Saturday, December 19, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 12

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

This novel, an evocative mashup of secret history, magic, hints of fantasy, love, loss and comic books, follows two young men -- one gay, one straight; one a refugee from the Nazis, one a Brooklyn boy with tremendous dreams; one a writer, one an artist --  through the birth of comic books through World War II and beyond. Here, the imagined comic books the cousins create -- The Escapist and Luna Moth -- are as fascinating as the main narrative. Plus, Chabon hits so many historical events and landmarks familiar to New Yorkers -- the American Nazis, the Empire State Building and the 1939 World's Fair, for a love scene, no less. Anyone who's been overwhelmed by the first surges of creation, coupled with sexual yearning and ambition, will see themselves in Kavalier and Klay. Even as the novel bogs down in a long stretch in the Antarctic, the characters remain compelling. The characters seems to be trying to escape the disasters that the mid-20th century threw at us with magic and the imagining of super powers -- humanity's replacements for the comforts of faith. This novel should be read in conjunction with Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, because they are vaguely similar thematically. 

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