Continuing with our “Forever Favorites” series, Paul Montgomery discusses The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.
My first kiss and my first car crash transpired close enough together to forever link them in my mind. If only there weren’t that gulf of hours between the two to keep the story from being as exciting as you’d probably hope. Still, when I summon up the memory of that kiss, it’s tinged with the anxiety of collision. Not an accident. Not unpleasant. But a crash all the same. Even then, in the moments under that streetlight, gazing down at my own shuffling feet, I thought about Joe Kavalier and Rosa Luxemburg Saks. I thought about a scene from my favorite novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.
“He leaned forward to kiss her again. They bumped teeth. and it made him weirdly aware of all the bones in his head. Her tongue was milk and salt, an oyster in his mouth. She put her hands on his shoulders, and he could feel her getting ready to push him away, and then after a moment she did.”
You’d never express that to a lover, that their mouth recalled the texture of a mollusk. That’s bad form. But this brief passage has always struck me as simultaneously so honest and sweet. It speaks to just how alien intimacy can be, how treacherous and alarming it feels to share that kind of vulnerability for the first time.
Yes, Fred Savage. It’s a kissing book. But it’s so much more besides.
What gets me is just how improbable it is. That so many of my own disparate, eclectic passions—from the golden age of comic books to escapology to old Manhattan and true romance—could coalesce into something at all functional. But Chabon did it. He did it with a flourish.
Listen, it’s not a tall order to shape something compelling out of golems and masked vigilantes and perilous Antarctic missions. These are exciting nouns and adjectives. Rub them all together at the right frequency and that’s popcorn. That’s butts in seats. Too much, and it’s a direct-to-video miasma. But to take all these boy’s adventure genre tropes and fashion something so robust and meaningful and harmonious is akin to actual magic. The prose is sumptuous. The journey, tremendous.
It’s just one of those beautiful collisions.
Paul Montgomery hosts Fuzzy Typewriter, a podcast dedicated to stories, storytellers, art and artists. He writes about comics and what they can do on iFanboy and has done some fairly peculiar things on Book Riot.