Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: The inked american dream

Just finished Michael Chabon's pulitzer prize winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a book that came highly recommended by several sources - and hell, it lived up to the hype.

The first thing I noticed is the style of writing - there's a particular style I notice that I appreciate, when every single tangible object has a long, winding history to it. If it's in the book, you know all about it, where it came from, who created it, why they created it, and then eventually you come to understand how it fell like a puzzle piece into its place in the plot. I love this, and I have a deep appreciation for what it takes to be this meticulous about crafting a novel that fills in as much reality as possible.

The second thing I realized is that the novel is a tale about two things I love: Brotherhood and That Ol' American Dream. The two main characters are cousins in this case, and have somewhat inevitably complementary personalities and skills, which they combine into one incredible talent - writing comic books (cue American Dream).

I think it would have been very easy to write a decent novel with those two ingredients alone. However, Chabon adds a startling series of complexities to each character and each event that ground the entire thing into something resembling reality (like the fact that it all happens during World War II and one of the two main Jewish protagonists barely escaped Prague with his life, leaving behind his entire family which of course created a huge "Man, I'd love to enjoy the incredible life I'm leading but I just can't do it knowing that my family is stuck back there" complex).

The final success of the whole thing is that it's a novel about comic book writers...and the whole thing is entirely reminiscent of a comic book - having just put it down, I wouldn't be surprised to open it again and find pages of colorful panels and exultant faces with exuberant speech bubbles. It's perhaps this quality that makes it so easy to love - I wanted to be best friends with perhaps every single character in the book, and yet never felt like it was too easy on itself or strayed into dull cliche. Sometimes things happen or victories are won a little bit too easily but hey - this is America, after all.


Salvatore said...

This is one of my favorites! It's an absolutely stunning book, a rollercoaster of sorts with a controlled narrative. The ending is kind of perfect. And the book is probably the closest thing to a Great American Novel that we've seen in our lifetimes. Glad you liked it!

Colin said...

I liked this one up until Kavalier's enlisting in the navy--I lost interest in the characters at that point. But I read it so long ago I can't remember why.

Kari said...

I remember liking this when I read it a few years ago, but now I can't remember why, nor can I remember anything about the book's plot.

Jenners said...

I have this book and have been waiting to read it .. and when I say "waiting" I mean "almost too scared to read it" because it seems like it might be a bit inaccessible to a lazy, modern reader like myself. But I'm going to give it a try in 2010. Glad to read your review and know what I'm in for ... and to hear your obvious love for the book.