Tag: Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Posted August 21, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael ChabonTitle: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Chabon
Narrator: David Colacci
Published: Fourth Estate, 2000
Pages: 659
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay follows the story of two Jewish cousins. Joe Kavalier is an artist that escapes occupied Czech to America where he meets writer Sam Clay. During the golden age of comics Kavalier and Clay become major players in the industry creating many comic book heroes including The Escapist. The superhero is a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world.

I’ve read Michael Chabon before and the thing I really enjoyed about his novels is that they are full of intertextual goodness. With The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, it blends his literary style with elements of alternative history and noir. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay blends with elements of the comic book genre. This is what impresses me the most with Chabon’s style and makes me keen to read The Telegraph Avenue (which I hope blends elements of music into his style). I wonder if all his books are full of intertextuality and will love to find some other novelists that do this; it really works for me but maybe it’s just my love for literary fiction and the genres he blends with it.

There is so much more going on with the novel. The Escapist is used to play out all Kavalier’s fantasies of being a magician/escape artist but he uses the comic books to spread his propaganda towards the Nazis. Most of this novel is set before World War II in America before the world really knew the extent of what the Third Reich were up to. Michael Chabon is a Jewish novelist and his heritage seems important to him and this comes through in his novel.

This novel deals with so many different literary themes; escape from oppression, coming of age, family and relationships. Just writing that sentence makes me think that Chabon might have over done it but really this book comes together beautifully. I don’t often use the terms like magnum opus and tour de force but having read the novel and people’s impressions of this book, it really seems to fit.

Kavalier and Clay become legends in the comic book world and as the world and industry changes, they are repeatedly asked to change and conform but they never compromise. They had a clear message they wanted to say and they refused to change that message. I’m impressed with everything about this book from the blending of comic books and its culture, Jewish mysticism and world history to the character development, proses and my overall opinion of the novel.

If you’ve never read a Michael Chabon novel then I recommend it; I’m not saying start with this novel but look for one with a theme that interests you. Out of the two I’ve read, I’ve been impressed with them both but I have to say The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is masterfully crafted and deserves all the praise it received. I have Telegraph Avenue on the shelf and I’m interested in trying Wonder Boys soon as well. The Escapist was made into a comic by Dark Horse Comics but I think it was part of a promotion for this book. Also the film rights for the book have been sold but with the luck it’s been having I’m doubtful it will ever be made.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Posted September 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael ChabonTitle: The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Chabon
Published: Harper Collins, 2007
Pages: 414
Genres: Crime, Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Many people seem to enjoy Michael Chabon’s books so I was pleased when I finally had a reason to read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In the dark Alaskan winter in the city of Sitka, Detective Meyer Landsman’s ex-wife has just become his boss and has handing him a huge stack of old cold cases that she wants him to solve. While Landsman life may feel like it’s already hit rock bottom, he’s only just discovering the mess that he’s in; a mess that will lead to a conspiracy.

This alternative version of Sitka, Alaska in this book is a Yiddish-speaking metropolis. That was the whole basis of this book; Michael Chabon’s idea came from a book he found called ‘Say It in Yiddish’ which had sayings that he would never have a chance to use because Yiddish isn’t the primary language of any country. While toying with the idea of a hypothetical Yiddish-speaking country this book was born. The idea was Israel lost the 1948 war; the Jews established a Jewish state in Alaska.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is an interesting blend of Michael Chabon’s heritage with a love of old mystery novels. Chabon has called it a homage to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and Isaac Babel. But while the noir stylings of this book are good this book also has a satirical nature about it, with a comic look at the Yiddish language and Jewish culture. Michael Chabon originally published an essay called Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts; which he discussed some thoughts he had of the travel book Say It in Yiddish, this essay was responded with a spiteful reaction from a Jewish community. This vitriolic response only spurred Chabon on and eventually he developed the idea of this book.

While there was some parts of the book that felt like it dragged on, over all the balance between the comical and the noir seemed to work. There are some great line coming from thing book; a highlight for me was “He feels like he suffers from tinnitus of the soul.” I was really surprised with just how well the dark and gritty mystery mixed with Chabon’s satirical style. I liked the whole concept of a Jewish noir novel; it was a refreshing take on a genre that I love. Well worth checking out this alternate history novel as it is one of the best I’ve read. I hear that the Coen Brothers are looking at adapting this book into a movie; if anyone could do this book justice as a movie, it would definitely be them. I’d be interested to see if this movie ever gets made and how it translates onto the screen.