Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kavalier & Clay

It has been a terribly long time since I last blogged. A month long vacation takes its toll in many ways. For the past three months I have been awfully busy on a long project, the details of which will come out soon, but the project just soaked me in so much that I had to turn a blind eye to the ticking dates of the last blog post put up. Now that the project seems to be reaching its end, I can afford to take a breather and talk about the book I finished reading last night, it's called - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. The book revolves around the life of two jewish cousins in New York city who made it big in the booming comics industry of the 1930-40's second world war era before getting scattered away. It's a long read, and although it's a work of fiction, it's very well woven around the facts of comic book genre's behaviour during the two decades. Apart from being a well written novel, the author has really seasoned his two protagonist well with each passing pages, you sort of end up believing that these two cousins really existed back then. One of the cousins, Josef Kavalier is shown as the comic book artists who treats his medium as a weapon to fight against the evils of Hitler, at least that's how he begins with it, but slowly he gets engrossed in the beauty of the technique, the breaking of panels and his rendering of precise brush strokes. Comics become his escape door to fight wars first and later on a refuge for his own stories. With each descriptions of his crafted comic book pages, I really felt an urge to see them. In fact I searched for his name on google to see if there are any samples one could see of what these comic book pages must have looked like. Comics, considered a degraded art form back then, had an easy to afford liquorish charm to it. Through this step child of an art form when the two cousins live their belief and secret passions, one realises how strong its role is in a society where war rages on each day's account. Michael Chabon has rightly used Harry Houdini as the metaphor for comics. Here are some of my favourite parts from the book - 

"Forget about what you are escaping from," he said, quoting an old maxim of Kornblum's. "Reserve your anxiety for what you are escaping to."

He and his father had in their jocular, gingerly fashion loved each other, but now that his father was dead, Joe felt only regret. It was not just the usual regret over things left unsaid, thanks unexpressed and apologies withheld. Joe did not yet regret the lost future opportunities for expatiation on favorite shared subjects, such as film directors (they revered Buster Keaton) or breeds of dogs. Such regrets would come only belatedly, a few days after, when he made the realization that death really did mean that you were never going to see the dead person ever again. What he regretted most of all just now was simply that he had not been there when it happened; that he had left to his mother, grandfather, and brother the awful business of watching his father die.

For the last three months I have been strictly away from my graphic novel work, but my appetite seems right now to get back to it. Like Houdini, we are all tied up in our heavy iron chains of everyday obligations and rituals, and we all search for the golden key. The scam gates and rape cases bog the newspaper headlines making you feel like dead soldiers rotting in trenches of an eternal war. We all need a key, an escape... a superhero perhaps.

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