Monday, March 03, 2008

The Escapist

The Escapist
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some alert reader might have inferred from a reference in "Dreams of My Absent Father" that I'm reading Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

That inference would be correct.

Among the amazing things that Josef Kavalier and Samuel Klayman do is to create the Escapist, a comic-book superhero with the ability to escape all sorts of dire circumstances, not just the chains that you see him breaking out of in the image above.

Although the Escapist uses his powers for good, I'm reminded of that prototypical 'escapist', the superantihero in John Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan, who escapes from his chains on the burning lake, then escapes further through the Gates of Hell itself on his mission to thwart God's purposes.

But that's probably a stretch, even though Chabon does delve into religious traditions and also note the flawed character of some superheros, including that of the Escapist himself, for the Escapist is a reformed cad, whereas Satan in Milton's epic is well on his way to achieving the apotheosis of cadhood. I mean, look how he treats Eve! Just out and out abandons her! And when he re-encounters his first love, the no-longer-lovely Sin, he doesn't even recognize that paramour!

But to be serious for a brief moment, I'm really enjoying Chabon's book and even learning a lot about American popular culture of the 1930s through 1950s. For instance, just yesterday, I happened across a news article by Joseph B. Frazier on David Hajdu's book The Ten-ยขent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. If I'd not been reading Chabon's novel, I'd not have known the historical reference in Frazier's headline "When comic books were under attack."

I have yet to finish Chabon's novel, and with the Kyung Hee semester beginning today, I feel the bonds of duty tightening, limiting my freedom to read leisurely, leaving me wishing that I could escape...

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At 11:58 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Hi Jeffery,

I read Chabon's book a few years ago and really enjoyed it, too. I'd be interested to hear what you think once you've finished it.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sure . . . actually, I have finished it, as of yesterday, but I'll have to report on it later.

I can state that I thoroughly enjoyed the story, even the queer ending.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:43 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

I was particularly interested in what you thought of the ending, which -- though I really enjoyed the story in general -- I had my doubts about.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that a lot of potentially good stories lie ruined by their endings.

Paul Auster is a prime example of an excellent writer and a good storyteller who doesn't quite know how to end his stories. I'm disappointed each time.

But the beauty of Chabon's story is that it works even in its ending. I think that Sam had to go away for the story to end. Otherwise, it'd all have to have started all over again with Kavalier and Clay again trying to make their mark in the comics business, just as they had at first.

Either they'd really have to do it in the story or they'd potentially have to do it in our imaginations . . . and that somehow doesn't work. Maybe because the second time around in a story -- as in life -- a tale falls into disappointing farce. Anyway, we're spared that descent by Sammy's departure.

A new story can begin...

Jeffery Hodges

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