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Issue 50 - Pure Escapism

Whisky Magazine Issue 50
September 2005


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Pure Escapism

This issue Jefferson Chase looks at Michael Chabon's comic inspired novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's… a couple of Jewish guys. That's one way to describe Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize winner novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, from 2000. Another would be to say it's a 600-page yarn about the golden age of the comic-book superhero – with the action, imagination and absurd charm of yesteryear's dime-store novellas.

The story begins in 1939 when Josef Kavalier, an art student and amateur magician from Prague, flees the Nazi persecution of Czech Jews and arrives at the apartment of his young cousin, Sammy Clayman, in New York City.

Together they concoct a costumed superhero called The Escapist and convince a fly-by-night purveyor of junk, the Empire Novelty Company, to bankroll a new comic.

The Escapist is a hit, and the boys are soon rolling in dough. The question is: Will living vicariously through the heroic exploits of a guy in tights make them happy?

Joe is racked with guilt about his family back in Prague. He hops on a train bound for Canada with the vaguest of ideas of enlisting with the British Army, only to turn round in a fit of indecision: The air burned his nostrils, and his eyes felt raw. He wandered up Fifth Avenue and then went into a Longchamps and ordered himself a whisky and soda. Then he went once again to the phone.

It took Sammy half an hour to get there; by that time Joe was drunk enough, if not quite filthy stinking. Sammy walked into Longchamps'boisterous bar, pulled Joe off his...

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