6 reviews

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Hcabon

Published: 2000
Paperback : 656 pages
42 members reading this now
19 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 6 members
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The bestselling author of "Wonder Boys" pens a novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the 20th century.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


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Discussion Questions

Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. When we are first introduced to Sammy Klayman, we are told: "Houdini was a hero to little men, city boys, and Jews; Samuel Louis Klayman was all three. He was seventeen when the adventures began: bigmouthed, perhaps not quite as quick on his feet as he liked to imagine, and tending to be, like many optimists, a little excitable... He slouched, and wore clothes badly: he always looked as though he had just been jumped for his lunch money." Discuss this description. What does this portrayal suggest about growing up in urban America in the late 1930's?

2. What is the appeal of Houdini to Sammy and Joe? How is that appeal common to boys growing up during the depression? To boys of any era?

3. The theme of escape runs throughout the novel. What are Sammy and Joe escaping from? What are they escaping to?

4. Discuss how the following passage draws an analogy between the creation of the Golem and the writing of superhero comics: "Every universe, our own included, begins in conversation. Every golem in the history of the world, from Rabbi Hanina's delectable goat to the river-clay Frankenstein of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, was summoned into existence through language, through murmuring, recital, and kabbalistic chitchat-was literally talked into life. Kavalier and Clay--whose Golem was to be formed of black lines and four-color dots of the lithographer-lay down, lit the first of five dozen cigarettes they were to consume that afternoon, and started to talk."
5. What role does the Golem have in the story? What does the Golem signify? Why did Chabon include this legend in his novel?

6. What is a superhero? Are superhero stories mythological in nature? What is it about the experience of young men that inspires superhero stories?

7. In what ways are the experiences of Joe Kavalier parallel to the events in the Superman myth?

8. After the tragedies at the end of "Part IV: The Golden Age," Rosa is left, quite literally, holding the baby. When we see her next, ten years have passed. What decisions was Rosa forced to make? How does she represent stability and security in the novel? Is she in control of her own destiny, or is she subject to the needs and whims of the men in her life? Is there anything that she is escaping from or to?

9. What is the significance of names and name-changes in the novel? How are names significant in the legend of the Golem?

10. How are Joe Kavalier's life and longings reflected in his fictional hero the Escapist?

11. Sammy has a relationship with an actor named Tracy Bacon. What is the attraction between the two men? How does Tracy-in name and person-represent a forbidden fruit to Sammy?

12. In Part I, Joe was able to escape the encroaching Nazi threat by hiding in a coffin. Having avoided the horrors of the war, why did he enlist in the Navy (Part V)? How was his escape from Czechoslovakia mirrored in his survival at the Antarctic Naval station? In what ways were these two escapes similar? What did Bernard Kornblum represent in each case?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Michael Chabon's question: Discuss the ability or inabity to escape [in your own lives and in the book].

Book Club Recommendations

Things to Pass the Time
by leighpurcell (see profile) 06/01/15
Definately read this one!
by earp30wyatt (see profile) 01/01/11
I'd recommend this book to any bookclub!

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Too Slow and Boring"by Leigh P. (see profile) 06/01/15

My book club either didn't finish this one or didn't like it. It was too uninteresting to capture - or keep - anyone's attention and no one cared about the characters. Even the member who gives '10' to... (read more)

  "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay"by Geri R. (see profile) 04/07/15

This book was a great read. I enjoyed every bit of it. Although, I am not a comic book fan, I found this book engaging. Clay was a hero in this novel for marrying Joe's girl when she became pregnant... (read more)

  "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"by Gary W. (see profile) 01/01/11

I loved this book,and found it to be very engaging. I was turning the pages as fast as I could. Also enjoyed the history of the era,and history of comics. Awesome book!
Very well written,a
... (read more)

  "Kavalier and Clay"by Debbie C. (see profile) 02/18/10

Well,I would have never read this book if it had not been for our bookclub. I found it a little too wordy. There was an incredible amount of research that was involved in writing this story as well as... (read more)

  "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"by Judith M. (see profile) 02/17/10

I'm truly amazed at being able to finish this book. The story line of the book is extremely confusing and all over the place.
This book may have been better if it was condensed to about 250 pages.

  "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"by Pat T. (see profile) 02/17/10

Nery wordy, and the story was all over the place.

  "Could not finish it, no one in book club finsihed it"by Danyell W. (see profile) 08/13/08

  "What can I say.....YUCK!!"by E T. (see profile) 07/14/08

Agree with the last several reviews--picked it up because of the original high ratings and hated it. Particularly revolting as it drags on and on.

  "Really awful"by LN T. (see profile) 05/23/08

Wow. This book really did not have anything reedeeming about it

  "difficult to read. Not compelling. WOULD NOT RECOMEND"by Ellen t. (see profile) 05/08/08

Hated it. Couldn't finish the book. Lots of gay love scenes, it you like that kind of thing. Don't read this book for book clubs.

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