I'm finally getting around to reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
. The reason why it's taken so long for me to read this book is because, when it won the Pulitzer Prize and got famous about 15 years ago, this immediately compelled everybody in my extended family who vaguely knew I was into comics to go "This book has comics in it! sholio
likes comics! sholio
should read this!" Which of course made me obstinately not want to read it, combined with a suspicion that it was going to ping my wrong-dar in all kinds of ways. A few years ago my mother-in-law gave me a copy, and I finally decided I needed to either read the damn thing or get rid of it, so I'm now reading it ...
.... and it's borderline un-putdownable, damn it. XD Considering this is a topic I know quite a lot about (the comics business), it really does seem to be hitting most of the right notes, allowing for a bit of Chabon's over-the-topness. There have been a few little things that have made me twitch (I need to make a post about the Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Artists one of these days) but in general I'm really enjoying it.
Actually, it's interesting reading the book now
instead of 15 years ago, because I'd gone into it with the idea that it was a fictionalized version of Seigel & Shuster creating Superman (I think that was the general impression that reviews of the book left me with, probably because Superman is the superhero the public is most familiar with, or was back in the early 2000s before the Marvel Universe got so popular in films) but no, it is FAR MORE NERDY than that: it's a fictionalized version of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon creating Captain America.
In fact, the main characters themselves are a fascinating mash-up of actual Kirby/Simon (working-class Jewish cartoonist) and fictional Steve Rogers (Brooklyn-based disabled son of a single mom who works as a nurse). After reading a ton of MCU fanfic in which 1930s Brooklyn is basically a post-apocalyptic dystopia, it is definitely a change of pace to switch over to a historical novel which has literally the exact same setup as most 1930s-era CA fanfic -- poor Brooklyn artist and son of single mom tries to get by -- in which Brooklyn is a place where people actually have rather happy and fulfilling lives rather than a wasteland of rat-infested tenements, and being working-class immigrant poor equates to not always paying the rent on time and having to be careful not to use up all of one's drawing paper before the next paycheck, as opposed to eating out of garbage cans and blowing sailors on the docks for rent money.
In the part of the book I'm reading right now, ( relatively minor spoiler continuing the Captain America theme )
I think it threw me a little because I was not expecting the book to be this ... nerdy? Or quite this affectionately, blatantly pulpy? Or something. However, I think I can honestly say that the book approaches comics and 1930s pulp fiction in almost exactly the same way that The Yiddish Policeman's Union
approached noir mystery: it actually is
the thing it's commenting on (more or less), but it's also a meta-commentary on the genre itself. It's also very funny, in an often bleak kind of way.
(I am still quite a ways from the ending, so PLEASE DO NOT SPOIL ME, thanks!)