Discussion Questions for <em>The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay</em>

Some shovelware for you—we are reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in my book club this month. It was my pick, and so far two people have emailed me to say they couldn't finish it, so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, since it was my pick I was responsible for finding or getting discussion questions. Here are the questions I devised on my own. Discuss amongst yourselves:

  1. On page 286, George Deasey says that the boys' comics are "powerless" and "useless", but Joe Kavalier thinks to himself that he believes "in the power of [his] art". Do you believe in the power of popular culture to steer the course of public opinion or political events? Can you think of any current or recent art which affects politics?

  2. Several characters in Kavalier and Clay change their names as a means of reinventing themselves. Does it work? How does knowing the person's original name affect the way others relate to them? Have you ever changed your name? Did your identity also change?

  3. Do you read comics? Did you ever? (Did you ever try to write one?) Do you appreciate them more having read Kavalier and Clay?

  4. Several characters in Kavalier and Clay identify as both Jewish and as atheists. Discuss how their Judaism is manifested in the absence of belief in God. Do you practice the rituals of your ancestors and if so to what extent do you share their beliefs? Is it possible to be Christian without believing in God?

  5. When I was reading Kavalier and Clay I came across a few words I didn't know. Do you enjoy it when a writer uses unfamiliar words, or do you find it annoying, or pretentious? When you come across a new word do you look it up and try and learn it, or just carry on?

  6. The theme of escape recurs throughout the book: escape through changing one's name, escape through disguise, literal escape from bondage or from danger, and escape through literature. On page 575, Chabon writes: "...the usual charge leveled against comic books, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf." Why is escapist entertainment frowned on by some? Do you agree? Do you use books or TV as an escape or reprieve from reality?

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