The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Jerry Young

Not every huge book is an epic, and not every epic is sprawling. Michael Chabon devotes more than 600 pages and a couple of decades to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, now out in paperback, has more to do with endurance than celebration, both for the reader and the protagonists. In the late 1930s, Kavalier and Clay create a comic book character named The Escapist to rival Superman and confront villains from Germany to Levvitown. Ironically, the creative team experiences precious little escape from the grim gravity that surrounds them. Kavalier observes "the usual charge leveled against comic books that they offered merely an easy escape from reality" seemed to him to be a powerful argument on their behalf. The book’s memorable moments include Salvador Dali nearly drowning in a diving suit on dry land and a dog-skin clad biplane taking off on a vengeance mission to the Antarctic.