Saturday, April 5, 2008

An amazing adventure indeed.

Finished Kavalier and Clay a couple of days ago. Ate my way through the last 100 pages. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even though I never got the sense that I LOVED it. I think the reason is that, for all the depth that Chabon gives us in terms of story and character, the POV felt removed enough for me that the book never felt close to me. And for me, often, I am won over by the closeness of the heartbreak I feel when I read a book.

Nonetheless.

A few thoughts -


I felt the book picked up momentum in a way that hadn't been present during the last section of the book (where Tommy appears). Because there, you finally realize that this story is about getting Joe home, and having him finally embrace where he is.

A section I LOVED is when Joe is standing on the top of the building, ready to jump, and he remembers this story his teacher tells him about Houdini and how he couldn't escape from this one set of locks, how ultimately it was his wife that help set him free. "Only love could pick a nested pair of steel Bramah locks." I loved that. There was something so remarkable about this story - perfect for this book, yet brilliant in illustrating a poignant point. I was so impressed by the placement of that.

Sam and his lost love really broke my heart :(

There were seriously so many heartbreaking moments in this book, when you least expect it, because before then, you're rolling along, all happy, learning so much, and maybe even laughing, and then out of nowhere, Chabon hits you with a zinger. The change in the emotions surrounding the prose takes a sudden turn and suddenly you find yourself wading in sadness... and then you turn the page and its like it never happened. To illustrate, the part when Joe comes out to meet German in the ice, its a fight and then suddenly, he ends with:

Nothing that had ever happened to him, not the shooting of Oyster, or the piteous muttering expiration of John Wesley Shannenhouse, or the death of his father, or internment of his mother and grandfather, not even the drowning of his beloved brother, had ever broken his heart quite as terribly as the realization, when he was halfway to the rimed zinc hatch of the German station, that he was hauling a corpse behind him.
--[pg. 465, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay]


It's so heartbreaking, and you're just not sure how you got there.

Another really heartbreaking moment was the section where Joe starts bawling because he wants to be able to buy Empire Comics for Sam but he can't. The dialogue in that section is pitch perfect.


This book is not a happy story. It's fun and funny, but Joe never achieves that thing which he most ardently desires. It is, however, an American immigrant story, about somebody who stops escaping and learns to embrace the present. I thought it really was a very very good book, and full of so many interesting tibits and great language. And, for someone who was never really into comics, it actually makes me look at comic books with a different light.

Chabon impresses me greatly. How he put together this grand story and yet managed to keep it all interesting is a skill I think. I'm impressed. Now I'm just sad it's over.

1 drops:

moonrat said...

you know what drives me nuts about michael chabon? NUTS. he is so prolific! which means that he just sits down and magical words fall out of his head with little to no tooth-pulling. god i hate people like that. HATE.

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