Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

For a few months now I've been slowing picking my way through a book that my wife got for me over the summer called 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay'. The premise caught my attention right away, given that I've always been a big fan of comic books and she, having read it before she gave it to me, was raving about how much she loved it. Of course, the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 was certainly intriguing as well. I started out only reading a few pages each night before going to sleep, but lately it has grabbed a hold of my attention and I can't put it down.

I'm about two thirds of the way through the book now and while I normally would wait until I was done to do any sort of review or recommendation, this one is just too good to hold back. If you're reading this, and you haven't already read the book, please do yourself a favor and pick yourself up a copy. It is one of the most fun books I've ever felt good about reading!

The core premise (from Wikipedia):
The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born writer named Sam Clay—both Jewish—before, during, and after World War II. Kavalier and Clay become major figures in the nascent comics industry during its "Golden Age."

On top of being an excellent yarn with truly fascinating characters who are richly developed - strong and talented, yet fallible and human - one really exciting element of the book is picture it paints of the world of comic books in the 1940s. Originally pulp fare marketed only to children, the story of their evolution into a more popular and artful medium is intricately woven into the pages of this book. There is a chapter about half way through that directly tackles the subject of crass entertainment evolving into art forms and when I finished reading I had to put the book down to write down the names of everyone in the gaming industry who I wanted to read this book.

I've never read anything quite like it so have a hard time drawing comparisons, but there are elements of 'Understanding Comics', some of the whimsical Hero fantasy of 'Soon I Will Be Invincible' and some really interestingly integrated real-world history.

David, Kim, Patrick, Clint - if any of you are reading this, make sure to put Kavalier & Clay on your Christmas wish lists.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Jordan said...

Ben- if you're in Paris anytime soon, check out the exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Art & History "From Superman to The Rabbi's Cat" tracing the evolution of comics through Kavalier & Clay days to the present. Fascinating & inspiring. Merry Xmas! Jordan

5:45 PM  
Blogger Ben Mattes said...

Jordan,

I'm sorry I missed this. :( I don't expect to be in Paris again until May, so the exhibit will likely no longer be running. Pity - I would have loved this, and Kavalier & Clay has totally resparked my dormant love of comics.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Check out the line of Escapist Quarterly comics put out by Dark Horse a couple of years back, as well as the Brian K. Vaughan-penned sequel to Kavalier & Clay, titled "The Escapists." Great stuff all around.

8:33 PM  

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