I have to amend my early rave response to author Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
with this minor rant of an addendum. The detailed research and descriptions evident in this volume became a bit much for me to stomach in the later chapters of the book. I believe I pontificated in an earlier post
about "writers" and their "research." Certainly research is important in fiction writing, but sometimes the realistic details can exceed the boundaries of both good storytelling and good taste. I refer specifically to what I considered unnecessary blow-by-blow descriptions of male homosexual encounters. Mr. Chabon appears to have conducted in-depth research on this topic, and enthusiastically shares the details he uncovered.
Additionally, I felt the novel faltered in the latter chapters, which briefly skim over a period of about ten years, during which time one of the characters, so we are to believe, lived undetected in an office in the Empire State Building
practically under the noses of his former friends and colleagues. I'm sorry, but this unlikely scenario completely suspended my suspension of disbelief, which was already stretched thin by the trans-Antarctic aviation expertise of an untrained military radio operator.
Finally, I found myself genuinely confused by Chabon's sudden change of form when he introduced the notorious (or is it "revered"?) EC Comics publisher William Gaines. Throughout the story, as I noted earlier, Mr. Chabon tosses names around with casual abandon, not bothering to explain who the people are even when their significance might be important to the reader's better understanding of the story. For instance, he mentions Milton Caniff a number of times when describing visual details, delineating settings in terms of Caniff illustrations, but never once telling us what a Caniff illustration looks like. For the record, Caniff was the author/illustrator of the angular, shadowy Terry & the Pirates
and Steve Canyon
strips in the 1940s. Chabon also references Elzie Segar on several occasions, again suggesting settings that resemble Segar drawings, yet not once mentioning Segar's creation, Popeye the Sailor
, nor describing the ramshackle constructions that visually defined Segar's comic-strip world.
When he introduces Gaines, however, who is only mentioned
in the story and whose presence is essentially superfluous, Mr. Chabon dedicates a full paragraph to background information on the outspoken publisher. Later he provides yet another paragraph of information. I found this arbitrary and unequal treatment of the other comics industry personalities, most of whom were of greater significance to a full appreciation of the story, jarring and confusing. It smacked to me of "name dropping," as though having a more than passing familiarity with Gaines carries some kind of cachet. As indeed, perhaps it does; after all, Kavalier & Clay
garnered a Pulitzer.
Just for the record, and for a change of pace from my usual groundless, baseless, and uninformed critiques of writers and filmmakers, I actually do
have, or had, as he's dead now, a more-than-passing familiarity with Bill Gaines; indeed, a personal relationship... uhm, of a type that did not involve all-male beach parties or lubricating gels. ( Collapse )