The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

A Novel

Book - 2000
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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE * NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The epic, beloved novel of two boy geniuses dreaming up superheroes in New York's Golden Age of comics--soon to be a Showtime limited series

"It's absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal--smart, funny, and a continual pleasure to read." --The Washington Post Book World

Named one of the 10 Best Books of the Decade by Entertainment Weekly * Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize

A "towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book" ( Newsweek ), hailed as Chabon's "magnum opus" ( The New York Review of Books ), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939.

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.

Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America's finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age.

Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and the New York Society Library Book Award
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2000.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780679450047
Branch Call Number: CHAB
Characteristics: 639p. 24cm.


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Jul 07, 2020

This is the best book I've read this year. Meticulously researched and just so beautifully written. It's the kind of book that I wanted to reread as soon as I finished it. All of Chabon's prose and sentences are perfect; every thought is just so clearly and beautifully put down. In this book you experience the real feelings of joy, elation, grief, rage, and helplessness of the characters. It is certainly a dense book (not light summer reading by any means) but it is SO WORTH IT and goes surprisingly fast. Highly recommend.

May 15, 2019

This novel was released in 2001, then subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize. I admired Chabon's previous books and I began to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a few years ago after reading Wonder Boys (I absolutely LOVED Wonder Boys). But I had to put Kavalier & Clay down at the time because, mostly, I didn't have the necessary attention span for it. There is a density and intricacy to Chabon's sentences that require a certain amount of reader fortitude; a distracted mind will not find comfort in his prose. This time around, I found this novel to be a very enjoyable read and a marvelous book. It certainly deserves the praise and accolades it has received.

Here's this novel's brief description: Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque 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. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men.

If you are familiar with this era of the Comic Book Golden Age (1930s – 50s), then some of this story will seem a little familiar. Kavalier and Clay serendipitously propose and create a comic book hero called The Escapist for a disinterested businessman. He agrees to publish their comic book after learning of the popularity of Superman and the like and has them sign a boilerplate contract where their creation belongs to his company. This was commonplace at the time as a business practice. But when their creation becomes immensely popular, the creators are left out of the bulk of the wealth, having signed the ownership over to the company; many comic book creators during that time suffered the same fate, like Superman's creators Siegel and Shuster. Kavalier and Clay did make some nice dough as paid employees, but the owner received most of the fortune (millions of dollars). This part of the novel was meticulously told and Chabon's discussions with comic book legends Will Eisner, Stan Lee, and Gil Kane (as revealed in the novel's Author's Notes) bore great literary fruit.

After finishing this book, one of the more interesting aspects of the novel to me was Kavalier's background as an illusionist's understudy and the different levels this played out in the narrative. Obviously, his background in magic and escapism was an inspiration to the character of the Escapist. Chabon also reveals his great love for magic and sleight-of-hand, not only with enhancing Kavalier's personality and mode of operation, but with writing this novel. A good third of the novel reveals Kavalier's adeptness at vanishing, whether for self-preservation or to get what he wants. But ultimately, it's Chabon's sleight-of-hand that propels the narrative. Many, many times, there were moments where I couldn't believe that something was going to happen to Kavalier or Clay, then find out in subsequent chapters that what I feared was going to happen actually didn't happen. But Chabon's coup de grâce, his grand finale—literally in the last sentence of the book—is the revelation that the title of the novel may not be about who you thought it was. It was an amazing feat of literary perfection.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a fantastic novel and well-worth the read. Funny, endearing, magical, and exquisitely written, I highly recommend it.

Jan 10, 2019

I've never been into comic books but thoroughly enjoyed the novel telling of fascinating characters who created them.

Apr 10, 2018

BAM This is fantastic.

Mar 12, 2018

One of the best written books I've ever read, with an amazing tale of the early years of comic book creation. Highly recommended for those with interest in the time period, in the intrinsic Judaism of most early comics writers, or in queer representation in historical fiction.

Dec 16, 2016

I tried it. It won the Pulitzer Prize. It just didn't do it for me, the subject matter. It goes to show that winning the PP doesn't translate into a readable book. Well-written, beautifully, as a matter of fact, but after 63 pages, I just plain lost interest in these two guys. Very disappointed. Maybe it will be different for you, like A Confederacy of Dunces, that is so great but that is so bad--for me.

brianreynolds Aug 23, 2015

Bif! Zap! BAM! Chabon has a lot to say in <i>The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier & Clay</i> beyond the rather classic comic romance and the in depth examination of the birth of superheroes in comic books. The elaborate backdrops and flashbacks are worth it in the end; the reader who slogs through it all can't help but feel he has a stake in the fates of Josef, Sammy and Rosa. Still, in the end, the issues that might have been examined more closely—homophobia, revenge, loyalty, responsibility, to name a few—were overshadowed by the excitement of venture capitalism and amazing feats of daring do. I was at once happy to accept the comic book ending and disappointed it all appeared so simple there might have been some misdirection involved. How apropos.

Jul 02, 2015

This title has led to an intriguing discovery for me. I've been devouring books on audio in recent years because I don't make time to sit still and read them. I started reading Kavalier & Clay in installments online during Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One Chicago" event. The writing was amazingly engaging! I tried to finish the book by listening to the audiobook but it was not nearly as enjoyable. I guess that means I should make more time to read words on a page. Ha. I will.

May 20, 2015

Though probably not my usual genre choice, this Pulitzer prize-winning novel proved to be hard to put down. Like the comic books created by the protagonists, its abundance of action and adventure held my interest and kept me reading.

AbigailCurious May 20, 2015

The first three hundred pages were amazing then it got dull.

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Sep 17, 2020

Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay” follows the fictional lives of two cousins starting in the early 1940's. Sammy, from Brooklyn who dreams of making it big in the burgeoning comic book industry, and Joe, who has just arrived to live with Sammy’s family after smuggling himself out of Nazi invaded Prague. Drawing on their personal dreams and fears they create an empire, though only a fraction of the money they should, and among the most famous comic book characters of their time. Prejudices of the times and WWII brings every crashing down.

I really liked this book, though sometimes I wish Chabon would not be so illustrative and detailed in his writing as this is a long story. At one point, he uses a ¼ of a page to list the names of comic book characters that feel by the wayside after WWII. Of course, if details aren’t your thing, you can always skim them. (I didn’t say that!) If you are into historical fiction or stories about the creative process, I think you’ll enjoy this even if you’re not into comic books.

EPLPicks_Teen Mar 30, 2010

An epic novel about two cousins who find themselves at the epicenter of the golden age of American comic books when they create the prewar superhero, The Escapist.


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Jul 17, 2015

“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."

mawls Oct 13, 2014

Hope had been his enemy, a frailty that he must at all costs master, for so long now that it was a moment before he was willing to concede that he had let it back into his heart.


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