So most of my personal reading stays very firmly in genre. If you go through all the books in my room (and there is a truly disturbing number of books in my room; even I at times am forced to acknowledge this) they will all be fantasy, YA, sci-fi or some combination of the three. I have tried mainstream literature and have generally found it not to be for me. I make an exception for the book I am reading right now: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon which I am pleased and slightly surprised to find myself loving wholeheartedly.
I mostly picked it up because I heard it talks about comics in a way that isn't all 'oh comic books, why are the kids degrading their minds with THAT' and it does but it's even better with that because it kind of writes itself like a comic book? I'm not sure how to explain it except that the central characters clearly fall into the role of hero and sidekick and there's the presence of comicesque adventures and plot. But it does this without ever losing it's grip on reality and it acknowledges it and I think it's absolutely wonderful in a way I'm not even sure how to express.
One of the things I wanted to comment on was the way he wrote Sammy Clay. Because the book started off with him but Joe ended up taking over the story and it made me kind of :/ for awhile until I realized about halfway through the novel that he was making Sammy into a sidekick
. And it was from that point I really started to get the way the book didn't just write about comics -- and how much did I LOVE the sections where it introduced the comic book characters stories, seriously. The Luna Moth and Escapist chapters are still some of my favourite out of the book; I would read their comics if they actually existed -- it also wrote LIKE a comic. And later when one of Sammy's friends comment about his obsession with sidekicks I just kind of went '!!!! Validated reading, sweet!'
I think I loved Sammy more than I did Joe throughout the book. Not that I disliked him because I liked him alot really and I loved his relationship with Rosa Parks but even when I was reading him it was very clear he was talented and charming in a hero kind of way and well it's sort of like Smallville. Clark is fun to watch but I am so very much more interested in the other, less clearly designated 'main character' figures.
Also Tracy Bacon! Okay, I'm not going to even talk about their relationship, just have this awesome beautiful line from Chabon instead.
They lay there for a few seconds, in the dark, in the future, with Sammy's sore fingertips in Tracy Bacon's mouth, listening to the fabulous clockwork of their hearts and lungs, and loving each other.
I stopped reading so I could write that down in my journal, I want to remember the phrase 'fabulous clockwork of their hearts and lungs' forever because it's gorgeous
Okay now, further thoughts upon finishing the book!
I love everybody
in this book. If any other character did what Joe did I would hate him -- staying away from Sammy, Rosa, and Tommy for 12 years. 12 years! - but I can't because he's Joe and I love him a ridiculous crazy amount.
A man in love at twenty feels more alive than he ever will again - finding himself in posession of this buried treasure, Joe saw more clearly than ever that for the past dozen years or so, he had been, more or less, a dead man. His daily fried egg and pork chop, his collection of false beards and mustaches, the hasty spongebaths by the sink in the closet, those regular, unquestioned features of his recent existence, now seemed the behaviour of a shadow, the impressions left by a strange novel read under the influence of a high fever.
I could just see that so clearly and it made me pause for a second to just bury my face in my hands and be sad. Chabon is so good at hitting you quietly
, all the little things have strong emotional impact.
And he had this brilliant theme running throughout the book where he was just basically like 'yes comic books are escapist. So what? That's the POINT of art, to be escapist'.
Better yet, I will quote him:
The shaping of a golem, to him, was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something — one poor, dumb, powerful thing — exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape...
The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited "escapism" among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.
And let's go back to Sammy again for a second. At the end of book he leaves and my inital reaction was one of 'No! Don't leave Joe and Rosa! They love you, stay!' But then I thought about it and I thought about how Sammy hadn't been happy for TEN YEARS and I was like 'okay, okay leave. Find your own hero quest. Go and may horrible people never inflict themselves upon you again' (Speaking of which the scene where the policemen come to arrest him and Bacon, and the rest of his friends had me nearly crying. I was so angry at them and hurt for Sammy and when he left Tracy Bacon afterwards I UNDERSTOOD why he did it while simultaneously going ';_;' And oh my God, the Senate commission. I actually sat there at and swore at them after I read that scene. You know you're too emotionally invested when fictional cruelties have you resorting to unmentionable language).
In conclusion: READ The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It is heartbreaking and beautiful and hopeful and has comics. Do it for the good of your HEART.