Friday, May 2, 2008

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
$10.20 in the Hansisgreat Gift Shop
ISBN: 0312282990
This novel was published in 2001 and its author was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, which bestows far more honor than the humble Hans could ever hope to endow. It's about two young jewish men and is set during the early years of the Holocaust, but miraculously, it's not the least bit depressing. In fact, it's wildly entertaining and often quite funny. Best of all, the story also involves superheroes.
Joe Kavalier is a refugee from Czechoslovakia who comes to live with his cousin, Sam Clay, in New York. During his boyhood in eastern Europe he studies with a magician and escape artist. When he becomes a teenager, Hitler invades and his family frantically smuggles him out of his homeland. It's a fascinating and terrifying journey.
Clay is a mediocre and low-paid artist in a New York comic book company when Kavalier, his European cousin, arrives. The recent success of Superman has created overwhelming demand for new 
superheroes. 
As they become friends, the two cousins team up and create the Escapist, a Houdini-esque character whose goal is to destroy all Nazis. His arch-enemy is none other than Adolph Hitler.
Bear in mind that this is before the US entered World War II, when it was still technically neutral toward Germany. Two jews writing a story in which superheroes pummel the notorious German dictator are bound to create a storm of controversy. Still they persist, to bring visibility to this important world event.
Escaping from bondage is an overwhelming theme: Kavalier escapes from Nazi concentration camps, while his cousin Clay remains bound in symbolic chains of his own as he hides a desperate secret.
There are a lot of peculiar twists and turns. Kavalier smuggles a sacred jewish artifact out of Czechoslovakia by hiding in a coffin, traveling from the Balkans to the coast of Lithuania. This is a fascinating story on its own, although it's only a sub-plot. His main goal in America is to make enough money to save his family from the Nazis.
So the Amazing Adventures is a winding path, but deeply rewarding, fast-paced, and funny. There are parts which are very serious, but the two likable protagonists and comic book setting keep it interesting and not heavy or sad.
Each page is a work of art. Please check it out.

1 comment:

about a boy said...

i am loving this book. i bought it years ago when it first came out but couldnt get into it. and last week i picked it up and its pretty damn good.