To say that Josef Kavalier - Jewish refugee, novice escapist, artistic prodigy and vicarious proponent of truth and justice - led a remarkable life understates the intensity of Michael Chabon's main character.
Upon escaping Nazi persecution and meeting his cousin Sam Clay (also artistically gifted), Joe finds love and inspiration in New York City and launches a blend of pulpy nonsense and high social commentary via his comic book hero the Escapist. The comic book exceeds expectations and the teenage boys become success stories overnight.
Chabon's serial presentation guides the reader from Prague to Manhattan with occasional detours through the South Pole and a fictional-yet-optimistically possible world where heroes fight hatred and win. Superb characterization emphasizes the themes of self-discovery and faithfulness to the findings, as Joe and Sam learn from each other, themselves, and their separate lovers and find a world that seems more whole. Chabon follows them from their creation of a comic book series and their eventual success.
This report prepared by Michael Engel
This novel by the author of _Wonder Boys_ won the Pulitzer Prize for 2001, but don't let that scare you off: It is compulsively readable. Ostensibly about two young Jewish men who collaborate on writing and illustrating comic books during the golden age of superheros (1939-1941), this book is about art, magic, and the magic (and escapism) of art. Joe Kavalier, a talented artist and student of prestidigitation, escape, and other forms of stage magic, flees from Prague ahead of the Nazis and works hard to save the rest of his family from the death camps. His travails even take him to Antarctica with the U.S. Navy(!), while his cousin, partner, and best friend Sammy Clay holds down the fort in New York City with Joe's abandoned fiancee, Rosa Saks. A cavalcade of actual historic personages pass through the pages of the story, from Al Smith, Orson Welles, and Delores del Rio to the other cartoonists of the Golden Age of comics. Chabon also footnotes the tale with bibliographical notations, and true and bogus facts to further the illusion and make the time come alive. But above all, it's a fabulous story.
This report prepared by David Loftus