Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon ****

I don't know much about comic books since I haven't read one in about 30 years. I used to go through piles of them at my grandma's house in St. John when I was a kid--I'm guessing they were ones my older cousins had discarded. A lot of them were Disney ones, about Donald Duck, his nephews, & his Uncle Scrooge McDuck. There was one great one of Macbeth--yeah, Shakespeare. I'll always have the image in my mind of Lady Macbeth scrubbing her hand & saying, "Out out, damn spot!" that was imprinted there from that comic book.
More recently, the closest I've gotten to comics is reading Maus by Art Spiegelman. It's Spiegelman's attempt to wrap his mind around the experiences of his father & mother, who lived through the Holocaust but lost their only child (at the time) to it. He portrays Jews at mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, & Americans as dogs. It is an amazing book, & he wrote a sequel also. The imagery is stark & graphic, the subject difficult but necessary.
Kavalier & Clay was obviously influenced by Maus, but it was mostly influenced by Jack Kirby, who the author acknowledges at the end of the book. It's about the hey-day of comic books, right before & during WWII. Two cousins, Josef Kavalier & Sammy Clay, collaborate on a new superhero--the Escapist. It proves to be monstrously successful, but both cousins have demons they are trying to escape from themselves.
For Joe, it's Nazi Europe. He is desperate to get his family to America, but fate is making it very difficult to do so.
For Sammy, it's himself. Society doesn't make it acceptable to by gay in the 1940's, & Sammy doesn't want to be on display.
This is a great book. I highly recommend it. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because of the ending. It's not a disappointing ending, it's just kinda abrupt. But it is good. Very good.

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