I’ve been meaning to read this book for years. It seems I’m always the last person to get on the bandwagon. I mean, it’s a book about comic books, for crying out loud. You’d think I would have read it the minute it hit the shelves.
Actually, to say this a book about comic books is to cut it far short of the praise it’s due. This is not merely a book about comic books. It’s the story of two men, both Jewish, one from Prague, the other from Brooklyn, who create a comic book character that is in fact, very subtly, a version of themselves.
The Escapist, the Houdini like hero they give birth to during the golden age of comics, frees the oppressed citizens of the world, those who are the victims of tyrannical regimes or shackled societies with the power of his Golden Key. He is, as his name suggests, an escape artist.
And escape is exactly what Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay do, respectively, when it comes time for them to accept the identity fate and their choices have given them. Kavalier escapes by enlisting into the Army and then disappearing from his responsibilities as lover and father. And Sam escapes from his sexual preference, disappearing into a loveless, but convivial marriage.
Michael Chabon, the author, has a natural flare for poetic prose. He’s not trying to be literate. He doesn’t use big words to use big words. He’s genuine. And even though I didn’t understand some of those big words, I found myself touched deeply by the many sweet moments in the book. A wonderful story of imagination (The comic books Chabon creates are true to their time and completely believable), love, and historical fiction.
It’s no wonder it won the Pulitzer.