Book Review – “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”

Timeshredder has put together another book review for us.

Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Author: Michael Chabon

Original Publication Date: 2000

ISBN: 0-312-28299-0

Cover Price: $15.00 U.S. (paperback)

Buy from: or

Premise: Two cousins, one a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, create a memorable comic book superhero whose career reflects their experiences during the turbulent times of the nineteen-thirties, forties, and fifties.

High Points: Chabon’s awareness of the possibilities of language and imagery.

The dramatized account of the fictional Escapist’s adventure, crisp prose narrating a gee-whiz Golden Age comic-book story.

Low Point: The ending didn’t really conclude the book for me. I realize Chabon likely wanted to create a sense that another chapter would begin sometime, but I still hoped for more.

The Scores:

Originality: 6 out of 6: Although the times and the comic-lore will
be familiar to many fans (and some of Chabon’s sources, instantly
recognizable to those who know the history), I cannot think of anyone
who has written so enjoyable and literary an ode to Golden and
pre-Silver Age comics and the broader culture that produced

Imagery: 6 out of 6: Chabon does what great writing should: he
escorts us into the setting, whether we’re staggering through the New
York of the 30s and 40s where Kavalier and Clay make their mark,
trudging across the Antarctic wastes where Joe Kavalier spends part of
World War II, or plunged into a four-colour comic where good socks
evil on the chin.

Story: 4 out of 6: the rambling plot is not the most original ever,
but Chabon tells it well, and includes more than enough to make this
worth reading and eventually rereading.

Characterization: 5 out of 6: Believable and well-executed, though
the cousins, Simon and Shuster crossed with Will Eisner, will not in
and of themselves become the most memorable in literature.

Emotional Response: 5 out of 6: The book evokes a range of
responses, from laughter to shock.

Editing: 6 out of 6: Great writing overall.

Overall: 6 out of 6.

In total, Kavalier and Clay receives 38 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments: Kavalier and Clay has been
nominated for many awards and it won the Pulitzer Prize; not bad for a
book which acknowledges Jack Kirby as an inspiration. I find it
refreshing that a serious literary writer can admit to (gasp)
enjoying comic books, and his novel explores their
possibilities and pleasures while recognizing their limitations and
addressing the at times suspect politics. Those seeking fantasy
literature should be aware that Chabon tells an essentially realistic
tale, though in a way that evokes the fantastic. References to such
things as Kavalier and Clay’s superhero the Escapist and Harry Houdini
permeate the novel; the author even drops a passing allusion to the
Lovecraft Mythos. The Golem of Prague appears as an actual artifact,
though in such a way as not to disturb (necessarily) our understanding
of the “real world.”

2 replies on “Book Review – “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay””

  1. Yep
    Can’t really add much. This book was awesome.

    BTW, anyone who wants to see Chabon write a real comic book should check out the upcoming JSA: All-Stars mini-series from DC. He is writing one (IIRC) of the backups. It may not be much, but it’s a start.

    Plus, Chabon’s a fellow Legion of Super-Heroes fan. Gotta love that!

  2. Funny thing…
    I’m about 3/4 of the way through this book at the moment, and I have to write a 3-5 pg. position paper (just AP Eng) on it for wednesday. Any ideas? :)

    Oh, and I do agree with the review, it is a very good book.

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