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Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Chabon. It is a master work in story, scope and technique. Even at more than 600 pages, it is one of those rare gems that I quite simply did not want to end.

The novel begins at the end of the Thirties and the dawn of the era of comic books. Josef Kavalier, after a daring escape from a politically unstable Europe, meets up with his cousin Sammy Klayman. The two get in on the comic book boom, eventually becoming respected artists in the field by creating their own superhero know as The Escapist.

The story deals heavily on the subject of comic books and the popularity of superheroes during the Forties. The idea of the super villain may sound somewhat far fetched today, but during this era, the threat of an evil madman taking over the world was a real concern. The world needed larger than life heroes in order to combat evil in any way it could. The book proposes that the creation and reading of these fantastic, fictional characters was a way for artists, writers and readers to fight back against tyranny in their own small way; it was empowering.

The scope of this book is massive, as it follow the life of these characters behind the comic books for almost three decades. The reader is able to live and grow with Kavalier and Clay through the ups and downs of their lives. Each chapter is more fully realized than the last. By the end you will feel that these are real people; you will feel happy and sad for them at all the right times. To have this effect on any reader is a massive accomplishment.

Chabon's technique is finely tuned with this novel. His prose is verbose but eloquent, and direct or vivid when he needs to be. There was not one page without a wonderful and uniquely written sentence. He is a writer's writer.

A truly remarkable book, worthy of its Pulitzer. It takes a considerable investment of time by the reader, but the rewards are well worth it.

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