The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
This week I didn’t have a chance to read any graphic novels, because I was entrenched, and firmly dedicated to the reading of one book. And I finally completed all 639 pages yesterday, just before the power went out (but that’s a whole other story).
Yes – it is done. The winding story of two Jewish comic-book magnates growing up in New York City (well, one is a recent Russian immigrant who managed to escape Europe before Hitler seized the majority of it). It follows the two boys from the time period of 1939-1954, about fifteen or so years, the before, during and after of World War II.
I might mention that this seems to be everyone’s favorite war. Granted – it did change a lot for society (but then, society was just changing, in general). But it’s so damn popular and romantic…I guess I’ll never really understand it’s allure, having only been able to experience it second hand.
As a comic nerd – I was giddy over an insider’s view into the “Golden Age” of comics, having heard it referenced many times before with all the sad, romantic sighs with which World War II is referenced. It was like those few fleeting years of childhood enlightenment, right before you lose your innocence, gain puberty and start fooling around with the opposite (or not) sex.
This book was supposed to be made into a movie four years ago. But it’s been stalled and now, if you check IMDB, there is some hazy threat of a 2009 release date, with nothing in regards to casting, production members…anything that you might need to actually make a film.
I’ve formulated a theory about that – Pearl Harbor. That was the last major Hollywood romanticized film that bit it hard at the box office. Kavalier and Clay has this similar sweeping time-span, though the characters are far less wooden, and well – everything about it is better.
Also – it’s a huge frickin novel, and the writing is particularly dense. Having listened to at least an hour of it on CD, I realized that the audiobook was actually leaving out huge chunks of prose, and even entire scenes! Not really pleased with that – I went back to reading the book instead. But it goes to show you – there is A LOT happening in this book, and that would be hard to capture on-screen.
Another difficulty, and something that I personally detest in books and movies, is huge time gaps in the lives of characters, in which they do not seem to change all that much. This novel I think handled it better than most, but it’s especially hard to capture in film – where there needs to be some sense of build. It’s always a let-down to encounter a passage that reads – three years later, or 11 years later. Always.
It would be tough to find young enough actors, and then age them appropriately to be believably 15 years older…which is one of the few things that is probably causing this movie to be stalled.
Getting back to the comic book references…I had the pleasure – for the second time this week, of hearing someone argue for the idea of comic books as an art form. I connected this to my “Gender, Class and Culture” course last term, with the idea that “art” only belongs to the few elite who can afford it, and is always rare, and never something that the lower or middle class could enjoy.
Comic books cater to “the lowest common denominator” according to…everyone. But I would argue that in all actuality – comics are the art-form of choice for the working class. Or at least one of the art-forms of choice.
One of the plot-lines running through the book involved a Jewish religious artifact known as the Golem. I don’t want to give too much away about it – but suffice it to say – I was really digging the connection between Golems and superheros. And the fact that in real life – The Golem was a comic book superhero.
Another reason this book is fantastic – is that it actually led to the creation of real-life comic books based on the fake character Chabon had created in his novel. The Escapist was turned into a comic book series by Dark Horse comics. I actually had the pleasure of seeing some of the pre-production art-work in my Comics as Lit class, when a Dark Horse editor was presenting it.
Chabon actually infused much of the real history of comic books into his fictional accounting of these two young men. Here is a website that helps explain the inspirations/real people behind his fictional characters.
In summation: It was a very timely read, and I’m honestly glad I picked it up and read it when I did.
If I can tell the truth – I actually owned a copy of the book for several years – attempting to read it twice. I could just never really get on board with it. Finally – about three years ago – I got rid of it when attempting to condense my book collection.
Now – I think I’ll have to go back out into the world and pick up another copy. It’s definitely one I would consider reading again.
I have another Chabon book on tap, “Summerland.” But I think it’ll have to be put on hold until I can delve through the three books of “Fallen Angel” I intend to read and blog about next. Afterall – I own the copy of “Summerland.” 😉
Much Love, Mindy C