This is coming to you from a hostel in Victoria, Canada. In the background someone is strumming a guitar tuning up for open mic night… ah, budget travel. If I can keep accessing THE NET then I’ll try to keep up the posts. Little ol’ pile o’ books is on their lonesome in foreign fields and she’s dragging a wheeled suitcase of books behind her. Yeah, yeah- books weigh a tonne, but I brought mine along for the ride. And as yet I don’t regret it. Though as they are read, I shall deposit them with new parents along the way.
More on the art of holiday reading in later posts… I’m digressing.
And for the usual reason. Whenever I’ve read a wondrous book by an amazing writer I fear this posting business. What on earth could I have to say about such a feat, such an author, that isn’t wasting another few kilobytes of cyberspace? Anyone can rant about what they don’t like… but to communicate in an esteemed manner about such an amazing book…??
And that’s what this book is. Amazing. Yep – it’s a spiffy adjectival addition to the title and a review of the book itself. Neat.
Or should I say WOW! HUZZAH! KABLAMO! The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay focuses on two comic book creators in the 1940s in New York. That’s right, my musty-smelling, plastic-sleeve loving Marvel freaks. If you’re into comics you will like this, if you’re completely anti the illustrated story form you will still like this. And if you think it isn’t possible to describe a comic books pages in words, think again.
The comic books are integral but not the only part of this supersonic wonder as Chabon sets his characters on dark journeys to find themselves amidst the backdrop of the second world war. That’s two jewish characters, one who is the only member of his family escaped from Prague before the jewish population were rounded up and … we all know how that sentence ends. It deals with war, love, friendship, family – all permutations of these. It asks what it means to be a good friend, a good son, husband, jew, man, human. It entertains us, informs us, saddens us, silences us. It doesn’t shy from the inevitably of some ends, but also takes us down paths unexpected.
To be honest, any two-sentence description of this book would be unlikely to have made me read it. Here’s another of my reading gross generalisations (that I break at the sensuous rub of a cleverly-embossed cover): Books involving the holocaust ain’t my thing. Not pleasant reading for anyone, you might say. For me, I’m just not interested in it as a topic for my literary occupation. (But isn’t Fugitive Pieces one of the best books you’ve ever read? Yes – see embossing comment.) Probably for some kind of head-in-the-sand, let’s-not-speak-of-bad-things reason. I’m also not a fan of the misery memoir. I thought Angela’s Ashes was good but it was enough. However, I’m happy to read about the BTK Killer or mormanish polygamy cults… so don’t spend too much time trying to analyse me.
In any case, I wouldn’t have read this book if it weren’t for my marvellous book group, who, one day, I shall spend a post praising from the interweb’s ceiling. And I’m so glad we did read it. Michael Chabon is an extremely talented and valuable author. His writing is the kind of writing that, when reading it, makes me say out loud: ‘This book is a joy to read’. Yes, I say things like that, but only on rare occasions. Chabon’s writing is technically strong, so polished, but I didn’t have any of those eye-rolling moments I sometimes get with accomplished writing which is also trying to show off. He even sent me to a dictionary a couple of times, happily.
I really enjoyed Kavalier and Clay. He lost me a little at one point (ice, planes, WWII) but my interest probably dipped from a 10 to a 7.5 and once we got through that bit (it was important) I was rewarded. Yes the ending wraps up incredibly nicely, but I don’t care.
Expect more from Mr Chabon on this blog in the future. Whatever the basis of the novel.