Micheal Chadon Michael Chabon   The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay  
Michael Chabon    


In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon tells the story of two ambitious and singular young men, one a New York native, the other his cousin, a refugee from Prague, navigating a world changed indefinitely by the events of the Second World War. After Josef Kavalier arrives on his cousin Sammy Clay's doorstep in 1939, the two embark on a friendship—and subsequent working relationship—that begins when Sammy (a writer) introduces Joe (a draftsman) to the emerging concept of the comic book. This union results in the birth of The Escapist, their best selling comic book hero. Sammy and Joe grow their enterprise into a highly-successful and profitable empire boasting a variety of titles and superheroes of all shapes and sizes.

The Escapist is in part a metaphorical extension of Kavalier, who trained in Prague as a Houdini-inspired magician, and who then escaped his war-torn homeland for America. His goal in fleeing Czechoslovakia is to make enough money to bring his family to the new world. As World War II violently rattles the planet, Josef's artwork takes on political overtones; his debut controversial cover features a Herculean Escapist knocking Adolf Hitler to the ground with one powerful blow.

Over the next several years, Kavalier and Clay's world fluctuates wildly; the men share, each in their entirely own way, a love for the feisty and talented young artist Rosa Saks. From the very beginning of the cousins' relationship to one another there are shadows of a future in which each will be forced to defend himself and his beliefs, just as they must protect the integrity of the classic comic book. The honor of the latter is called into question in a 1954 congressional hearing that equates the medium with juvenile delinquency and advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle, as evidenced by the oft-included male sidekick to the comic book superhero.

Using narrative, flashbacks, historical detail and shifting perspectives, Chabon whisks his reader on a journey that spans some 15 years and several corners of the globe, and culminates unforgettably atop the Empire State Building. Within this journey both Kavalier and Clay discover pieces of themselves, each escaping the restraints of a world that is not always kind to those who are "different." Chabon explores themes of sexuality, loyalty, family, politics, and censorship, all while deftly sketching a picture of a rapidly-changing American society that slowly broadens its definitions of the norm. The end result is a brilliant crafted novel with a cast of colorful characters both fantastic and at times painfully real.

In this issue of Bold Type, read an excerpt from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and an interview its with author Michael Chabon, whose previous novel, Wonderboys, was made into a studio film scheduled for rerelease later this year.

--Laura Buchwald
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  Photo credit: Patricia Williams

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