To tell you the truth, I tried reading this book earlier last year (around March—I was supposed to bring this with me to Singapore but settled with The Eyre Affair instead) but I gave up after 3 chapters. I was having hard time adjusting to Chabon’s narrative (I think he overused the comma or maybe that’s just me).
I don’t know how I will start my thoughts about this book because I don’t want to start gushing about how great his book is, but really, this book is really amazing. I can’t stop thinking about this book, Joe Kavalier, Sammy Clay, and comic books. I’m having a fiction lag. I’m having a book hang-over. I felt like I was living in the world of Kavalier & Clay and I don’t want to leave it. I mean, I love comic books. I love masked superheroes. Even if I wasn’t a comic reader (DC/Marvel) when I was a kid, I was obsessed playing with DC, CapCom, and Marvel superheroes in Playstation 1/2. (I’m totally in lesbians with Morrigan Aensland). This book is really an adventure for me compared to other books who have a word “adventure” on their titles but doesn’t live up to its title, and of course, it talks about comic books. This book is about two guys, a Czech artist from Prague named Josef Kavalier and a writer from Brooklyn named Sam Klayman. They’re actually cousins and they are aspiring artists. Sammy was a big reader of comics that time (during 1930s, comics are pretty new) and he encouraged Josef to draw comic books. In the earlier part of the story, Josef (or Joe) was trained to be an escape artist by his teacher, Kornblum, and was able to escape to America all the way from Prague during the World War II. It’s just amazing how talented this Joe Kavalier is. (My heart aches for him. Too bad, he doesn’t exist in real life!). Also, with Sammy, I can feel their passion about creating comic books.
What I like about this book is that Chabon paralleled the story with the creation and history of comics—during the WWII, the Golden Age, and the Dark Age. See, during that WWII, the Americans are searching for something that will take them away from the reality that is the war and their need of someone who will save them. Masked superheroes became a hit to them during the 1930s and that was the time Sam and Joe created their brainchild, the Escapist. Inspired by Houdini (and Kornblum), the Escapist (or Tom Mayflower/League of the Golden Key)’s main purpose is to fight tyranny and free the oppressed. It is said to be a reflection of Sam and Joe’s escape from their past (well, more of Joe’s because he wants to kill some Nazis using the Escapist to avenge his family left in Prague). The Escapist became popular that time along with Superman. Since they were noob in the industry, they were slow to realize that they were being exploited by their employer, Empire Comics/Sheldon Anapolis. They continued to create comics such as The RadioMan and Luna Moth. (Okay, this book has too much adventures I can’t write them all here).
My favorite part of the book is about Joe Kavalier’s escape from Prague and all his training to be an escape artist and a magician. I very much want to be like one! It looks so cool when you can entertain people just for the fun of it.
I think this book really deserved the Pulitzer Prize it won and also because Chabon’s way of describing comic books into words? Man, this guy is a genius. He even incorporated significant people, events, and history in the story! (Which made the book feel like it’s REAL, that I must find the real Joe Kavalier and marry him… oh dear, here we go again.) I should get his other books and read them. (I can’t call myself a Chabon fan when I only read one book!)
It makes me sad that I finished this book. I wish Chabon continued writing Joe and Sammy’s stories (especially Sammy’s! I’m curious what happened to Sammy after deciding to be a—SPOILER—fairy). I think if Chabon continued writing their stories, I will never ever get tired of them.
Comic Book Fact #1: During the Dark Ages, a psychiatrist (or maybe a psycho) named Dr. Frederick Wertham accused comic books to have violent effect on American teenage/children readers that caused an increase in juvenile crimes in America. He even wrote a book, Seduction of the Innocent, saying that comic books are dangerous to be read by children, which led to comic book burning, inquiry of the US Congress, Senate hearings, and the creation of Comics Code.
Comic Book Fact #2: See the real Joe Kavalier & Sam Clay in the comic industry!
Comic Book Fact #3: the Escapist series is real. Chabon, why are you so cool?
Comic Book Face #4: I wrote about comic book history a year ago for a client overseas (so if you find it somewhere online under another name, probably that’s my client). I enjoyed writing it because the topic is so interesting. You can read it here.
I’m shamelessly obsessed with this book and I will soon read the untold stories of Kavalier and Clay and get the copies of the Escapist series.
(I don’t think I gave the book any justice with this post but I enjoyed talking about it. Let’s talk more about it! E-mail me, guys!)
Photo (c) Tricia Gervacio, 2012
(Please don’t steal my photo. It has no watermark, please credit/e-mail me if you’re going to use it. Thanks!)