‘Kavalier & Clay’ is One Amazing Adventure

DetailsLiterature, for me, is a spiritual thing. Not in a nut-job way, but if I take the time to read a particular work, I do hope to somehow be the better for it by the time I close the back cover. Whether that growth takes place artistically, intellectually, or by mere humanitarian measure is irrelevant; I simply need to improve on some honest level. Imagine, then, my complete euphoria when I set down Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

How could I have known when I picked up a copy of Chabon’s work a few years ago that it would so easily land itself on my all-timer list? Josef Kavalier, character of tragic beauty, elicits a compassion so powerful that even the most hard-nosed reader is destined to swoon. And Josef’s wildly imaginative cousin Sammy Clay? Forget it, you belong to him the moment he spins his first quirky comic tale.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this story. In the telling, the threads of The Amazing Adventure’s of Kavalier & Clay sound more like a drunken rant: Nazi occupation, the cartoon industry, the golem of Prague, genocide, homosexuality, love, loyalty, loss, World War II, and, yes, a disturbing leotard are all part of the package. I know, right? Yet while it sounds like something you should collect and put out with Monday’s trash, Kavalier & Clay holds one more secret that makes it all work – magic.

Magic is central to both the story line and the success of Chabon’s Amazing Adventure, and whether you like magic or not (I don’t) is irrelevant. What other than Chabon’s own dose of literary charms could make 636 pages leave you crying out for more? How does he so discreetly lift the cover on contemporary topics and sensitively portray them in a bygone era of intolerance and secrecy? How does one pen a story that is terribly involved yet manages to keep its legs? Lastly, how are Chabon’s reach-out-and-touch characters so dramatically vivid without going over the top?

Obviously, I recommend. Highly. But I do worry a touch about a slight sag in the middle of the book where the story gets a bit trippy. While I fear this will lose some worthy readership, I am confident that those who persevere won’t regret the journey. That said, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay seriously worked for me  and obviously for many others – Michael Chabon’s title hooked the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

*A note: I am now two for two down my own little paperback row.

-For a full review link to Salon

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

NLR’s 2010 Top Ten Lit Picks

Cover ImageSince the Detroit Free Press didn’t deem necessary the inclusion of their top literary picks in today’s section, The Year in Review 2010: Arts & Entertainment, I quickly compiled a “2010 Top Ten” list (in no particular order) on behalf of Night Light Revue. For those of us in the metro area who do, in fact, consider the written word to be both Art and Entertainment, this entry is for you.

*Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

*Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

*The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

*The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

*The Hanging Tree by Bryan Gruley

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Most Fabulous Book I Read Overall This Year: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

*denotes a Michigan author or tie to the state of Michigan

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

Solid Winter Picks from the Indies

Looking for your next book club pick? Link over to Indie Bound for the Indie Next reading groups list. The Winter ‘10/’11reading group suggestions are inspired by the input of Indie Booksellers and include such titles as Half Broke Horses, Tinkers, and Eggers’ Zeitoun, (the East Lansing One Book One Community selection this year) just to name a few.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Friends Don’t Let Friends Read ‘Lolita’ Alone

It’s that time again! The Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone Book Club will be meeting at Zuma Coffee House in downtown Birmingham tomorrow, December 21st at 7:00 pm. Facilitated byKathryn Bergeron of the Baldwin Public Library, the Friends book club will be discussing Vladimir Nobokov’s Lolita this time around. The discussion group is open  to all who are interested and book copies can be procured at the BPL. In case you can’t catch this month’s discussion, the club will be taking a look at local author and undertaker Thomas Lynch’s, The Undertaking in January.

*Support your local bookstores, universities, and libraries. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘Blood, Bones & Butter’ in Our Own Backyard

It is far more likely that foodies rather than lit-junkies will recognize the name Gabrielle Hamilton, particularly if one lives in NYC. In her digs on 54 East 1st. Street, the touted chef and owner of Prune is soon to toss up her first book titled Blood, Bones & Butter:  The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.

“Before Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York City restaurant, Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find the purpose and meaning in her life,” divulges the Random House site. “BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER recounts this unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton inhabited. The result is an unflinching and lyrical work that marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.”

So where does a busy chef get her literary muscle? Turns out a few of those “hard-living years” were spent right in our own backyard. Ms Hamilton joins the growing ranks of published authors who have pursued a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing at the University of Michigan. To make those MFA writing ends meet in Ann Arbor, Ms. Hamilton picked up a part-time catering gig in the process, ultimately launching her dual career.*

Already receiving high praise, Random House promises: “Hamilton will appeal to both foodies and literary audiences alike as she deliciously divulges her experiences in love, life, and food.”  The memoir “Blood, Bones, & Butter” is slated for release by Random House on March 1, 2011.

*Food & Wine piece:  A Mentor Named Misty

-Official link to memoir Blood, Bones & Butter

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

NPR Assists With 2010 Lists

Cover ImageWe haven’t even hit Christmas yet, but NPR has released a few of their category lists for Best Books of 2010. Though a bit premature for my taste, I must say that the lists are interestingly diverse and just might help you find the perfect title for that perfect gift. The current lists include “The Year’s Most Transporting Books,” “The Year’s Best Outsider Fiction,” and “Indie Booksellers Pick 2010 Favorites.” New lists will be added from NPR’s critics throughout the holiday season, but in the meantime it is well worth your while to check out their latest.

I can vouch for the authenticity and sincerity of Elizabeth Tova Bailey’s The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, which you will find sitting on the Indie Bookseller list. Don’t be turned off by this book’s deceptively simple title. If you are in need of a boost this season or wish to gift some inspiration, “Snail” is the perfect pick.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

More from Michigan With 2011 Notable Books

It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not speaking of the warm fuzzy holiday season, but rather that time of sensational selection when the Library of Michigan annually decides on 20 Michigan Notable Books that have been published during the year.

As stated on the Notable site, The Library of Michigan annually decides on 20 of the most notable books that “are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience.”  Such works feature “high-quality titles with wide public appeal” and are either penned by a Michigan resident or written about a subject related to our state.

The Michigan Notable Books for 2011*

1) “Apparition & Late Fiction: A Novella and Stories” by Thomas Lynch

NLR Comment:  If you have the chance to hear Mr. Lynch read in person – grab it!

2)“Blues in Black and White:  The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals” by Michael Erlewine and photographer Stanley Linvingston

NLR Comment: For anyone who loves black and white photography, these pictures are not to be missed.

3) “Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation” by Steve Lehto

4) “Detroit Disassembled” by Andrew Moore

5) “The Detroit Electric Scheme:  A Mystery” by D.E. Johnson

6) “Eden Springs: A Novella” by Laura Kasischke

NLR Comment:  I highly recommend this work by Kasischke. Though fictional, it is based on fascinating Michigan history. You can link here to NLR’s review, “Kasischke Shines in Eden Springs.”

7) “Freshwater Boys: Stories” by Adam Schuitema

!) “The Hanging Tree: A Starvation Lake Mystery” by Bryan Gruley

NLR Comment:  The Starvation Lake series is well-written and a ton of fun. Make sure you don’t forget to read Gruley’s “Starvation Lake” which is the first in the series as well. You can link to NLR’s reviews of both: ‘Starvation Lake’ is a Trip Worth Taking and Gruley Turns it Up in Starvation Sequel ‘The Hanging Tree’

9) “Lord of Misrule” by Jaimy Gordon

NLR Comment: As this year’s National Book Award winner for fiction, I am absolutely twitching as I try to patiently wait in the library queue for Gordon’s “Lord of Misrule.”  If anyone feels compelled to send it to me as a Christmas gift, feel free!

10) “A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks: A War Memoir” by Godfrey J. Anderson

11) “Mine Towns: Buildings for Workers in Michigan’s Copper Country” by Alison K. Hoagland

12) “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan” by Michael R. Federspiel

13) “Reimagining Detroit:  Opportunities for Redefining an American City” by John Gallagher

14) “Sawdusted: Notes From a Post-Boom Mill” by Raymond Goodwin

15) “Sixty to Zero: An INside Look at the Collapse of General Motors and the Detroit Auto Industry” by Alex Taylor III

16) “The Sweetness of Freedom: Stories of Immigrants” by Stephen Ostrander and Martha Bloomfield

17) “To Account for Murder” by William C. Whitbeck

18) “Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams” edited by M.L. Liebler

NLR Comment: This work is published by Coffee House Press which I recommend as a solid link. Do yourself a favor and check out their site www.coffeehousepress.org.

19) “Wounded Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Michigan Governor John Swainson” by Lawrence M. Glazer

20) “You Don’t Look LIke Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face-Blindness and Forgiveness” by Heather Sellers

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*List information taken from Free Press article 2011 Michigan Notable Books Winners Explore Regions Lively Diversity