroes were Nikola Tesla, Louis...

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About This Book

With this brilliant novel, the bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century. Like Phillip Roth's American Pastoral or ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Time Magazine - R..Z. Sheppard

Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures Kavalier Clay is a serious but never solemn novel about the American comic book's Golden Age, from the late 1930's to the early 1950s.

New York Times Book Review

The depth of Chabon’s thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement. ...the themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book's sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page...Chabon has pulled off another great feat.

New York Magazine

I'm not sure what the exact definition of a great American novel is, but I'm pretty sure that Michael Chabon's sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenching new book is one.

The Advocate

…dazzling and delightful…

Reader Reviews

Andy

It's great! A very good twist of the elements of metafiction, science fiction, and realism.

Barry G.

An amazing blend of genres, from an historical novel to pop culture. The book is wonderfully written, with descriptions of time and place that put you right there. My only criticism is that, at 639 pages, it is a bit long and, thus, somewhat ...   Read More

cita

AMAZING.
I spent the entire night just reading, could´t stop.

anna k

An excellent book, an intricate and interesting plot. The characters are sympathetic; even when you disagree with their actions, you identify with their motivations. Great ending, not fairy-tale perfect but reassuring.

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