Gift Guide

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

( 181 )


It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers and in stores.

Pick Up In Store Near You

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (347) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $2.49   
  • Used (338) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 3 of 34
Showing 21 – 30 of 338 (34 pages)
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

A tradition of southern quality and service. All books guaranteed at the Atlanta Book Company. Our mailers are 100% recyclable.

Ships from: Atlanta, GA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2007

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
CD Missing. Millions of satisfied customers and climbing. Thriftbooks is the name you can trust, guaranteed. Spend Less. Read More.

Ships from: Auburn, WA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
Blue Cloud Books ??? Hot deals from the land of the sun.

Ships from: Phoenix, AZ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
Sail the Seas of Value

Ships from: Windsor Locks, CT

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:


Condition: Good
0312282990 Item in good condition and ready to ship!

Ships from: aurora, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
Biggest little used bookstore in the world.

Ships from: Reno, NV

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:


Condition: Good

Ships from: Astoria, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: Good
2000 Paperback Good Still nice, but it will have reading and shelf wear. Nothing bad, we promise! 99.9% Positive Feedback. SHIPS OUT WITHIN 1 BUSINESS DAY! CHARITY SALE! 100% ... of the proceeds benefit the literacy and educational efforts of Books for America. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Fairfax, VA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
Ex-Library Book - will contain Library Markings. Help save a tree. Buy all your used books from Green Earth Books. Read. Recycle and Reuse.

Ships from: Portland, OR

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:


Condition: Acceptable
Free State Books. Never settle for less.

Ships from: Halethorpe, MD

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 3 of 34
Showing 21 – 30 of 338 (34 pages)
Sort by
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (with bonus content)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99 price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.

All Available Formats & Editions


It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Michael Chabon, the author of Wonder Boys, comes storming back with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a midcentury story of comic books, superheroes, and real-world survival. When Joe Kavalier, having recently fled Nazi-occupied Prague, teams up with comic book visionary and Brooklyn native Sammy Clay in New York City in 1939, the result is the comic book hero The Escapist. Thus begins Joe and Sammy's own flight into the world of a burgeoning new form of art and expression. Eventually, however, the reality of the war in Europe becomes unavoidable for even these masters of fantasy, setting the scene for an epic novel of great depth, humor, and wisdom.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This epic novel about the glory years of the American comic book (1939-1954) fulfills all the promise of Chabon's two earlier novels (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh; Wonder Boys) and two collections of short stories (A Model World; Werewolves in Their Youth), and nearly equals them all together in number of pages. Chabon's prodigious gifts for language, humor and wonderment come to full maturity in this fictional history of the legendary partnership between Sammy Klayman and Josef Kavalier, cousins and creators of the prewar masked comic book hero, the Escapist. Sammy is a gifted inventor of characters and situations who dreams "the usual Brooklyn dreams of flight and transformation and escape." His contribution to the superhero's alter ego, Tom Mayflower, is his own stick legs, a legacy of childhood polio. Joe Kavalier, a former Prague art student, arrives in Brooklyn by way of Siberia, Japan and San Francisco. This improbable route marks only the first in a lifetime of timely escapes. Denied exit from Nazi Czechoslovakia with the visa his family sold its fortune to buy him, Joe, a disciple of Houdini, enlists the aid of his former teacher, the celebrated stage illusionist Bernard Kornblum, in a more desperate escape: crouched inside the coffin transporting Prague's famous golem, Rabbi Loew's miraculous automaton, to the safety of exile in Lithuania. This melodramatic getaway--almost foiled when the Nazi officer inspecting the corpse decides the suit it's wearing is too fine to bury--is presented with the careful attention to detail of a true-life adventure. Chabon heightens realism through a series of inspired matches: the Escapist, who roams the globe "coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains," with Joe's powerlessness to rescue his family from Prague; Kavalier & Clay's Empire City with New York City in the early 1940s; and the comic industry's "avidity of unburdening America's youth of the oppressive national mantle of tedium, ten cents at a time," with this fledgling art form's ability to gratify "the lust for power and the gaudy sartorial taste of a race of powerless people with no leave to dress themselves." Well researched and deeply felt, this rich, expansive and hugely satisfying novel will delight a wide range of readers. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
As Hitler conquers Europe, the Golden Age of Comic Books invades the United States in this story full of flight, transformation, and escape. Two Jewish cousins team up to make their mark on both continents. Artist Josef Kavalier arrives in New York City in 1939, having used his magician's training to smuggle himself out of Prague. His younger cousin, seventeen-year-old Sammy Klayman, has dreamed of escaping Brooklyn his whole life. When Sammy's boss approves a new comic book series, Kavalier and Clay (Klayman) together begin to brainstorm ideas for their superhero. What motivates their hero? The duo quickly creates The Escapist, whose mission is to rescue people everywhere from oppression. Taking on Hitler in their first issue, their success soon provides the money that Sammy and Joe need to seek their disparate dreams. When Joe falls under the spell of Rosa Saks, she inspires a new character, Luna Moth. Joe's repeated failures to rescue his family from Europe, Sammy's shame for his homosexual encounters, and Rosa's secret pregnancy bring about more transformations, flights, and escapes. Chabon, author of Wonder Boys (Villard, 1995) delivers rich prose that is a far cry from the monosyllabic speech bubbles of Batman. This book has the heft of an epic and fulfills that promise with descriptions of Houdini-esque escape, comic book history, an intriguing plot, wry humor, snappy dialogue, and numerous heroes and villains. Mature teens will enjoy the hows and whats of this book, but it is the motivation of the characters, the question of "Why?" that will keep them flipping the pages of this winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it beingany better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Random House, 659p, $26.95. Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Cindy Dobrez SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Library Journal
Joe Kavalier, a young artist and magician, escapes pre-World War II Czechoslovakia, making his way to the home of Sam Clay, his Brooklyn cousin. Sam dreams of making it big in the emerging comic-book trade and sees Joe as the person to help him. As the cousins gain success with their masked superhero, the Escapist, Joe banks his earnings to bring his family from Prague and falls in love with Rosa Saks, daughter of an art dealer. But when the ship carrying his brother to America is torpedoed, Joe joins the navy and is posted to Antarctica. Half-insane, he returns to a wandering life that leads back to Rosa and now husband Sam in 1953. What results is a novel of love and loss, sorrow and wonder, and the ability of art to transcend the "harsh physics" of this world and gives us a magical glimpse of "the mysterious spirit world beyond." Recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]--Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
...the themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book's sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page...Chabon has pulled off another great feat.
Daniel Mendelsohn
I'm not sure what the exact definition of a "great American novel" is, but I'm pretty sure that Michael Chabon's sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenchin new bookis one.
New York Magazine
David Bahr
…dazzling and delightful…
Ken Kalfus
The depth of Chabon’s thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement.
New York Times Book Review
R.Z. Sheppard
Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures Kavalier Clay is a serious but never solemn novel about the American comic book's Golden Age, from the late 1930's to the early 1950s.
Time Magazine
...the themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book's sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page...Chabon has pulled off another great feat.
Kirkus Reviews
A stroke of sheer conceptual genius links the themes of illusion and escape with that of the European immigrant experience of America in this huge, enthralling third novel from the author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988) and Wonder Boys. (1994).

Czech immigrant Josef Kavalier arrives in Brooklyn in 1939 to stay with his aunt's family, and sparks are immediately struck between "Joe" (a talented draftsman) and his cousin Sammy Klayman, a hustling go-getter (and hopeful "serious writer") who dreams of success in the burgeoning new field of newspaper comic strips. The pair dream up, and draw the exploits of, such superheroes as "the Escapist" (a figure resembling "Houdini, but mixed with Robin Hood and a little bit of Albert Schweitzer," whose sources are revealed in extensive flashbacks that also detail Joe's training as a magician and escape artist) - and "Kavalier and Clay" become rich and famous. But the shadow of Hitler overpowers Joe's imagination, sending him on an odyssey of revenge (to Greenland Station as a naval technician, in a furiously imaginative sequence) and into retreat from both his celebrity and the surviving people he still loves. Meanwhile, even as the world of comics is yielding to the pressures of change and political accusation (in the form of Senator Estes Kefauver's Congressional Committee investigation), Sammy makes a parallel gesture of renunciation, continuing to live in a fragile fantasy world. The story climaxes unforgettably - and surprisingly - atop the Empire State Building, and its lengthy denouement (a virtuoso piece of sustained storytelling) ends in a gratifying resolution of the deceptions and disappearances that have become second nature (as well as heavy burdens) to Joe, and a simultaneous "unmasking" and liberation that release Sammy from the storybook world they had made together.

A tale of two magnificiently imagined characters, and a plaintive love song to (and vivid recreation of) the fractious ethnic energy of New York City a half century ago.

From the Publisher
PraisegMichael Chabon

About Wonder Boys

"Mr. Chabon is that rare thing, an intelligent lyrical writer." —The New York Times Book Review

"The young star of American letters . . . a writer not only of rare skill and wit but of self-evident and immensely appealing generosity."
—Jonathan Yardley,
The Washington Post Book World

"Wonder Boys caught me up and carried me along like some kind of flying carpet. . . . Michael Chabon keeps us wide awake and reading." —Alan Cheuse,
All Things Considered, National Public Radio

"[A] beguiling and wickedly smart novel."
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

About Werewolves in Their Youth

"A loving craftsman and the author of superb, seemingly alchemically rendered sentences, Chabon has been producing pitch-perfect, at times even dazzling, fiction."
—Michael Carroll, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312282998
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 8/5/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon's works of fiction include The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, and Were-wolves in Their Youth. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, and Playboy and in a number of anthologies, among them Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, also a novelist, and their children.


In 1987, at 24, Michael Chabon was living a graduate student's dream. His masters thesis for the writing program at UC Irvine, a novel called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was not only published -- it was published to the tune of a $155,000 advance, a six-figure first printing, a movie deal, and a place on the bestseller lists. Mysteries, a coming-of-age story about a man caught between romances with a man on one side, a woman on the other, and the shadow of his gangster father over it all, drew readers with its elegant prose and an irresistibly cool character, Art Bechstein, racing through a long, hot summer.

Following this auspicious debut, Chabon penned a follow-up short story collection, then hit a serious snag. After five years of fits and starts, he abandoned a troublesome work in progress and began work on another novel, a wry, smart book about, natch, an author hoplessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel! With 1995's Wonder Boys and its successful film adaptation by Curtis Hanson, Chabon found both critical praise and a wider audience.

In the year 2000, Chabon rose to the challenge of attempting something on a more epic scale. That something was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the story of two young, Jewish comic book artists in the 1940s. Like Chabon's other books, it explored a relationship between two men and dealt with their maturation. But unlike his other books, the novel was grander in scope and theme, blending the world of comic books, the impact of World War II, and the lives of his characters. It won a Pulitzer, and secured Chabon's place as an American talent unafraid to paint broad landscapes with minute detail and aching emotion.

Chabon's ability to capture modern angst in funny, intelligently plotted stories has earned him comparisons to everyone from Fitzgerald to DeLillo, but he has fearlessly wandered outside the conventions of the novel to write screenplays, children's books, comics, and pulp adventures. Clearly, Michael Chabon views his highly praised talent as a story that hasn't yet reached its climax.

Good To Know

Chabon usually writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

He has a side interest in television writing, having written a pilot for CBS (House of Gold) that did not get picked up, and a second one for TNT.

Chabon also has an interest in screenwriting; he was attached to X-Men but dropped from the project when director Bryan Singer signed on. Now he is adapting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the big screen.

After slaving for five years on a book called Fountain City (parts of which can be read on his web site), Chabon finally decided it was not going to jell and abandoned it. At a low point, he switched gears and began Wonder Boys, the story (of course) of an author hopelessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 24, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Part One—The Escape Artist

In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini. "To me, Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing," he would learnedly expound at WonderCon or Angouleme or to the editor of Comics Journal. "You weren't the same person when you came out as when you went in. Houdini's first magic act, you know, back when he was just getting started. It was called 'Metamorphosis: It was never just a question of escape. It was also a question of transformation." The truth was that, as a kid, Sammy had only a casual interest, at best, in Harry Houdini and his legendary feats; his great heroes were Nikola Tesla, Louis Pasteur, and Jack London. Yet his account of his role-of the role of his own imagination-in the Escapist's birth, like all of his best fabulations, rang true. His dreams had always been Houdiniesque: they were the dreams of a pupa struggling in its blind cocoon, mad for a taste of light and air.

Houdini was a hero to little men, city boys, and Jews; Samuel Louis Klayman was all three. He was seventeen when the adventures began: bigmouthed, perhaps not quite as quick on his feet as he liked to imagine, and tending to be, like many optimists, a little excitable. he was not, in any conventional way, handsome. His face was an inverted triangle, brow large, chin pointed, with pouting lips and ablunt, quarrelsome nose. He slouched, and wore clothes badly: he always looked as though he had just been jumped for his lunch money. He went forward each morning with the hairless cheek of innocence itself, but by noon a clean shave was no more than a memory, a hoboish penumbra on the jaw not quite sufficient to make him look tough. He thought of himself as ugly, but this was because he had never seen his face in repose. He had delivered the Eagle for most of 1931 in order to afford a set of dumbbells, which he had hefted every morning for the next eight years until his arms, chest, and shoulders were ropy and strong; polio had left him with the legs of a delicate boy. He stood, in his socks, five feet five inches tall. Like all of his friends, he considered it a compliment when somebody called him a wiseass. He possessed an incorrect but fervent understanding of the workings of television, atom power, and antigravity, and harbored the ambition-one of a thousand-of ending his days on the warm sunny beaches of the Great Polar Ocean of Venus. An omnivorous reader with a self-improving streak, cozy with Stevenson, London, and Wells, dutiful about Wolfe, Dreiser, and Dos Passos, idolatrous of S. J. Perelman, his self-improvement regime masked the usual guilty appetite. In his case the covert passion-one of them, at any rate-was for those two-bit argosies of blood and wonder, the pulps. He had tracked down and read every biweekly issue of The Shadow going back to 1933, and he was well on his way to amassing complete runs of The Avenger and Doc Savage.

The long run of Kavalier & Clay-and the true history of the Escapists birth-began in 1939, toward the end of October, on the night that Sammy's mother burst into his bedroom, applied the ring and iron knuckles of her left hand to the side of his cranium, and told him to move over and make room in the bed for his cousin from Prague. Sammy sat up, heart pounding in the hinges of his jaw. In the livid light of the fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink, he made out a slender young man of about his own age, slumped like a question mark against the doorframe, a disheveled pile of newspapers pinned under one arm, the other thrown as if in shame across his face. This, Mrs. Klayman said, giving Sammy a helpful shove toward the wall, was Josef Kavalier, her brother Emil's son, who had arrived in Brooklyn tonight on a Greyhound bus, all the way from San Francisco.

"What's the matter with him?" Sammy said. He slid over until his shoulders touched cold plaster. He was careful to take both of the pillows with him. "Is he sick?"

"What do you think?" said his mother, slapping now at the vacated expanse of bedsheet, as if to scatter any offending particles of himself that Sammy might have left behind. She had just come home from her last night on a two-week graveyard rotation at Bellevue, where she worked as a psychiatric nurse. The stale breath of the hospital was on her, but the open throat of her uniform gave off a faint whiff of the lavender water in which she bathed her tiny frame. The natural fragrance of her body was a spicy, angry smell like fresh pencil shavings. "He can barely stand on his own two feet"

Sammy peered over his mother, trying to get a better look at poor Josef Kavalier in his baggy wool suit. He had known, dimly, that he had Czech cousins. But his mother had not said a word about any of them coming to visit, let alone to share Sammy's bed. He wasn't sure just how San Francisco fitted in to the story.

"There you are," his mother said, standing up straight again, apparently satisfied at having driven Sammy onto the easternmost rive inches of the mattress. She turned to Josef Kavalier. "Come here. I want to tell you something." She grabbed hold of his ears as if taking a jug by the handles, and crushed each of his cheeks in turn with her lips. "You made it. All right? You're here."

"All right," said her nephew. He did not sound unconvinced.

She handed him a washcloth and went out. As soon as she left, Sammy reclaimed a few precious inches of mattress while his cousin stood there, rubbing at his mauled cheeks. After a moment, Mrs. Klayman switched off the light in the kitchen, and they were left in darkness. Sammy heard his cousin take a deep breath and slowly let it out The stack of newsprint rattled and then hit the floor with a heavy thud of defeat. His jacket buttons clicked against the back of a chair; his trousers rustled as he stepped out of them; he let fall one shoe, then the other. His wristwatch chimed against the water glass on the nightstand. Then he and a gust of chilly air got in under the covers, bearing with them an odor of cigarette, armpit, damp wool, and something sweet and somehow nostalgic that Sammy presently identified as the smell, on his cousin's breath, of prunes from the leftover ingot of his mother's "special" meatloaf-prunes were only a small part of what made it so very special-which he had seen her wrap like a parcel in a sheet of wax paper and set on a plate in the Frigidaire. So she had known that her nephew would be arriving tonight, had even been expecting him for supper, and had said nothing about it to Sammy.

Josef Kavalier settled back against the mattress, cleared his throat once, tucked his arms under his head, and then, as if he had been unplugged, stopped moving. He neither tossed nor fidgeted nor even so much as flexed a toe. The Big Ben on the nightstand ticked loudly. Josef's breathing thickened and slowed. Sammy was just wondering if anyone could possibly fall asleep with such abandon when his cousin spoke.

"As soon as I can fetch some money, I will find a lodging, and leave the bed," he said. His accent was vaguely German, furrowed with an odd Scots pleat.

"That would be nice," Sammy said. "You speak good English."

"Thank you"

"Where'd you learn it?"

"I prefer not to say."

"It's a secret?"

"It is a personal matter."

"Can you tell me what you were doing in California?" said Sammy. "Or is that confidential information too?"

"I was crossing over from Japan!'

"Japan!" Sammy was sick with envy. He had never gone farther on his soda-straw legs than Buffalo, never undertaken any crossing more treacherous than the flatulent poison-green ribbon that separated Brooklyn from Manhattan Island. In that narrow bed, in that bedroom hardly wider than the bed itself, at the back of an apartment in a solidly lower-middle-class building on Ocean Avenue, with his grandmother's snoring shaking the walls like a passing trolley, Sammy dreamed the usual Brooklyn dreams of flight and transformation and escape. He dreamed with fierce contrivance, transmuting himself into a major American novelist, or a famous smart person, like Clifton Fadiman, or perhaps into a heroic doctor; or developing, through practice and sheer force of will, the mental powers that would give him a preternatural control over the hearts and minds of men. In his desk drawer lay-and had lain for some time-the first eleven pages of a massive autobiographical novel to be entitled either (in the Perelmanian mode)Through Abe Glass, Darkly or (in the Dreiserian) American Disillusionment (a subject of which he was still by and large ignorant). He had devoted an embarrassing number of hours of mute concentration-brow furrowed, breath held-to the development of his brain's latent powers of telepathy and mind control. And he had thrilled to that Iliad of medical heroics, The Microbe Hunters, ten times at least. But like most natives of Brooklyn, Sammy considered himself a realist, and in general his escape plans centered around the attainment of fabulous sums of money.

From the age of six, he had sold seeds, candy bars, houseplants, cleaning fluids, metal polish, magazine subscriptions, unbreakable combs, and shoelaces door-to-door. In a Zharkov's laboratory on the kitchen table, he had invented almost functional button-reattachers, tandem bottle openers, and heatless clothes irons. In more recent years, Sammy's commercial attention had been arrested by the field of professional illustration. The great commercial illustrators and cartoonists Rockwell, Leyendecker, Raymond, Caniff-were at their zenith, and there was a general impression abroad that, at the drawing board, a man could not only make a good living but alter the very texture and tone of the national mood. In Sammy's closet were stacked dozens of pads of coarse newsprint, filled with horses, Indians, football heroes, sentient apes, Fokkers, nymphs, moon rockets, buckaroos, Saracens, tropic jungles, grizzlies, studies of the folds in women's clothing, the dents in men's hats, the lights in human irises, clouds in the western sky. His grasp of perspective was tenuous, his knowledge of human anatomy dubious, his line often sketchy-but he was an enterprising thief. He clipped favorite pages and panels out of newspapers and comic books and pasted them into a fat notebook: a thousand different exemplary poses and styles. He had made extensive use of his bible of clippings in concocting a counterfeit Terry and the Pirates strip called South China Sea, drawn in faithful imitation of the great Caniff. He had knocked off Raymond in something he called Pimpernel of the Planets, and Chester Gould in a lockjawed G-man strip called Knuckle Duster Doyle. He had tried swiping from Hogarth and Lee Falk, from George Herriman, Harold Gray, and Elzie Segar. He kept his sample strips in a fat cardboard portfolio under his bed, waiting for an opportunity, for his main chance, to present itself.

"Japan!" he said again, reeling at the exotic Caniffian perfume that hung over the name. "What were you doing there?"

"Mostly I was suffering from the intestinal complaint," Josef Kavalier said. "and I suffer still. Particular in the night."

Sammy pondered this information for a moment, then moved a little nearer to the wall.

"Tell me, Samuel," Josef Kavalier said. "How many examples must I have in my portfolio?"

"Not Samuel. Sammy. No, call me Sam."


"What portfolio is that?"

"My portfolio of drawings. To show your employer. Sadly, I am obligated to leave behind all of my work in Prague, but I can very quickly do much more that will be frightfully good."

"To show my boss?" Sammy said, sensing in his own confusion the persistent trace of his mother's handiwork. "What are you talking about?"

"Your mother suggested that you might to help me get a job in the company where you work. I am an artist, like you."

"An artist." Again Sammy envied his cousin. This was statement he himself would never have been able to utter without lowering his fraudulent gaze to his show tops. "My mother told you I was an artist?"

"A commercial artist, yes. For the Empire Novelties Incorporated Company."

For an instant Sammy cupped the tiny flame this secondhand compliment lit within him. Then he blew it out.

"She was talking through her hat," he said.


"She was full of it."

"Full of...?"

"I'm an inventory clerk. Sometimes they let me do pasteup for an ad. Or when they add a new item to the line, I get to do the illustration. For that, they pay me two dollars per."

"Ah." Josef Kavalier let out another long breath. He still had not moved a muscle. Sammy couldn't decide if this apparent utter motionlessness was the product of unbearable tension or a marvelous calm. "She wrote a letter to my father," Josef tried. "I remember she said you create designs of superb new inventions and devices."

"Guess what?"

"She talked into her hat."

Sammy sighed, as if to suggest that this was unfortunately the case; a regretful sigh, long-suffering—-and false. No doubt, his mother writing to her brother in Prague, had believed that she was making an accurate report; it was Sammy who had been talking through his hat for the last year, embroidering, not only for her benefit but to anyone who would listen, the menial nature of his position at Empire Novelties. Sammy was briefly embarassed, not so much at being caught out and having to confess his lowly status to his cousin, as at this evidence of a flaw in the omniveillant maternal loupe. Then he wondered if his mother, far from being hoodwinked by his boasting, had not in fact been counting on his having grossly exaggerated the degree of his influence over Sheldon Anapol, the owner of Empire Novelties. If he were to keep up the pretense to which he had devoted so much wind and invention, then he was all but obliged to come home from work tomorrow night clutching a job for Josef Kavalier in his grubby little stock clerk's fingers.

"I'll try," he said, and it was then that he felt the first spark, the tickling finger of possibility along his spine. For another long while, neither of them spoke. This time, Sammy could feel that Josef was still awake, could almost hear the capillary tricklee of doubt seeping in, weighing the kid down. Sammy felt sorry for himi. "Can I ask you a question?" he said.

"Ask me what?"

"What was with all the newspapers?"

"They are your New York newspapers. I bought them at the Grand Central Station."

"How many?"

For the first time, he noticed, Josef Kavalier twitched. "Eleven."

Sammy quickly calculated on his ringers: there were eight metropolitan dailies. Ten if you counted the Eagle and the Home News. "I'm missing one."


"Times, Herald Tribune," he touched two fingertips, "World-Telegram, Journal-American, Sun." He switched hands. "News, Post. Uh, Wall Street Journal. And the Brooklyn Eagle. And the Home News in the Bronx." He dropped his hands to the mattress. "What's eleven?"

"The Woman's Daily Wearing."

"Women's Wear Daily?"

"I didn't know it was like that. For the garments." He laughed at himself, a series of brief, throat-clearing rasps. "I was looking for something about Prague."

"Did you find anything? They must have had something in the Times."

"Something. A little. Nothing about the Jews."

"The Jews," said Sammy, beginning to understand. It wasn't the latest diplomatic maneuverings in London and Berlin, or the most recent bit of brutal posturing by Adolf Hitler, that Josef was hoping to get news of. He was looking for an item detailing the condition of the Kavalier family. "You know Jewish? Yiddish. You know it?"


"That's too bad. We got four Jewish newspapers in New York. They'd probably have something."

"What about German newspapers?"

"I don't know, but I'd imagine so. We certainly have a lot of Germans. They've been marching and having rallies all over town."

"I see."

"You're worried about your family?"

There was no reply.

"They couldn't get out?"

"No. Not yet" Sammy felt Josef give his head a sharp shake, as if to end the discussion. "I find I have smoked all my cigarettes," he went on, in a neutral, phrase-book tone. "Perhaps you could-"

"You know, I smoked my last one before bed," said Sammy. "Hey, how'd you know I smoke? Do I smell?"

"Sammy," his mother called, "sleep."

Sammy sniffed himself. "Huh. I wonder if Ethel can smell it. She doesn't like it. I want to smoke, I've got to go out the window, there, onto the fire escape."

"No smoking in bed," Josef said. "The more reason then for me to leave it."

"You don't have to tell me," Sammy said. "I'm dying to have a place of my own."

They lay there for a few minutes, longing for cigarettes and for all the things that this longing, in its perfect frustration, seemed to condense and embody.

"Your ash holder," Josef said finally. "Ashtray!'

"On the fire escape. It's a plant!"

"It might be filled with the ... spacek? ... kippe? ... the stubbles?"

"The butts, you mean?"

"The butts."

"Yeah, I guess. Don't tell me you'd smoke-"

Without warning, in a kind of kinetic discharge of activity that seemed to be both the counterpart and the product of the state of perfect indolence that had immediately preceded it, Josef rolled over and out of the bed. Sammy's eyes had by now adjusted to the darkness of his room, which was always, at any rate, incomplete. A selvage of gray-blue radiation from the kitchen tube fringed the bedroom door and mingled with a pale shaft of nocturnal Brooklyn, a compound derived from the haloes of streetlights, the headlamps of trolleys and cars, the fires of the borough's three active steel mills, and the shed luster of the island kingdom to the west, that came slanting in through a parting in the curtains. In this faint glow that was, to Sammy, the sickly steady light of insomnia itself, he could see his cousin going methodically through the pockets of the clothes he had earlier hung so carefully from the back of the chair.

"The lamp?" Josef whispered.

Sammy shook his head. "The mother," he said.

Josef came back to the bed and sat down. "Then we must to work in the darkness."

He held between the first fingers of his left hand a pleated leaf of cigarette paper. Sammy understood. He sat up on one arm, and with the other tugged the curtains apart, slowly so as not to produce the telltale creak. Then, gritting his teeth, he raised the sash of the window beside his bed, letting in a chilly hum of traffic and a murmuring blast of cold March midnight. Sammy's "ashtray" was an oblong terra-cotta pot, vaguely Mexican, filled with a sterile compound of potting soil and soot and the semipetrified skeleton, appropriately enough, of a cineraria that had gone unsold during Sammy's houseplant days and thus predated his smoking habit, still a fairly recent acquisition, by about three years. A dozen stubbed-out ends of Old Golds squirmed around the base of the withered plant, and Sammy distastefully plucked a handful of them-they were slightly damp-as if gathering night crawlers, then handed them in to his cousin, who traded him for a box of matches that evocatively encouraged him to EAT AT JOE'S CRAB ON FISHERMAN'S WHARF, in which only one match remained.

Quickly, but not without a certain showiness, Josef split open seven butts, one-handed, and tipped the resultant mass of pulpy threads into the wrinkled scrap of Zig Zag. After half a minute's work, he had manufactured them a smoke.

"Come," he said. He walked on his knees across the bed to the window, where Sammy joined him, and they wriggled through the sash and thrust their heads and upper bodies out of the building. He handed the cigarette to Sammy and, in the precious flare of the match, as Sammy nervously sheltered it from the wind, he saw that Josef had prestidigitated a perfect cylinder, as thick and straight and nearly as smooth as if rolled by machine. Sammy took a long drag of True Virginia Flavor and then passed the magic cigarette back to its crafter, and they smoked it in silence, until only a hot quarter inch remained. Then they climbed back inside, lowered the sash and the blinds, and lay back, bedmates, reeking of smoke.

"You know," Sammy said, "we're, uh, we've all been really worried ... about Hitler... and the way he's treating the Jews and ... and all that. When they, when you were ... invaded.... My mom was ... we all..." He shook his own head, not sure what he was trying to say. "Here." He sat up a little, and tugged one of the pillows out from under the back of his head.

Josef Kavalier lifted his own head from the mattress and stuffed the pillow beneath it. "Thank you," he said, then lay still once more.

Presently, his breathing grew steady and slowed to a congested rattle, leaving Sammy to ponder alone, as he did every night, the usual caterpillar schemes. But in his imaginings, Sammy found that, for the first time in years, he was able to avail himself of the help of a confederate.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Michael Chabon

Barnes & Quite a lot has been written about the relationship between your personal life and the lives of your characters. To what degree does your own biography inform the characters in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay?

Michael Chabon: In some ways it's more the imagined biography of my father than my own. It was really a long series of conversations that my dad and I had when I was growing up about the world of his childhood, which was in New York in the '40s and '50s, a little later than in this book. When I was pretty small, about six I think, he bought me this record, classic themes from radio programs from the 1930s and '40s. I listened to it over and over again and started asking, What was this show about? What was that show about? The whole idea that there were these things called radio shows, with heroes like the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger, the Shadow, stuff I could really get into, was fascinating to me. And that began a conversation: What else did you do when you were a kid? What other things did you used to have that we don't have anymore? Going to the movies on Saturday morning to see the whole day's worth of programming, from the cartoons to the newsreel to the A picture to the B picture. That began a lifelong fascination with American society and popular culture and the history of the middle part of the century.

I really did just sort of dream the whole thing up. If there are things about me and my own life that are in Joe and Sammy, it's all very unconscious. I never thought, Oh I'm going to take this thing that actually happened to me and try to turn it into a book -- which I have done many times before, but with this book it just wasn't like that. I was dealing with something so remote from me in time and place that it didn't even occur to me to try to base it on my own experience. The only thing that I was consciously aware of taking from my own life -- my wife is a writer, too (Ayelet Waldman), and we talk about our work with each other, often in bed; we bounce ideas off each other and criticize each other's work -- when Sammy and Rosa are doing that, that's taken from my life. But that's the only place I can think of where I deliberately did that.

B& On your web site you've posted an essay entitled "Are Novels Golems?" The golem, who figures prominently in the novel, is a Frankenstein-like being from Jewish folklore, fashioned out of clay and endowed with life. But, like Shelley's "monster," the golem ultimately endangers the life of its creator. What is the danger inherent in the act of creation?

MC: I saw the metaphor working for me in terms of the sense of imperilment, putting myself at risk in some way for writing something that in retrospect I feel is good. If something doesn't seem good to me, I might look back and say I wasn't putting myself at risk. For a lot of writers that danger is very real. If you live under a repressive regime that does not permit freedom of expression, then simply expressing yourself, in any way, could be fatal. I don't have that kind of risk, thank God. For me, it is much more about exposing myself -- or, even worse than that, not exposing anything about me but knowing for certain that if I say something about my characters, readers will immediately think I'm saying something about myself. They'll think it of me, even if it isn't true.

Now let's take Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys. I was concerned that people would think I was a big pothead and that I hadn't been able to finish my second novel because I had such a big dope-smoking problem. Many people have made that assumption. Knowing that's going to happen, knowing people are going to draw these conclusions about you and doing it anyway -- that is the sense of being imperiled by your own creation that is necessary.

In this book there's Sam Clay and his closeted life and his marriage of necessity. I felt sufficiently imperiled by that. That provided a core of danger in the book that I found necessary. In fact, I was just doing an interview in L.A. last week and the interviewer was dancing around the whole question of writing about a closet-case character. He was trying to probe that area.

B& Is America a lucky land? Are Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay lucky, or are they in fact "boy geniuses"?

MC: Both. They have some good luck, and they have some horrible luck. Those kinds of luck and chance affect them for good and for ill. The fact that Joe even gets out of Prague is a combination of talent on the part of his teacher, Kornblum, and pure luck. That last second, when the German officer doesn't open the crate, that's luck. And who knows how much luck was involved in getting Joe from Lithuania, across Russia, out of Japan, across the ocean to America. If that doesn't happen, they don't get together and they don't get to create the Escapist.

Speaking of myself, I have been extremely lucky, and a lot of breaks have gone my way. If it had been otherwise -- even though I think I do have talent and ability -- nonetheless, my fate would have been very different. America, especially if you are a white person, is a country that really does make breaks possible. It is a very lucky time to be living in a very lucky country. The whole country is lucky. We've had so many moments where it could have gone so awry, and there is so much we don't have to contend with that other people do.

It's weird trying to leap from the micro to the macro to talk about luck and opportunity and chance and talent, but I do also feel, on the smallest micro level, in terms of my own writing, that I rely on luck and chance. It's like that line by Louis Pasteur: "Chance favors the prepared mind." So many times I've stumbled on something while out for a walk, happening to pass through a building or a room where there is a magazine lying around, picking up that magazine, and finding something in it that is the exact solution to what I've been working on in my writing. If I hadn't picked up that magazine and seen that article that had this little fact in it, what would have happened? My mind, even when I'm not writing, is so immersed, so occupied by trying to find solutions, that I can recognize them when I see them. I think it's that ability to recognize the opportunities that talent gives you. But for the opportunities themselves, you do have to rely on luck.

B& Grady Tripp's unending 2,600-page tome, Sam Clay's doomed epic novel, your own aborted attempt to complete Fountain City -- what do we learn from failure?

MC: I don't know that you learn anything. You learn that you can fail. That is in itself a very valuable lesson. I'm very drawn to stories of failure, especially really huge failures. They have always been very fascinating to me. And that notion of failure is something that I live with all the time and feel very close to. Going through that experience with Fountain City made concrete what it feels like to fail. It was a pretty horrific experience.

B& Looking back, can you see why you failed?

MC: No. That's why I say it's very hard for me to draw lessons from, because I've changed my opinion so many times over the years about what the meaning of that was, why I couldn't do it. For a while I thought it was conceived poorly, but now I'm more inclined to think that I just gave up too soon. But that might not be right. I don't know. I don't have a lot of faith in my own retrospective analysis over time. It seems to change, depending on what I'm feeling at that moment.

B& You did a tremendous amount of research for this novel. Do you tend to map out a game plan ahead of time, or do your research more on a need-to-know basis?

MC: With this book I had to do more reading than with any other book I've written. That included spending a month here in New York just walking around. I had a 1939 WPA Guide to New York, and I used that as my guidebook. I went to the New York that it described and tried to find it -- a lot of it is still here; some of it is gone. I did lay an initial groundwork by reading histories of comic books, getting a sense of who the guys were who went into the field, what they were like, what the field was like, how it was run. Then I began writing and did further research on more of a need-to-know basis. I ended up going to a lot of places that I wasn't expecting to go to, like Antarctica. Even the Empire State Building I didn't know would play such an important role in the book as it does, so I had to do a lot of reading about that. As the need would arise, I'd go up to the library and try to immerse myself.

B& Was there a specific comic book artist who inspired the book?

MC: Right when I was starting to think about what I was going to do next, I had been toying for a while with this idea of trying to write something set in this period. I can't remember anymore, but I think it was in Smithsonian magazine that I read an article about Superman, the history of Superman. It was an anniversary or something. And they talked about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and how they dreamed up this character in Cleveland on this one hot night in 1936. That was the trigger -- that's how I can get into this period and this time.

I had this childhood memory/knowledge of comic books, and it just all came together and I said, I'm going to write a novel about two golden age comic book creators. It wasn't Siegel and Shuster. My Sammy and Joe don't bear very much resemblance at all to Siegel or Shuster, but it was inspired by their example, an example of failure -- another story of success followed by failure. They created this character who, 70 years later, is still very much with us, and yet they saw very little of its success themselves. They sold the rights for a hundred bucks. They ended up very destitute and miserably impoverished. That is the kind of story that has always attracted me.

B& Joe Kavalier is an artist who is never satisfied with his work, and yet at the same time one who knows just how good he really is. His masterwork, The Golem, is a 2,256-page comic book with no dialogue, absolutely no words at all, save those that appear as part of the artwork itself, signs on buildings or labels on bottles. Is that in any way a comment on the way we depend on language to communicate and tell stories?

MC: I was trying to get into the psychology of an artist at that point, and of a comic book artist in particular. I thought, both by intuition and by reading some things that great comic book artists said in interviews, that they always do view the [dialogue] balloons as an intrusion and a marring of what they've done. Sometimes they draw the space for the balloons. In the old days they didn't. Now they tend to decide where the balloons are going to go, and some of them have found ways to work them into the composition. But for the longest time some guy would come along and just slap balloons into the panels -- they would cut them out and stick them wherever they wanted, sometimes blocking out entire characters. So it just seemed to me that that was what Joe would aspire to, to tell a story that could be told without the need for balloons, without even any room for balloons. There's no need for them and no space for them.

There was this fun, classic example. In the late 1960s there was this comic artist named Steranko, Jim Steranko, and he was drawing this book for Marvel called Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he was very revolutionary. He brought a lot of graphic design techniques into comics that hadn't been seen before. He did this two-page sequence where Nick Fury was infiltrating the headquarters of evil, and there were no captions or balloons. He had to fight really hard to get them to accept it, and they finally did. Later they got angry letters from readers all over the country saying, "I want my money back, there was a flaw in my comic, all the balloons were missing, I got a defective," so they never repeated that experiment.

B& At one point, Sammy puts his characters and stories into the hands of radio scriptwriters, who then alter certain aspects to make them appropriate for the program. How do you feel about seeing your own work adapted to the big screen -- giving your work away, as it were?

MC: I'm fine with it -- you know, it pays really well. That's very consoling. Actually, I thought the movie of Wonder Boys was really good, so that's even better. Even if it had been terrible it would have been all right. But that fact that it was good was gravy.

B& Why do you think your treatment for the X-Men movie was rejected? MC: It had nothing to do with me or my pitch: It was that Bryan Singer came along right when they were deciding whether to buy my pitch or not. He was the guy who directed The Usual Suspects, and his guy was the guy who wrote The Usual Suspects. It was a clear choice. I was just this guy who had written two novels that had nothing to do with comic books or anything like them.

B& Was this before or after you had started writing Kavalier & Clay?

MC: I had already started. I couldn't pass up the offer; it was a great invitation. But it was a very smart decision on the part of the movie studio.

B& Finally -- who is your favorite superhero?

MC: Now, or when I was reading comic books?

B& Both.

MC: I guess when I was reading them I liked Fantastic Four. That was always my favorite. I loved Jack Kirby and his artwork. And there was something about the sort of family nature of that team -- they all lived together in that giant skyscraper.

Now I'd have to say it's Superman, and that's mostly because my son, who is three, is really into Superman. And looking around at this sort of media landscape that he's presented with and the superhero figures that are getting offered to kids, Superman just looks really good to me, as a father. He's still good. He still fights on the side of truth and justice. He's polite. He's not tortured. He doesn't have that killer instinct that so many other "hero figures" seem to require to be successful these days, like Wolverine. I can really get behind Superman, as a dad.

--Cary Goldstein, Fiction & Literature Editor

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Reading group guide for THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon Escape, literally and figuratively, is everywhere in this novel. Why do you think Michael Chabon and the characters in the novel place so much importance on it? From what and to what are the different characters in the novels escaping? When is escape good in the novel and when is it bad? Can the character of Joe Kavalier ever quit trying to escape, whether it is from place, like Prague and New York, or from relationships, like Rosa and Sammy? When Sammy leaves for LA, is this an escape, and if so, is it good or bad? Why do characters in this novel seem to be trying to escape relationships, and what are the different types of relationships that can be binding? Does the escaping end at the conclusion of the novel?

2. Compare the theme of escape in the novel to escapist nature of art. In what ways does Chabon explore this in his novel through the art of magic, and painting, and comics? How is the novel THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY an escape itself and the creation of a world unto itself for the reader? Although the novel is clearly fiction, why do you think Michael Chabon goes to such lengths to make it feel real, by adding real historical facts and fictitious footnotes? Why do you think Chabon chose to write about the medium of comics, as opposed to something else like television or the movies?

3. How are love and family portrayed in the novel? What constitutes a family at different points in the novel? What are the different types of love in the novel? How are the families of Joe, Sammy, and Rosa different, and how are these three people able to make a familythemselves? What role does family play in Joe's life? Does it unnecessarily bind him to the past? Why or why not? Is there something special about America that allows for unorthodox types of families? Why do you think Sammy married Rosa? Why did she marry him? Are Sammy and Joe both fathers to Tommy?

4. Joe and Sammy create alter egos for themselves and others in their comic books. What is the significance of this? Do the comic book character give us any insight into the real characters in the book which they resemble. Does the character of Luna Moth help us to understand Rosa or Joe more? What does the character of The Escapist tell us about Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay? Why does Joe dress up as The Escapist before reuniting with Rosa and Sammy?

5. A golem, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is "a man artificially created by cabalistic rites: a robot." Knowing this, what do you think the significance of the golem is in this novel. Why is it so important to preserve the golem, and what is the realization one comes to when the golem is only dirt? Where does the transforming power lie, in the dirt or some other, inexplicable, magic quality? Does the power of the creator die with the creation? Compare the creation of the golem to the creation of The Escapist and other characters by Sammy and Joe and the creation of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon.

6. Is this a happy ending? Is Sammy escaping to LA?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 181 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 21 – 40 of 181 Customer Reviews
  • 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


    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.


    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."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    Highly Recommended


    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.
    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." 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.
    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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book!

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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009


    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2004

    The amazing adventure of reading Kavalier & Clay

    This is the best book I've ever read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 21 – 40 of 181 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)