Update on Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (by Jill)

kavalier and clay cover 2

I’ve really been enjoying the middle portion of this book. Events are progressing towards the book’s climax at a rapid clip, and Sammy and Joe are both fairly happy, which is never a good thing in plot-driven literary fiction. I don’t even want to stop reading to write about the book, but at the same time I don’t want to know what happens at the climax to end the “Golden Age” of their partnership. I would like for them to continue to work together, hang out in pre-World War II New York City with Rosa Sacks and Tracy Bacon, go to the movies, and create comics. I think that I like these boys more than I’ve liked characters in a stand-alone novel in a long time.

Bethany said that when she read K&C a long time ago she didn’t enjoy the comic book parts of the novel. I suspect she means the chapters that show up periodically with origin stories of some of Joe and Sammy’s more popular characters. So far there have been two: about The Escapist and about Luna Moth. I think they are great—I’d love to read these comic books. Actually, I’d love to see the movies they would make based on the comic books. I am more of a comic book movie person than a real comic book person…. The business side of the comic book industry also plays a major role in the novel. I have found myself wondering if comic book artists and writers are still treated the same way as Joe and Sammy—cut out of the major profits, having to fight for their just rewards for their intellectual property, that sort of thing. I wonder if Stan Lee exploits his creative types the same way Joe and Sammy are exploited (though they take steps to get the best of the publishers and editors as the book goes on). I’ve always imagined Stan Lee as a benevolent presence in the Marvel Universe, but maybe not?

Amidst all of the fun crime fighting and adventures in NYC, there has been this undercurrent of tension. Joe needs money because he needs to finance his brother Thomas’s escape from Prague. As of June 1941 Thomas is still stuck in a convent in Portugal waiting for the ship Joe bought his passage on to take off for America. Joe doesn’t talk about this much, but it’s constantly on his mind. Sammy is also not talking much about something: he is coming to terms with his feelings for Tracy Bacon, the actor who plays The Escapist on the radio. Yes. That’s right. Sammy is gay in 1941 New York. I’m pretty sure this fact is going to contribute to whatever climax/giant tragedy that’s sitting in the book, waiting for me to flip the pages until I find it. The other event that’s looming is, of course, Pearl Harbor and the US joining World War II. Sammy isn’t going anywhere, of course, because he had polio as a kid, but I think Joe will want to go fight. And I’m worried about him doing something stupid in Europe.

I still haven’t been able to find anything to complain about in Chabon’s writing style. I like him and will continue to buy his books. I found this passage especially lovely, which is from right after Tracy Bacon kisses Sammy Clay on the observation deck of the Empire State Building: “Bacon pointed to the deserted promenade outside the windows. Along its railings, a bright blue liquid, viscous and turbulent, seemed to flow. Sammy opened the door and reached out into the ozone-sharp darkenss, and then Bacon came beside him again and put out his hand, too, and they stood there, for a moment, watching as sparks two inches long forked from the tips of their outstretched fingers (352-353).” Did you know that the Empire State Building gets struck by lightning, like, all the time? And you can see St. Elmo’s Fire on the observation deck? Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

I’m definitely getting tense about what’s going to happen to these characters. I don’t usually worry about fictional people this much. I looked back at the other books I’ve read this year, and I was fairly concerned about the characters in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, and I was worried about the kids in The Round House—those boys were looking for trouble the entire novel—but I seriously have knots in my stomach thinking about what’s going to happen next in K&C. And I don’t think it’s redirected from stress in my real life (though there has been a fair amount of that lately) because I don’t usually do that.

And with that, I’m going to get back to reading. I only have two days off this week so I need to make some progress!

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This entry was posted in Fiction - general, Fiction - Historical, Fiction - literary, Michael Chabon, Reviews by Jill, The Numbers Challenge. Bookmark the permalink.

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