At approximately 4:30 am on Saturday morning, I finished one of the best books I’ve ever read. The usual disappointment that overcomes me when a story I love comes to its inevitable close was deepened by the fact that all of the subsequent books I will read this year probably won’t meet the lofty expectations and standard this book has set for all of my future literary conquests.
The Pulitzer-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon certainly lived up to its embellished title and revered accolades. Though I’m over a decade late in discovering this terrific work of fiction, I’m so glad I discovered Chabon at arguably his best and certainly look forward to delving into the rest of his repertoire.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was as daring and provocative as it sounds; though the title almost comes across as childish or campy, it perfectly encapsulates the two equally likable protagonists – the kind, charming man-of-many talents, Josef Kavalier, and his impossibly smart and quick-witted cohort Sammy Klayman. These two young Jewish heroes tirelessly work in the business of superheroes at the height of its popularity – the Golden Age of comics, a time when political sentiments were especially sensitive as the U.S. remained anxiously neutral while other nations were in the midst of the second World War.
When I initially heard of Kavalier & Clay, I immediately thought of a hero of some sort and his trusty best friend or sidekick. This certainly aligns with the comic book plot line and overarching themes of camaraderie and teamwork that’s woven through the pages of this book. But I wouldn’t say either Kavalier or Clay takes more of the spotlight in the novel – their characters – cliche as it sounds – were quite the dynamic duo. Both possess different talents (powers, if you will) and share equally tragic personal experiences that define who they are. Despite their conflicting talents, skill sets and personalities, the combined power of the two was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to that, the relationship between these two characters is one of the most heartwarming and touching friendships in all of fiction.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because this action-packed novel was such a joy to read. There were certainly a handful of other significant characters and as one would expect, this book about comic books was quite frankly, about much more than comic books. The lighter subject matter regarding comic books and magic made Kavalier & Clay a deliciously fun book to read, but since it takes place during the worst World War of our time, the story was equally sobering. Painful even.
As you can tell from this shining review, I highly recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. You don’t have to be a comic book aficionado to appreciate that component of the book; it’s more of a history lesson about the industry at its pinnacle in the 40’s. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “Why haven’t they made this into a movie yet?” Turns out they’ve tried and failed a few times over the years, but there are talks about a potential HBO mini-series, which would be badass. In the meantime, I’ll be catching up on lost time and exploring more fantastic tales that originated from Michael Chabon’s beautiful mind.