Literature, 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
-Support your local bookstores, universities, and libraries. It matters.
-Post by Megan Shaffer