This book is maybe my favorite novel. Maybe not
the "best" novel I've read - I can appreciate that others have more literary
or historical merit. But simply my favorite, and I'm sure I'll reread
it many times. Chabon's superb writing and characterization here has
been acknowledged by the book being awarded this year's Pulitzer Prize
for fiction. But what pushes it over the top for me is its subject: the
Golden Age of comic books.
Kavalier & Clay is written by Michael Chabon, the author
of Wonder Boys. His writing style is sublime and wondrous. The book is
a fast read even at 600+ pages, but you can choose to linger over the
highly creative descriptions and intricate, layered information. In fact,
in this way it is much like comic books themselves, which can be read
either in five minutes or much longer as you lose yourself in the skillful
work of a master artist.
The plot follows a young Jewish artist named Josef
Kavalier as he flees from Nazi-occupied Prague in 1939. In America, Joe
meets his cousin Sam Clay (ne Clayman) and the two pool their skills
to jump on the new comic-book bandwagon as creators of the Escapist,
a super escape-artist that serves as a perfect metaphor for the young
Jews' underlying desire to help people - specifically, the rest of Joe's
family in Prague - escape the grip of Nazi persecution.
The level of realism here is astounding. It is a very
accurate account of those beginning days of comic books. It is hard to
separate fact from fiction, as many of the cameos are from real people
- celebrities such as Salvador Dali, and well-known real-life comic creators.
Its depiction of 1940s New York is vivid and robust as seen through the
wide eyes of an optimistic immigrant. The characters here are distinct
and incredibly likable, and the dialogue is dead-on.
I haven't yet read any of Chabon's other novels, but
from what I've heard, his writing style has matured to a peak with this
great book. More than any other book reviewed on these pages, I recommend
you run out (or click over) and buy it today. And pick up some comic
books while you're at it.