Monday, March 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Review by Rebekah.

In honor of Fiction February and One Book One Bloomington I have invited friend and fellow writer Rebekah to be my guest blogger. Enjoy, Esme.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

(Winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

Had I been left to my own devices The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is most likely not a book I would have picked up. For me, covers and or titles can make or break a sale. The book title was in a red and yellow combination of block letters with the word Cavalier spelled with a K, like Kulture and Kute. Not a fan. But when I scan down further on the cover, there is the Empire State Building. Fan. At the bottom is the author’s name, Michael Chabon. Fan. So at this point the score would be two pro and one big con.

If I had been able to get past my aversion to the “K” issue and flipped the book over and read the blurb, I would have added another point to the pro column when I read that Joe Kavalier had smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague. I might have even given the pro side two points. (I can do this, it’s my own system.) Anything that has to do with the evil solution of the “Jewish problem” is of endless interest to me. Next I spot the words magic and the phrase comic book super heroes. Now we’re sitting on top of a very slippery slope.

Magic: Ugh.

Comic super heroes: take or leave.

Final score: 4.5 to 2.5.

Not a landslide victory for the pro side.

Quite luckily for me I didn’t have to go through this arduous process. My friends and trusted book recommenders, Jennie and David Orr, heavily suggested I read this book. They didn’t’ steer me wrong. It’s quite often a good thing that I’m not left to my own devices.

I want this to be more than a typical book review. I want this to be about opening up the process of choosing what to read, about growing as a reader and as a result growing as a writer. It’s not always about following the pack of readers; I’ve read some other Pulitzer Prize winners that I thought were stinkers. It’s not about following a mathematical pro and con formula; it’s about branching out from what you would normally read, trying something different and looking beyond what ever book you are reading is “about”.

I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay over a year ago and I’m still reaping the benefits of Michael Chabon’s gift of this book. I pledged to myself and to witnesses that 2010 would be the year I would begin writing fearlessly. This book has inspired me and keeps on inspiring me to do so.

I imagine Michael pitching this book and can hear his agent or publisher saying, “Huh-uh, limited appeal.” I think he wrote this book for himself. And with that thought, comes the realization that most of my best writing has come when I write for my self, not for an audience. When I get down to the dark and dirty side of life that needs me as a writer to expose the shadow side of life to the light, that’s when I’m really writing fearlessly.

And Michael Chabon can really write fearlessly. He made me fall in love with Sam Clay, Joe Kavalier and Rosa Saks because he made them human so his readers could identify with all the life choices that are put in front of them. He made them so real to me that when they were in danger, my heart raced and I held my breath. It doesn’t matter what the time, place and setting was, or what the book is “about”. What matters is we get to relive our own moments of pivotal decisions and sometimes disastrous mistakes, mistakes we may or may not recover from. I relived lessons learned, like why I chose to marry one person, but not another, why I let others take advantage of me and how I instinctively knew I had to make my own family of choice when my birth family let me down. Michael Chabon took his building blocks of words and constructed friendships, love and bonds that we all wish for in our own lives. And who doesn’t wish for a talent that we can earn our living with? He gives them all talent and money and an odd fame. And sometimes all of that is not enough, sometimes Everything is not enough. That is the glaring, heart-breaking beauty of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Rebekah Spivey

Check out Rebekah's Blog!


Anonymous said...

Great review Rebecca. I was initially put off by the same things as you; in fact, exchanged a gift copy of the book when it first came out. Now, I'm going to re-buy it, and read it, in the spirit in which you recommend it. It's always good to open one's mind up a bit more. Thanks! MKP

Esmerelda said...

I felt the same way as MKP. Really makes me want to read it.

Diana said...

I love the humor you inject into your writing. Great review. As the others mentioned I would not have selected this book for myself. Now you have my interest!

Steph said...

Me, either - but now it's definitely on the list!