It’s taken 8 years, but I’ve finally picked up Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. All I can say is I cannot believe it hadn’t found its way into my hands sooner. The writing is superb, the delicacy and attention to detail is amazing, and the narrative is vivid in ways that most books only dream of becoming. And the fact that it’s a story romanticizing (in description, at least) the creation of super hero comic books is simply great.
What I find particularly spectacular, aside from the attention paid to the backgrounds of the background of a fake (but purely realistic portrait of one) comic book character, is Chabon’s words are drenched in art, literature, and history of all kinds. A call back to the Golem was purely imaginative and a great tale to weave into the role of Judaism in the background of comics. The image of the Statue of Liberation – hoisting a sword high above her head – in the comic-book world of Empire City, is pure genius. When Franz Kafka was writing Amerika, he described the Statue of Liberty with a sword instead of a torch, which for all intents and purposes was factually correct to Kafka (who had never traveled outside of Europe). As Chabon’s finely-tuned attention to detail brings that much more reality to a piece of fiction, there’s no question that Chabon had Kafka on the brain when he placed a sword in the hand of a fiction-within-a-fiction landmark of Western freedom and named his Prague-descendant character Josef Kavalier (strikingly similar to Kafka’s go-to character of choice, Josef K).
The world of alternative music is well known for its avid crew of bookworms. Chabon may not be alone in the literary world when he took inspiration from Kafka, but the Scottish post-punk group Josef K certainly stood out for their book-worn noses. The same can be taken notice of in the world of emo. While a whole realm of artists certainly know a thing or two about books, Gatsby’s American Dream make their love of literacy (or their love of one book) stand out. The Seattle-based band has four albums under their belt and are currently on a bit of a hiatus. Despite their hazy future, they’ve garnered quite a past, releasing two albums through emo-friendly label Fearless Records and have played Warped Tour. Although their sound may not exactly conjure up images of F Scott Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby, their work shows a good grasp on third wave, hard-leaning emo musicianship.
Considering their rise to mild-popularity coincided with the continual rise of emo as a cultural phenomenon, it’s easy to see how the band has sparked something of a fan base. But for me, they’re merely another emo act that works to fill in the spaces of a multi-headed musical juggernaut that emo has turned out to be. And in such a cultural sphere, you’ve got to do something to stand out. Gatsby’s American Dream caught me with their creative – if not dorky – nametag. Unfortunately, unlike the well-paced words of Chabon or the name-recalling influence of Fitzgerald, the band’s sound left me yearning for a dream to complete such a well-thought band name.
With that, I’ll sign off with a video duel of the two literary-based bands.
Gatsby’s American Dream – Theatre:
Josef K – Sorry For Laughing (live):