Customer Reviews for

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (with bonus content)

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Amazing certainly describes Kavalier & Clay

If you want to indulge yourself in Escapism at its fullest, definitely read "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay". This book is so spell-binding, you will sometimes forget you are reading a work of fiction. The characters come to life on the pages of the book, as ...
If you want to indulge yourself in Escapism at its fullest, definitely read "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay". This book is so spell-binding, you will sometimes forget you are reading a work of fiction. The characters come to life on the pages of the book, as well as in the comic books Joe and Sammy write. At times you will sympathize with Joe, then yell at Anapol, be mystified by Rosa, and hope for Tommy. All in all, this is an utterly fascinating book! Be prepared to have a dictionary near you at all times!

posted by 775992 on January 19, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Good main narrative, likeable characters, but way too fragmented

Amazing Adventures is a big, sprawling story about two Jewish comic book artists living in 1940s New York City, cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay. Joe is an apprentice magician and Houdini aficionado who uses his skills to escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and ...
Amazing Adventures is a big, sprawling story about two Jewish comic book artists living in 1940s New York City, cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay. Joe is an apprentice magician and Houdini aficionado who uses his skills to escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and arrive in America. His cousin Sammy, a native Brooklynite, is a small kid with a gimpy leg and vast imagination. Sammy quickly befriends Joe and shares with him his enthusiasm for comic books. With Sammy's ideas and Joe's natural artistic talent, they begin creating their own successful comics, including The Escapist, a superhero who 'comes to the rescue of those who toil in the chains of tyranny and injustice' and represents Sammy's desire to be strong and Joe's hatred of Nazism. Escapism is one of the main themes, and probably the only theme that holds together well in this book. Joe escapes from the Nazis and later tries to escape from his grief and responsibilities. Sammy escapes into marriage to hide his true desires, and his wife Rosa escapes into her work (inking romance comics) to forget the man she really loves and believes is lost (Joe). And comic books themselves represent an escape. But the other themes disparately never link up. The plot twists, without any reason or closure, so it feels like nothing is happening. The book plugs along solidly in the first half, but then quickly falls apart before the reader feels any satisfaction. The teenage boys (to whom the book devotes 400 pages to) suddenly age by years every chapter. Suddenly, inexplicably, Joe is a WWII stationed in Antarctica; a story that begins out of nowhere and ends just as it gets interesting. We learn the fate of Sammy's lover (the development of their relationship of which took 100 pages) in one sentence. 12 years suddenly passes and we are introduced to Rosa and Sammy's (nay Joe's) 12-year old son. It seems Chabon has a lot of ideas, and rushes to start one before finishing another. Interesting events do take place, but because they aren't fully fleshed out they seem disconnected and pointless. Another problem is Chabon's own superfluous style. Everything has to be described with long metaphors; sometimes the simplest declaration is drawn out to a page or two, making Amazing Adventures a very long and arduous read. That, coupled with his chunky, clunky storyline, makes this book, weighing in at 656 pages, extremely frustrating. I can see how this book could become popular. In contains a well-researched, nostalgic look at old-school New York life, historical references, and a lot of emotion and romance. The main narrative - two boys creating a superhero to compensate for their physical and political desires - is very appealing. But after finally putting this book down, all I could think of was: 'So?'

posted by Anonymous on January 15, 2002

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  • Posted August 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    by Michael Chabon

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of two Jewish cousins before, during, and after World War II

    Plot:

    The novel begins in 1939 with the arrival of 19-year-old Josef "Joe" Kavalier as a refugee in New York City, where he comes to live with his 17-year-old cousin Sammy Klayman. Joe escaped from Prague with the help of his teacher Kornblum by hiding in a coffin along with the inanimate Golem of Prague, leaving the rest of his family, including his younger brother Thomas, behind. Besides having a shared interest in drawing, Sammy and Joe share several connections to Jewish stage magician Harry Houdini: Joe (like comics legend Jim Steranko) studied magic and escapology in Prague, which aided him in his departure from Europe, and Sammy is the son of the Mighty Molecule, a strongman on the vaudeville circuit.

    When Sammy discovers Joe's artistic talent, Sammy pitches the idea of a comic book based on a hero he and Joe thought of--The Escapist--to Empire Novelties, Inc, owned by Sheldon P. Anatole and Jack Ashkenazy--Sheldon's brother in law. which, due to the recent success of Superman, is attempting to get into the comic-book business. Under the name "Sam Clay", Sammy starts writing adventure stories with Joe illustrating them, and the two recruit several other Brooklyn teenagers to produce Amazing Midget Radio Comics (named to promote one of the company's novelty items). The pair is at once passionate about their creation, optimistic about making money, and always nervous about the opinion of their employers. The magazine features Sammy and Joe's character the Escapist, an anti-fascist superhero who combines traits of (among others) Captain America, Harry Houdini, Batman, the Phantom, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. The Escapist becomes tremendously popular, but like talent behind Superman, the writers and artists of the comic get a minimal share of their publisher's revenue. Sammy and Joe are slow to realize that they are being exploited, as they have private concerns: Joe is trying to help his family escape from Nazi-occupied Prague, and has fallen in love with the bohemian Rosa Saks, who has her own artistic aspirations, while Clay is battling with his sexual identity and the lackluster progress of his literary career.

    For many months after coming to New York, Joe is driven almost solely by an intense desire to improve the condition of his family, still living under a regime increasingly hostile to their kind. This drive shows through in his work, which remains for a long time unabashedly anti-Nazi despite his employer's concerns. In the meantime, he is spending more and more time with Rosa, appearing as a magician in the bar mitzvahs of the children of Rosa's father's acquaintances, even though he sometimes feels guilty at indulging in these distractions from the primary task of fighting for his family. After multiple attempts and considerable monetary sacrifice, Joe ultimately fails to get his family to the States, his last attempt having resulted in putting his younger brother aboard a ship that sank into the Atlantic. Distraught and unaware that Rosa is pregnant with his child, Joe enlists in the navy, hoping to fight the Germans. Instead, he is sent to a lonely, cold naval base in Antarctica, from which he emerges the lone survivor after a series of deaths. When he makes it back to New York, ashamed to show his face again to Rosa and Sammy, he lives and sleeps in a hideout in the Empire State Building, known only to a small circle of magician-friends.

    Meanwhile, Sam battles with his sexuality, shown mostly through his relationship with the radio voice of The Escapist, Tracy Bacon. Bacon's movie-star good-looks initially intimidate Clay, but they later fall in love. When Tracy is cast as The Escapist in the film version, he invites Clay to move to Hollywood with him, an offer that Clay accepts. But later, when Bacon and Clay go to a friend's beach house with several other gay men and couples, the company's private dinner is broken up by the local police as well as two off-duty FBI agents. All of the men are arrested, except for two who hid under the dinner table, one of whom is Clay. The FBI agents each claim one of the men and grant them their freedom in return for sexual favors. After this episode, Clay decides that he can't live with the constant threat of being arrested, ridiculed, and judged because of his sexuality. He does not go with Bacon to the West Coast. Some time after Joe leaves, Sammy marries Rosa and moves with her to the suburbs--Bloomtown--where they raise her son Tommy in what outwardly appears to be a typical traditional nuclear family.
    Sammy and Rosa cannot hide all their secrets from Tommy, however, who manages to take private magic lessons in the Empire State Building from Joe for the better part of year without anyone else's knowledge. Tommy is instrumental in finally reuniting the Kavalier and Clay duo by sending a death threat from The Escapist to the Herald Tribune. Everyone thinks that Joe is going to kill himself and he does manage to jump and live to tell about it.

    This reunites the two cousins and Joe moves back with Sam and Rosa. The cousins work with renewed enthusiasm to find a new creative direction for comics. Shortly afterwards, Sammy's homosexuality is revealed on public television, when he's forced to testify in front of The Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of The US Senate. This further complicates the attempts of Rosa, Sammy, and Joe to reconstitute a family.

    In the end, Joe decides to leave for Los Angeles in search of hie true his true sexual identity and Joe and Rosa are in Bloomtown together after Joe buys Empire Comics to star a new series based on the Golam of Prague.

    Commentary:

    An amazing read, filled with wonderful tidbits of the period surrounding WWII. Many events in the novel are based on the lives of actual comic-book creators including Jack Kirby (to whom the book is dedicated in the afterword), Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, and Jim Steranko. Other historical figures play minor roles, including Salvador Dalí, Al Smith, Orson Welles, and Fredric Wertham. The novel's time span roughly mirrors that of the Golden Age of Comics itself, starting from shortly after the debut of Superman and concluding with the Kefauver Senate hearings, two events often used to demarcate the era.

    The book was hard to put down. Chabon use of the English Language is impressive.

    I found a paragraph that summarized the book's theme:

    On page 575: "Having lost his mother, father, brother, and grandfather, the friends and foes of his youth, his beloved teacher Bernard Kornblum, his city, his history--his home--the usual charged leveled against comic books, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf. He had escaped in his life from ropes, chains, boxes, bags, and crates, from handcuffs and shackles, from countries and regimes, from the arms of a woman who loved him, from crashed airplanes and an opiate addiction and from an entire frozen continent intent on causing his death. The escape from reality was, he felt--especially after the war--a worthy challenge."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    *SPOILER ALERT*

    The way this novel ended, I think was a unique and creative way in which Michael Chabon captured the feelings that everyone involved in the closing parts felt. It showed how even though Sammy had left his own home and his job to start a new life alone, without the help of Joe or Rosa, that he still would keep them in his heart forever and still think of them; his life, and their's wasn't in vein. On the yellow lot slip (for the house purchase) he emphasized that Kavalier and Clay would now and forever be partners in crime. Sam would take what he learned and bring it to the city he always wanted to call home, Los Angeles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2011

    The Houdini behind it all...

    The main characters; Sammy Clay, and Joe Kavalier who is trained to use the houdini escape methods, escape Nazi invaded Prague and attempt to create a comic book on the the adventure Joe had taken to get to the United States. Joe Kavalier is Sammmy Clay's cousin who is Jewish, he was sentenced to an internment camp so he fled to New York to start a new life where his travels with Sammy begin.
    The book has many great qualities that intrigue the reader also some that make the reader want to fall asleep. The most exciting parts in the book were when the two cousins were discussing how Joe Kavalier had escaped from the Nazi controlled Czech, or when they try to create new stories and ideas for the comic book. Through all the raging excitement, there were some parts where the text between the two characters was dull. There was not any excitement and they just sat in Sammy's room and talked about their lives.This book comes highly recommended to any reader who is interested in thrillers, action, dramatic, and many more genres of book.
    CHARACTER OVERVIEW: Joe Kavalier
    Josef Kavalier was Sammy Clay's czech cousin who had escaoed from the Nazis in Europe in the thirties. Josef stood at a tall 5'11". Sammy could tell he had a ruged journey to the states by the look of his clothes and smell of his being. "He could barely stand on his own feet... in his baggy tweed suit" Joe's lack of the ability to stand and baggy clothes is due to the weakness in his body. Being that the clothes were so baggy, it probably means Joe had not eaten for a while and did not have the energy to stand."...an odor of cigarette, armpit, damp wool, and the sweet smell of prunes on his breath" (Chabon 5). The smell of cigarette is from his constant smoking as a 17 year old which tells the reader that he had been under a great deal of stress and smoked to relieve that stress. The odor of prunes if from the only thing Joe had to eat and the damp wool is from his coat when he was walking in the rains of New York.The only reasson Josef stays with Sammy throughout his comic book dreams, is that he wants to stay away from the Nazis in Prague. He was motivated by the freedom of the United States. During his time spent withhis cousin, Joe learned how to slowly open up more and allow Sammy to know what was going on to fill not only his, but Sam's dreams also. Through the duration of his time in New York, Josef Kavalier had changed from a teen who lived in fear and built up his thoughts to a young man who feels comfortable in his environment and is not afraid to share what's on his mind.
    THEME:
    The main theme of the novel was the Houdiniesque tricks, or the different ways for Joe to teach Sam how to be a master escape artist. It was always Sam's goal to become an escape artist like Henry Houdini. He never knew anyone who could teach him, or anyone who knew how to escape tricky situations. When Joe came along and knew the escape tricks, Sammy felt as if he could use Joe to teach him how and in the process, create a comic book on his adventure from Europe. Sammy tells Joe he will break into the comic book company where he works and secretly create the story of Joe's travels and in that, reveals the secrets of escaping. Even though Sam is just using Joe, their bond begins to grow throughout the novel as they spend more time with each other.Sam has found out that; through desire and envy, one can find more than originally wanted, one can find a new friend

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    I will not buy it unless it's digital

    Why doesn't publisher put this book in digital form? I want my children to read a book with which they can increase my vocabulary using a dictionary. They have no time to check a book dictionary or type in the words in a electronic dictionary.

    0 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    Definitely an Adventure!

    This book is amazing on so many different levels, whether you're looking for adventure, comedy, tragedy, or maybe even a little sex, it has it all! Chabon intertwines the story of Kavalier and Clay with some of their comics so well that you think a new friend or love interest is being introduced, then BAM! you find out it's one of their creations. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is most definitely a must-read for everyone, no matter what genre your loyalties lie.

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  • Posted April 15, 2010

    History through the eyes of superheroes

    This book was wonderfully surprising. I picked it up following the recommendation of a friend, and initially felt I wouldn't enjoy it due to my lack of interest in the comic book theme. However, it proved to be an engaging and touching story of two young cousins fighting parallel struggles in the U.S. and Prague who later join forces in New York City to create a highly successful series of comic book stories, whose themes and characters are a manifestation of both their own internal battles and a conflicted environment produced by the backdrop of the World War II Hitler era. The story is heart-wrenching with its plot line of conflicts and historical tragedies, but at the same time it allows you to escape the harsh realities along with the characters into an inviting fantasy world of magic and superheroes where good prevails over evil. It is also a story of hope, as despite the greatest of tragedies and divisive events that transpire, love remains persistent and unconditional.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    Easily one of the best boks I've ever read

    I absolutely loved this book, I actually felt like I was reading a piece of historical non-fiction. The characters were so well-developed, you find yourself deeply caring for them while also thinking they are real people! I highly recommend, and will definitely put this on my "re-read" list!

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book!

    Loved this book. I believe Chabon to be a gifted author. Definitely recommend this book.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    Hoping for more

    Personally, I liked the story until Sam went utterly gay. It just ruined it for me. I also thought that it dragged on a bit long.

    0 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Cultural class

    This book would be great for any age group, and any background.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Super

    One doesn't have to be comics fan to enjoy this great story that tells a lot about an era and a culture of people.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay

    The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay is a fantastic exploration of pre-World War Two New York, a wonderfully entertaining saga centered around the escapades of two characters, Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier, both so real, detailed, and believable that they might as well be given birth certificates, and the wealth of superheroes they create, including the Monitor, Luna Moth, inspired by their mutual love interest, Rosa Saks, and most notably their front man, the Escapist, a powerful symbol of their shared yearning to become more than what they would be without each other. For Joe, the Escapist also symbolizes his getaway from Prague, his birthplace in war-torn Europe. Joe Kavalier is a profound character. He learns magic in Europe, travels to America with a dead golem, and spends much of his time in Brooklyn beating up and getting beat up by American Germans. This is an amazing book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2006

    Can't Miss

    Possibly one of the most intriguing books I have read - who would have thought a book involving comic books would be so interesting! Kavalier is a fascinating character, who is not able to see all that he has, and Clay longs for the time when he can be accepted for who he is - things which I think anyone can identify with. One follows the ups and downs in their lives not knowing what to expect thanks to Chabon's vivid imagination. When I read a novel by Chabon, I am always entranced with his writing and words, and enthralled with his clever imagination. But, this book is his best - there are many touching and poignant scenes and phrases that I feel I can see when I close my eyes. All in all, one of my most satisfying reads.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2006

    It missed the mark

    I had great hopes for this 600+ page saga highlighting a critical time - pre WWI and the end of the Great DEpression. Infortunately, I felt the character develpment here was consistently weak and the different story lines far fetched. The ending was one that I'd expect in a comic book.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    Pretty Good

    I enjoyed the beginning with the imagery of the Golem and the dirt of Prague. But once it got past the two main characters 'making it' it lost speed. Some great scenes, though, particularly the Antartica chapter. But the ending felt forced and silly. It felt like it shoud have ended sooner and the characters changed too much to make the last few chapters seem believable. It is only disappointing (2 stars) because I expected more from a Pulitzer. These expectations included: less wooden characters, more pulling into the storyline,a tighter plot and an ending that leaves you wanting, etc.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    Avid adult reader - I loved this book

    Firstly, don't be deterred by the first 15 pages of this book. When I started, it seemed to be a strange/foreign subject matter. I read with my usually trusty digital dictionary by my side and found there were a number of words that weren't even in it. It very quickly moved on to a more familiar human subject and from then on, encompassed a lifetime of experiences of two newly-acquainted teenage cousins in the 1940s during the Golden Age of comics. The story is wonderful and at times seems so historically accurate, that I had to refer back to the title page to remind myself that it was a work of fiction. Like life, it has its ups and downs. The prose is so rich, it is hard for me to imagine being able to formulate thoughts and evoke images like Michael Chabon. I finished this book two weeks ago and I am still thinking about the story. The characters are so real, I feel like they are people that I once knew.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2004

    Simply Fantastic

    There are too many wonderful aspects of this book to discuss and not enough rich words to do them justice. A must read for all who are avid readers and love thoroughly drawn characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    My Favorite Book

    This book is simply great. I can't say enough about it. I highly recomend this to anyone who has an interest in comic books, especially if you want to get into the business someday. This book has some twists and turns that I didn't see coming, and I think anyone who reads this will have a great time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2004

    The Quite Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

    It was the colorful illustration of the Empire State Building that drew me to this novel. As I adore NYC, I admit that I judged a book by its cover :) Fortunately my superficial purchase paid off, and I ended up learning a lot about the individual¿s view of the WWII era, the American can-do philosophy, and, surprisingly, comic books. In fact, Michael Chabon so phenomenally created the characters of Sam and Joe that their passion for comics actually rubbed off on me ¿ an utter comic book virgin who now can¿t wait to try reading one. As the plot summary is just above, let me only add that the author is well aware of some of today¿s red-button social issues, and he doesn¿t hesitate to incorporate just about every one of them into his WWII-period novel. Despite some eyebrow-raising topics, you must admit Chabon's imagination is incredible and his imagery should rightly be termed as beautiful. Upon finishing, you¿ll be asking yourself how on earth can this man create such realistic fiction?! The book is long, but it does progress with some speed. Overall, you have a mix of sections that are page-turners and others that simply aren't. I enjoyed the book a tad less than immensely but a notch higher than really. Eventually, you should read this novel, but it is possible to let it wait on your bookshelf until you have finished up whatever you currently have your nose in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2004

    The amazing adventure of reading Kavalier & Clay

    This is the best book I've ever read.

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