The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
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.
Welcome, dear readers, to another great flik. This week I have chosen to present to you one of my more resent favorite books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) by the equally amazing author, Michael Chabon. As I am way too lazy (it is, after all, Saturday, the day of pre-rest) to invent my own plot summary, I will quote from the international fountain of wisdom that is Wikipedia:
“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 by hiding in a coffin along with the inanimate Golem of Prague. Besides having a shared interest in drawing, the two share several connections to Jewish stage magician Harry Houdini: Kavalier studied magic and escapology in Prague, which aided him in his departure from Europe, and Klayman is the son of the Mighty Molecule, a strongman on the vaudeville circuit.
Klayman gets Kavalier a job as an illustrator for a novelty products company, which, due to the recent success of Superman, is attempting to get into the comic-book business. Renaming himself Sam Clay, Klayman starts writing adventure stories with Kavalier 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 magazine features their character The Escapist, an anti-fascist superhero. The Escapist becomes tremendously popular, but, in a similar vein as the story of Superman’s creators, the writers and artists get a minimal share of the publisher’s success. Kavalier and Clay are slow to realize that they are being exploited, as they have private concerns: Kavalier is trying to help his family escape from Nazi-occupied Prague…” and then there’s some stuff I think you need to find out for yourself.
There is also a part where Kavalier enlists in the Navy and ends up in Antartica – but the main part of the story takes place in New York City. It is a truly wonderful story of the crazy adventures of the Jewish cousins, and it left me wanting to read the comic books they created. Alas, I thought, they don’t exist – but they actually do! People have been inspired by this awesome novel to create comic books such as The Escapist. I haven’t read those yet, but believe me, I will.
Enjoy! Believe me, you will. 😉