Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Just finished Kavalier and Clay

Work has been so slow that I actually took it in to read today. It made the day go by faster.

The entire time I've been reading this book, I've been thinking about what to say about it on here. One thing that's struck me the most is that Michael Chabon easily could've made this an academic book rather than a work of fiction. The story deals with comic books during WWII: how the storylines and heroes changed as America debated about whether or not to become involved with the war in Europe, then changed again after the Pearl Harbor attack settled the question; sexuality in comic books, both homo and hetero; questions of audience; artistic and historic influences; outsider metaphors. Instead, Chabon created the partnership of Josef Kavalier, a Jew who escaped from Prague in the coffin of a golem with the help of his onetime magic teacher, and Sammy Klayman, his wildly creative Brooklyn cousin. The two find an instant bond in artwork and comics, and form a partnership that succeeds beyond their wildest dreams.

My favorite parts of the book were seen through the eyes of their superheroes. Chabon shows the pair at work, drawing inspiration from events in their own lives. The character Luna Moth is inspired by a girl Josef fell in love with, and The Saboteur's real-life cognate was an anti-Semite whose office Josef broke into and trashed. Chabon has a wonderful character in Josef: artistic and vibrant, yet tortured by guilt over his family who remained trapped in Prague. Sammy is a little flatter. From the moment Sammy comes across, and is disturbed by, the sight of two men kissing at a party, you know exactly why and can predict what will happen next. The story does take a surprising turn at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I'm not going to spoil it for you, dear readers, for this book is well worth a read. I'm glad I spent the additional forty cents in late fines to finish it without rushing.


Matt said...

Late fees are so nice at times. They spur me on to finish something, but because they're not too high I can afford finish something just a bit late.

Anonymous said...

Have you read "Carter Beats the Devil"? A fascinating read, based on the life of a San Francisco area illusionist, around the time of Houdini. Lots of wonderful San Francisco historical figures and anecdotes, wonderfully woven together into a hard-to-put-down story! I'm reading Kavalier & Clay now - and enjoying it!