The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (with Bonus Content): A Novel by Michael ChabonThe Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (with Bonus Content): A Novel by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (with Bonus Content): A Novel

byMichael Chabon

Paperback | June 12, 2012

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The beloved, award-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a Michael Chabon masterwork, is the American epic of two boy geniuses named Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay. Now with special bonus material by Michael Chabon.
A “towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book” (Newsweek), hailed as Chabon’s “magnum opus” (The New York Review of Books), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age.
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and the New York Society Library Book Award
Named one of the 10 Best Books of the Decade by Entertainment Weekly
Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Summerland (a novel for children), The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Gentlemen of the Road, as well as the short story collections A Model World and Werewolves ...
Title:The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay (with Bonus Content): A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:704 pages, 8.24 × 5.51 × 1.5 inShipping dimensions:8.24 × 5.51 × 1.5 inPublished:June 12, 2012Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812983580

ISBN - 13:9780812983586


Rated 3 out of 5 by from great writing, but... Michael Chabon is an amazing storyteller and this book is such a good read.... but the characters are very sanitized. They're all a little too perfect. There's not much conflict with the characters, it makes the plot a little bit boring. I'd still recommend giving it a read though
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great really enjoyed this - one of his best books
Date published: 2018-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great really enjoyed this - one of his best books
Date published: 2018-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Alright The book has a great story that a multitude of social issues but it was boring at times and hard to read at times due to how descriptive and out of focus it was. It's weird to think it's boring becuase of the amount of detail, but thats how it was. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! Super compelling story, characters, and writing. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Such as great book Whether you are a fan of superheroes or not (I definitely am!) this book has great characters and a way of telling a story that gets the reader emotionally invested in the outcome.
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great but ... I really loved most of this book, but it seemed overlong and the end didn't do much for me; still I really loved most of it
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An all-time great This book was simply magical and I would recommend it to everyone. Every work of Chabon's that I've picked up since has been a disappointment because the standard was set so high. Lots of "fun" elements, great storytelling and an acute look at being human.
Date published: 2017-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Slow to get into This book sat on my shelf for nine years before I committed to getting past the first 50 pages. It was slow going but so worth the effort. It is enchanting.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worthy of the Pulitzer One of those rare books that lives up to the hype. A poignant story, beautifully told. An ambitious novel, that Chabon manages to pull of wonderfully. If I had to pick an all time favourite book, this would be it.
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatest Probably the greatest book by this great writer.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite book of all time This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. A book that you will not want to put down
Date published: 2017-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite book Amazing story, amazing writing, amazing characters... A book that stays with you,
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read It won the Pulitzer so that gives it some credit. This is a fun book with great character development. This was the first book I read by Charon. it inspired to me to continue to read the rest of his work, which, for the exception of Summerand, I have immensely enjoyed.
Date published: 2016-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good reading!! Its rather sad - but well worth the time to read and re-read.
Date published: 2016-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply great. Loved this book. It allows you to experience the escapism that marked the early comic books in such a vibrant way, whilst giving you a glimpse into the supposed lives of some of their creators. Definitely written by someone who loves the 9th art and it's origins.
Date published: 2014-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best stories ever... An exceptional story. Superheros, NYC in the 30's-50's, superb characters, escape artists and some of the best dialog I've read. I've been thanked by numerous people for recommending this book - definitely worth the read.
Date published: 2014-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dear Kavalier And Clay: A Letter From A Fan Dear Mr Kavalier and Mr Clay I would like to start off by saying what an incredible honour it is, as a life long fan of The Escapist, to write to both of my childhood heroes. My excitement is only outmatched by my recent completion of that fantastic autobiography, and winner of the coveted Pulitzer Prize, all about your lives and creative history. It is truly a wonderful book of pulse pounding thrills and incredible human drama, with tons of behind the scene craziness. But darn it all, I still wonder how The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay, written and researched by the fantastic Mr. Michael Chabon ever came out. And I am not just talking about its over 600 hefty pages of glory, or the occasional informative footnote, but the amount of information, both private and public, that you both reveal is astonishing. I gobbled this book down, all because it told the complete story of how you, Mr Joseph Kavalier and My Sam Clay, created the greatest comic book character of them all, The Escapist. From that first fateful meeting, late one night in 1930’s New York, to your walk the next day that gave the world your greatest gift, almost everything is chronicled. In fact the massive detail put into virtually all aspects of how The Escapist, and almost all of your other wonderful creations, came about is fantastic. Even the parts about the ones you helped make are amazing. I knew your fingerprints were on those characters as well, just like the legends and lore had suggested! And the astonishing, prolonged, flashback telling the often hinted about tale of how Mr. Kavalier escaped the prosecution of his people in Europe, and the long and winding road that brought you to your cousins, Mr Clay’s doorstep. So many psychological implications to all to all these sensational adventures! My mind raced to connect the dots to all your other published works, just to try to guess their origins. And Mr. Clay, the smaller flashbacks about your time growing up in New York were equally thrilling, with the performing aspect you imputed into The Escapist being part of your DNA. The casual fan might attribute this to Mr. Kavalier and his stage magician training, but only diehards like myself can see where it really is from. After the play is all set and your famous character is about to premiere, Mr. Chabon does the mighty yet again by gently moving us fans forward in the narratives in your impressive lives. All these myriad and uncanny details of those early fun adventures in that oh so young industry brings about the most fantastic tingles in my Geek senses. While the comics are undoubtedly thrilling, these true life, and sometimes two-fisted tales, of life before Pearl Harbour provides so much context for the unparalleled creativity you both exhibited. The old and familiar adage that real life is stranger than fiction becomes even more apparent as time marches on in your lives. I was thoroughly caught off guard by all the later developments in your journeys. By the end of this suspenseful trip so many secrets and lies are revealed, some predating the start of your marvelous collaborations, that it is amazing this story is not labeled as fiction. Much of the credit for the verisimilitude of your biography goes to Mr. Chabon. The author has done a wonderful job researching all these thousands of facts, getting everyone to open up so very much, and weaving it all together into a complete, detailed, and metaphor laded narrative. Mr. Chabon must be a real detective, comics piled up all the place, in order to get all this geek history right. Some of my friends have argued with me, both online and off, that your tale is very similar, at the beginning at least, to the famous story of the creators of Superman. While I do see some parallels with Siegel and Shuster, anyone who gets past the first hundred pages or so can tell the difference. No slight to those mighty giants, both no longer with us unfortunately, but Kavalier and Clay are more a pure world parables of what might have been. Or does that explanation too fanboyishness? With all that said, I still greatly enjoyed the crossover event in the late 1970’s between The Escapist and Superman. It was wonderful for you two to return and work on the comic with Siegel and Shuster, all to tie into the movie featuring these wonderful characters. And Paul Newman was such a fantastic Escapist! Having Tracy Bacon play Max Mayflower was also a stroke of genius and brought tears to this fan’s eyes. Yours Sincerely, Scoopriches Author’s Note: This letter was delivered to me, the wrong Scoopriches. It came by Owl Mail, which popped up through a wormhole generated by a bean grown by a giant. It is obviously from a different dimension, possibly Earth-Prime, because on our Earth The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay by Michael Chabon is listed as fiction. But we all know, this entire tale happened to someone in somewhere at someplace, don’t we?
Date published: 2013-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from If you loved this... I have to mention that the graphic novel The Escapists, isbn 9781595823618, is based on/inspired by this book and endorsed by Chabon. It was well loved by everyone in my graphic novel/comic book club. I have not read Kavalier and Clay yet but I will since everyone in the club that has already read it said that I HAVE to because it is amazing.
Date published: 2011-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "The elegant black-and-white ship, all 24,170 tons of it, loomed like a mountain in a dinner jacket" Earlier this year I read a collection of essays by Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck, that includes a curious piece entitled “On Rapture.” It begins “I’ve just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture – with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world…” (117). The book is, of course, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I had ordered it immediately but waited to start reading, wanting to make sure I had time to take in this enticing volume of 636 pages in one continuous stretch. I put it off long enough for a friend to read it first. The review was salutary: “It’s lovely.” I did not manage to resist temptation; I couldn't wait any longer. I put everything on hold and jumped in devouring it within a week. The verdict is in: I love this novel. It would easily rank among the very best I have ever read. Chabon is an extraordinarily gifted writer and he creates this world that is filled with contrasts, hope, and longing. In its essence it is a novel about two young boys who create a comic book in New York City in the 1940s. There is a love interest and there are a few bad guys. Yet beyond the magical embrace of this childhood passion, Chabon also captures the awkwardness and uncertainties and courage of being a young man in a conflicted world. He does not shy away from the horror that Joe Kavalier faced as a Jewish artist who had been smuggled out of Nazi-invaded Prague yet nothing it done with a heavy hand. It is a most tender and light-hearted story of affection, love, friendship, and imagination. And there’s even a golem! * * * “Never worry about what you are escaping from,” he said. “Reserve your anxieties for what you are escaping to.” (37) “People notice only what you tell them to notice,” he said. “And then only if you remind them.” (60)
Date published: 2008-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best book I've Read this Year. Chabon has jumped in 3 books to the top five of my must read authors. Gentlemen of the Road was my first, which I found thoroughly enjoyable followed by his non-fiction Maps & Legends which I read because of a review. But neither prepared me for how wonderful a book this was. I have looked at this book in the Chapters and elsewhere for years. I have picked it up, but neither the cover or the blurbs, which just rave about it, told enough toconvince me to read it. But I enjoyed Gentlemen so much I thought I try it. Quickly it became like glue to my hand. A story about comic writers in the 30s and 40s shouldn't be so exciting. Chabon's grasp of the time, the people and the industry just leaps off the page at you. There is no false note anywhere in the book and if I didn't know better I would expect to find reprints of the Escapist in the graphic novel section of Chapters. So well written that you expect these characters to actually have existed. Captures the essence of the best biography, with footnotes and all. I will be pushing this book for years to come, read it and enjoy.
Date published: 2008-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from now one of my favorites Brilliant. Longing. Tragedy. Mythology. Complexity. Dreamlike. Memorable. Engrossing. Neurotic. Delicious. I cannot do this book justice. Many aspects of the storyline based on the lives of actual comic-book creators Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, and Jim Steranko. This book has stayed with me for quite a while. I already look forward to reading it again.
Date published: 2007-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read even for non-comic book readers My brother, who is seventeen years younger than myself, lent me this book. It's one of the few he's decided to read from end to end, so I took it very seriously when he recommended it, and I'm so glad he did! It's a great read even for someone that never got into comics and takes you all sorts of places you never expected the novel to go. Pick it up!
Date published: 2006-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must-read for comic fans This book is for anyone whose face lights up with recognition at the names Jack Kirby, Will Eisner or Stan Lee. Kavalier and Clay is fiction with the weight of well-researched history, about a fascinating era of American culture. Chabon truly loves comics, and it shows through in every page.
Date published: 2005-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Golden Age Novel Having been an avid graphic novel (comic book) reader for many years, I have had the opportunity to read some of the greatest stories of all time. From Neil Gaiman's Sandman to DC's Kingdom Come, and Alan Moore's Watchmen, there have been some great stories. Kavalier and Clay will interest any avid comic book reader for the method of story telling, if not only the many comic book references. In some parts, the novel seems to be scripting a comic book in the same fashion as greats like Frank Miller do, and in others, the tales of starting a comic book company in the 1930s are very researched, and give insight to this history of comic book literature. I recommend this book to any comic book fan.
Date published: 2001-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love in the Age of Superheroes A stunning novel of loss and redemption played out against the backdrop of America in the 30's and 40's, the first Golden Age of the comic book. Sam Clay, and his cousin, Joe Kavalier (a refugee from the Nazis) develop The Escapist, a superhero who combines the full panoply of super abilities with the genius of the escape artist and battles, the world over, for liberty. The Escapist manages, in his fictional battles against the Nazis, to achieve what Joe so desperately wants: the rescue of his family from the Holocaust; while back in the real world Sam and Joe grow to adult-hood and come to terms with the limitless possibilities and possible limitations of the power of love and family.
Date published: 2000-12-27

Read from the Book

Part One--The Escape ArtistIn later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini. "To me, Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing," he would learnedly expound at WonderCon or Angouleme or to the editor of Comics Journal. "You weren't the same person when you came out as when you went in. Houdini's first magic act, you know, back when he was just getting started. It was called 'Metamorphosis: It was never just a question of escape. It was also a question of transformation." The truth was that, as a kid, Sammy had only a casual interest, at best, in Harry Houdini and his legendary feats; his great heroes were Nikola Tesla, Louis Pasteur, and Jack London. Yet his account of his role-of the role of his own imagination-in the Escapist's birth, like all of his best fabulations, rang true. His dreams had always been Houdiniesque: they were the dreams of a pupa struggling in its blind cocoon, mad for a taste of light and air. 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 was not, in any conventional way, handsome. His face was an inverted triangle, brow large, chin pointed, with pouting lips and a blunt, quarrelsome nose. He slouched, and wore clothes badly: he always looked as though he had just been jumped for his lunch money. He went forward each morning with the hairless cheek of innocence itself, but by noon a clean shave was no more than a memory, a hoboish penumbra on the jaw not quite sufficient to make him look tough. He thought of himself as ugly, but this was because he had never seen his face in repose. He had delivered the Eagle for most of 1931 in order to afford a set of dumbbells, which he had hefted every morning for the next eight years until his arms, chest, and shoulders were ropy and strong; polio had left him with the legs of a delicate boy. He stood, in his socks, five feet five inches tall. Like all of his friends, he considered it a compliment when somebody called him a wiseass. He possessed an incorrect but fervent understanding of the workings of television, atom power, and antigravity, and harbored the ambition-one of a thousand-of ending his days on the warm sunny beaches of the Great Polar Ocean of Venus. An omnivorous reader with a self-improving streak, cozy with Stevenson, London, and Wells, dutiful about Wolfe, Dreiser, and Dos Passos, idolatrous of S. J. Perelman, his self-improvement regime masked the usual guilty appetite. In his case the covert passion-one of them, at any rate-was for those two-bit argosies of blood and wonder, the pulps. He had tracked down and read every biweekly issue of The Shadow going back to 1933, and he was well on his way to amassing complete runs of The Avenger and Doc Savage. The long run of Kavalier & Clay-and the true history of the Escapists birth-began in 1939, toward the end of October, on the night that Sammy's mother burst into his bedroom, applied the ring and iron knuckles of her left hand to the side of his cranium, and told him to move over and make room in the bed for his cousin from Prague. Sammy sat up, heart pounding in the hinges of his jaw. In the livid light of the fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink, he made out a slender young man of about his own age, slumped like a question mark against the doorframe, a disheveled pile of newspapers pinned under one arm, the other thrown as if in shame across his face. This, Mrs. Klayman said, giving Sammy a helpful shove toward the wall, was Josef Kavalier, her brother Emil's son, who had arrived in Brooklyn tonight on a Greyhound bus, all the way from San Francisco. "What's the matter with him?" Sammy said. He slid over until his shoulders touched cold plaster. He was careful to take both of the pillows with him. "Is he sick?" "What do you think?" said his mother, slapping now at the vacated expanse of bedsheet, as if to scatter any offending particles of himself that Sammy might have left behind. She had just come home from her last night on a two-week graveyard rotation at Bellevue, where she worked as a psychiatric nurse. The stale breath of the hospital was on her, but the open throat of her uniform gave off a faint whiff of the lavender water in which she bathed her tiny frame. The natural fragrance of her body was a spicy, angry smell like fresh pencil shavings. "He can barely stand on his own two feet" Sammy peered over his mother, trying to get a better look at poor Josef Kavalier in his baggy wool suit. He had known, dimly, that he had Czech cousins. But his mother had not said a word about any of them coming to visit, let alone to share Sammy's bed. He wasn't sure just how San Francisco fitted in to the story. "There you are," his mother said, standing up straight again, apparently satisfied at having driven Sammy onto the easternmost rive inches of the mattress. She turned to Josef Kavalier. "Come here. I want to tell you something." She grabbed hold of his ears as if taking a jug by the handles, and crushed each of his cheeks in turn with her lips. "You made it. All right? You're here." "All right," said her nephew. He did not sound unconvinced. She handed him a washcloth and went out. As soon as she left, Sammy reclaimed a few precious inches of mattress while his cousin stood there, rubbing at his mauled cheeks. After a moment, Mrs. Klayman switched off the light in the kitchen, and they were left in darkness. Sammy heard his cousin take a deep breath and slowly let it out The stack of newsprint rattled and then hit the floor with a heavy thud of defeat. His jacket buttons clicked against the back of a chair; his trousers rustled as he stepped out of them; he let fall one shoe, then the other. His wristwatch chimed against the water glass on the nightstand. Then he and a gust of chilly air got in under the covers, bearing with them an odor of cigarette, armpit, damp wool, and something sweet and somehow nostalgic that Sammy presently identified as the smell, on his cousin's breath, of prunes from the leftover ingot of his mother's "special" meatloaf-prunes were only a small part of what made it so very special-which he had seen her wrap like a parcel in a sheet of wax paper and set on a plate in the Frigidaire. So she had known that her nephew would be arriving tonight, had even been expecting him for supper, and had said nothing about it to Sammy. Josef Kavalier settled back against the mattress, cleared his throat once, tucked his arms under his head, and then, as if he had been unplugged, stopped moving. He neither tossed nor fidgeted nor even so much as flexed a toe. The Big Ben on the nightstand ticked loudly. Josef's breathing thickened and slowed. Sammy was just wondering if anyone could possibly fall asleep with such abandon when his cousin spoke. "As soon as I can fetch some money, I will find a lodging, and leave the bed," he said. His accent was vaguely German, furrowed with an odd Scots pleat. "That would be nice," Sammy said. "You speak good English." "Thank you""Where'd you learn it?" "I prefer not to say.""It's a secret?" "It is a personal matter." "Can you tell me what you were doing in California?" said Sammy. "Or is that confidential information too?" "I was crossing over from Japan!' "Japan!" Sammy was sick with envy. He had never gone farther on his soda-straw legs than Buffalo, never undertaken any crossing more treacherous than the flatulent poison-green ribbon that separated Brooklyn from Manhattan Island. In that narrow bed, in that bedroom hardly wider than the bed itself, at the back of an apartment in a solidly lower-middle-class building on Ocean Avenue, with his grandmother's snoring shaking the walls like a passing trolley, Sammy dreamed the usual Brooklyn dreams of flight and transformation and escape. He dreamed with fierce contrivance, transmuting himself into a major American novelist, or a famous smart person, like Clifton Fadiman, or perhaps into a heroic doctor; or developing, through practice and sheer force of will, the mental powers that would give him a preternatural control over the hearts and minds of men. In his desk drawer lay-and had lain for some time-the first eleven pages of a massive autobiographical novel to be entitled either (in the Perelmanian mode)Through Abe Glass, Darkly or (in the Dreiserian) American Disillusionment (a subject of which he was still by and large ignorant). He had devoted an embarrassing number of hours of mute concentration-brow furrowed, breath held-to the development of his brain's latent powers of telepathy and mind control. And he had thrilled to that Iliad of medical heroics, The Microbe Hunters, ten times at least. But like most natives of Brooklyn, Sammy considered himself a realist, and in general his escape plans centered around the attainment of fabulous sums of money. From the age of six, he had sold seeds, candy bars, houseplants, cleaning fluids, metal polish, magazine subscriptions, unbreakable combs, and shoelaces door-to-door. In a Zharkov's laboratory on the kitchen table, he had invented almost functional button-reattachers, tandem bottle openers, and heatless clothes irons. In more recent years, Sammy's commercial attention had been arrested by the field of professional illustration. The great commercial illustrators and cartoonists Rockwell, Leyendecker, Raymond, Caniff-were at their zenith, and there was a general impression abroad that, at the drawing board, a man could not only make a good living but alter the very texture and tone of the national mood. In Sammy's closet were stacked dozens of pads of coarse newsprint, filled with horses, Indians, football heroes, sentient apes, Fokkers, nymphs, moon rockets, buckaroos, Saracens, tropic jungles, grizzlies, studies of the folds in women's clothing, the dents in men's hats, the lights in human irises, clouds in the western sky. His grasp of perspective was tenuous, his knowledge of human anatomy dubious, his line often sketchy-but he was an enterprising thief. He clipped favorite pages and panels out of newspapers and comic books and pasted them into a fat notebook: a thousand different exemplary poses and styles. He had made extensive use of his bible of clippings in concocting a counterfeit Terry and the Pirates strip called South China Sea, drawn in faithful imitation of the great Caniff. He had knocked off Raymond in something he called Pimpernel of the Planets, and Chester Gould in a lockjawed G-man strip called Knuckle Duster Doyle. He had tried swiping from Hogarth and Lee Falk, from George Herriman, Harold Gray, and Elzie Segar. He kept his sample strips in a fat cardboard portfolio under his bed, waiting for an opportunity, for his main chance, to present itself. "Japan!" he said again, reeling at the exotic Caniffian perfume that hung over the name. "What were you doing there?""Mostly I was suffering from the intestinal complaint," Josef Kavalier said. "and I suffer still. Particular in the night."Sammy pondered this information for a moment, then moved a little nearer to the wall."Tell me, Samuel," Josef Kavalier said. "How many examples must I have in my portfolio?""Not Samuel. Sammy. No, call me Sam.""Sam.""What portfolio is that?""My portfolio of drawings. To show your employer. Sadly, I am obligated to leave behind all of my work in Prague, but I can very quickly do much more that will be frightfully good.""To show my boss?" Sammy said, sensing in his own confusion the persistent trace of his mother's handiwork. "What are you talking about?""Your mother suggested that you might to help me get a job in the company where you work. I am an artist, like you.""An artist." Again Sammy envied his cousin. This was statement he himself would never have been able to utter without lowering his fraudulent gaze to his show tops. "My mother told you I was an artist?""A commercial artist, yes. For the Empire Novelties Incorporated Company."For an instant Sammy cupped the tiny flame this secondhand compliment lit within him. Then he blew it out."She was talking through her hat," he said."Sorry?""She was full of it.""Full of...?""I'm an inventory clerk. Sometimes they let me do pasteup for an ad. Or when they add a new item to the line, I get to do the illustration. For that, they pay me two dollars per.""Ah." Josef Kavalier let out another long breath. He still had not moved a muscle. Sammy couldn't decide if this apparent utter motionlessness was the product of unbearable tension or a marvelous calm. "She wrote a letter to my father," Josef tried. "I remember she said you create designs of superb new inventions and devices." "Guess what?""She talked into her hat."Sammy sighed, as if to suggest that this was unfortunately the case; a regretful sigh, long-suffering---and false. No doubt, his mother writing to her brother in Prague, had believed that she was making an accurate report; it was Sammy who had been talking through his hat for the last year, embroidering, not only for her benefit but to anyone who would listen, the menial nature of his position at Empire Novelties. Sammy was briefly embarassed, not so much at being caught out and having to confess his lowly status to his cousin, as at this evidence of a flaw in the omniveillant maternal loupe. Then he wondered if his mother, far from being hoodwinked by his boasting, had not in fact been counting on his having grossly exaggerated the degree of his influence over Sheldon Anapol, the owner of Empire Novelties. If he were to keep up the pretense to which he had devoted so much wind and invention, then he was all but obliged to come home from work tomorrow night clutching a job for Josef Kavalier in his grubby little stock clerk's fingers."I'll try," he said, and it was then that he felt the first spark, the tickling finger of possibility along his spine. For another long while, neither of them spoke. This time, Sammy could feel that Josef was still awake, could almost hear the capillary tricklee of doubt seeping in, weighing the kid down. Sammy felt sorry for himi. "Can I ask you a question?" he said."Ask me what?" "What was with all the newspapers?" "They are your New York newspapers. I bought them at the Grand Central Station." "How many?" For the first time, he noticed, Josef Kavalier twitched. "Eleven."Sammy quickly calculated on his ringers: there were eight metropolitan dailies. Ten if you counted the Eagle and the Home News. "I'm missing one.""Missing...?""Times, Herald Tribune," he touched two fingertips, "World-Telegram, Journal-American, Sun." He switched hands. "News, Post. Uh, Wall Street Journal. And the Brooklyn Eagle. And the Home News in the Bronx." He dropped his hands to the mattress. "What's eleven?" "The Woman's Daily Wearing." "Women's Wear Daily?" "I didn't know it was like that. For the garments."  He laughed at himself, a series of brief, throat-clearing rasps. "I was looking for something about Prague." "Did you find anything? They must have had something in the Times." "Something. A little. Nothing about the Jews." "The Jews," said Sammy, beginning to understand. It wasn't the latest diplomatic maneuverings in London and Berlin, or the most recent bit of brutal posturing by Adolf Hitler, that Josef was hoping to get news of. He was looking for an item detailing the condition of the Kavalier family. "You know Jewish? Yiddish. You know it?" "No." "That's too bad. We got four Jewish newspapers in New York. They'd probably have something." "What about German newspapers?" "I don't know, but I'd imagine so. We certainly have a lot of Germans. They've been marching and having rallies all over town." "I see." "You're worried about your family?" There was no reply. "They couldn't get out?" "No. Not yet" Sammy felt Josef give his head a sharp shake, as if to end the discussion. "I find I have smoked all my cigarettes," he went on, in a neutral, phrase-book tone. "Perhaps you could-" "You know, I smoked my last one before bed," said Sammy. "Hey, how'd you know I smoke? Do I smell?" "Sammy," his mother called, "sleep." Sammy sniffed himself. "Huh. I wonder if Ethel can smell it. She doesn't like it. I want to smoke, I've got to go out the window, there, onto the fire escape." "No smoking in bed," Josef said. "The more reason then for me to leave it." "You don't have to tell me," Sammy said. "I'm dying to have a place of my own." They lay there for a few minutes, longing for cigarettes and for all the things that this longing, in its perfect frustration, seemed to condense and embody. "Your ash holder," Josef said finally. "Ashtray!' "On the fire escape. It's a plant!" "It might be filled with the ... spacek? ... kippe? ... the stubbles?" "The butts, you mean?" "The butts.""Yeah, I guess. Don't tell me you'd smoke-" Without warning, in a kind of kinetic discharge of activity that seemed to be both the counterpart and the product of the state of perfect indolence that had immediately preceded it, Josef rolled over and out of the bed. Sammy's eyes had by now adjusted to the darkness of his room, which was always, at any rate, incomplete. A selvage of gray-blue radiation from the kitchen tube fringed the bedroom door and mingled with a pale shaft of nocturnal Brooklyn, a compound derived from the haloes of streetlights, the headlamps of trolleys and cars, the fires of the borough's three active steel mills, and the shed luster of the island kingdom to the west, that came slanting in through a parting in the curtains. In this faint glow that was, to Sammy, the sickly steady light of insomnia itself, he could see his cousin going methodically through the pockets of the clothes he had earlier hung so carefully from the back of the chair. "The lamp?" Josef whispered. Sammy shook his head. "The mother," he said. Josef came back to the bed and sat down. "Then we must to work in the darkness."He held between the first fingers of his left hand a pleated leaf of cigarette paper. Sammy understood. He sat up on one arm, and with the other tugged the curtains apart, slowly so as not to produce the telltale creak. Then, gritting his teeth, he raised the sash of the window beside his bed, letting in a chilly hum of traffic and a murmuring blast of cold March midnight. Sammy's "ashtray" was an oblong terra-cotta pot, vaguely Mexican, filled with a sterile compound of potting soil and soot and the semipetrified skeleton, appropriately enough, of a cineraria that had gone unsold during Sammy's houseplant days and thus predated his smoking habit, still a fairly recent acquisition, by about three years. A dozen stubbed-out ends of Old Golds squirmed around the base of the withered plant, and Sammy distastefully plucked a handful of them-they were slightly damp-as if gathering night crawlers, then handed them in to his cousin, who traded him for a box of matches that evocatively encouraged him to EAT AT JOE'S CRAB ON FISHERMAN'S WHARF, in which only one match remained. Quickly, but not without a certain showiness, Josef split open seven butts, one-handed, and tipped the resultant mass of pulpy threads into the wrinkled scrap of Zig Zag. After half a minute's work, he had manufactured them a smoke. "Come," he said. He walked on his knees across the bed to the window, where Sammy joined him, and they wriggled through the sash and thrust their heads and upper bodies out of the building. He handed the cigarette to Sammy and, in the precious flare of the match, as Sammy nervously sheltered it from the wind, he saw that Josef had prestidigitated a perfect cylinder, as thick and straight and nearly as smooth as if rolled by machine. Sammy took a long drag of True Virginia Flavor and then passed the magic cigarette back to its crafter, and they smoked it in silence, until only a hot quarter inch remained. Then they climbed back inside, lowered the sash and the blinds, and lay back, bedmates, reeking of smoke. "You know," Sammy said, "we're, uh, we've all been really worried ... about Hitler... and the way he's treating the Jews and ... and all that. When they, when you were ... invaded.... My mom was ... we all..." He shook his own head, not sure what he was trying to say. "Here." He sat up a little, and tugged one of the pillows out from under the back of his head. Josef Kavalier lifted his own head from the mattress and stuffed the pillow beneath it. "Thank you," he said, then lay still once more. Presently, his breathing grew steady and slowed to a congested rattle, leaving Sammy to ponder alone, as he did every night, the usual caterpillar schemes. But in his imaginings, Sammy found that, for the first time in years, he was able to avail himself of the help of a confederate.

Editorial Reviews

“It’s absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal—smart, funny, and a continual pleasure to read.”—The Washington Post Book World   “The depth of Chabon’s thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness, and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement.”—The New York Times Book Review   “I’m not sure what the exact definition of a ‘great American novel’ is, but I’m pretty sure that Michael Chabon’s sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenching new book is one.”—New York   “The themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book’s sense of humor intact and characters so tightly developed they could walk off the page.”—Newsweek   “A page-turner in the most expansive sense of the word: its gripping plot pushes readers forward. . . . Chabon is a reader’s writer, with sentences so cozy they’ll wrap you up and kiss you goodnight.”—Chicago Tribune