A recent study indicates that reading literary fiction can help improve your social skills and help you be a better conversationalist.
As I pondered that and glanced over at my (ever-growing) pile of books I want to read, Michael Chabon’s The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay began to call to me. So, I decided I’d pick up the book, read a chapter or two and dazzle friends, family and myself with my improved conversational tone.
Whether or not reading this novel has made me a better conversationalist remains to be seen.
But I will say that I’m glad the study serves as a catalyst and finally got me to crack the cover of this book.
Simply put, this is an outstanding novel and one that I wish I’d read before now.
It’s the story of the creative team of Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, Jewish immigrants who create a wide array of comic books and superheroes during the Golden Age of comic books. Early sections of the novel detail how the team comes together and looks at some of the characters they create, including their most popular and enduring creation The Escapist. The book unfolds into something deeper as you turn the pages, detailing Joe’s increased frustration that is fame and fortune can’t help him get his family out of Nazi occupied Europe and Clay’s frustration with his own sexual identity.
The novel delves into how two men who appear to have everything they could want are fundamentally unsatisfied because they each can’t have the one thing they most desire. The entire novel is a fascinating, compelling character study of these two men and the various people who come into their circle of influence.
That’s not to say that the novel is dry or without humor. Chabon creates some nice asides and witty observations during the close to six hundred pages the novel runs. One running thread involves Joe’s on-going and ever escalating feud with a group of anti-Semetics, all leading up to a cartoon bomb being planted in the headquarters of Empire Comics and Joe chained to a desk in his refusal to leave. (You may have to read it in order to fully understand and enjoy the implications of it).
Kavalier and Clay weighs in at close to six-hundred pages, but it’s one of those books that is so absorbing and utterly readable that it feels like it’s over far too soon. Yes, the novel is satisfying in every sense of the word and it’s one that has struck with me in my thoughts long after the final page was turned. But it still felt like it had ended far too soon and I found myself wondering if and how the next book I picked up could live up to the high bar this one had set.
If you’re like me and this one is languishing on the TBR pile, pick it up and start reading.
And for the record — people who ask me for a recommendation of something good to read will be hearing this novel mentioned a lot for a long time to come. Highly recommended.