Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Hook #5: An Analysis of a Favorite First Line

In what may or may not be our final post in anticipation of the close of our First Page Contest, we offer up to you a few words mined from the opening page of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay:

In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier’s greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.
Chabon is known for sentences like these, a dog pile of clauses and colorful prose sorted in something long and textured and clean. These opening lines push us back a step at a time from the now-ish to Chabon's mysti-historical, 1930s Brooklyn. Chabon establishes a sense of distance, one that not only reinforces the fundamental structure of a novel of such scope, but that will also be iterated in the lives of the titular characters. He brings us to the beginning, when the escape artists still believed the audience was only one being fooled. 

Josef Kavalier, having escaped from Prague, arrives in New York City circa 1939, a refugee staying with his 17-year-old cousin Sammy  Klayman. Between Sammy's ambition and Joe's talent as an illustrator, the two create The Escapist, a wildly popular comic book featuring the exploits of an anti-fascist amalgam of Houdini, Captain America, and The Scarlett Pimpernel, among others. The story that follows spans nearly fifteen years, as the duo's success is met without proper recompense or recognition; as Sammy struggles with his sexual identity and Joe attempts to help his family flee Nazi-occupied Prague; as loves are built, broken, and puzzled back together. In a book of escapes, literal and metaphorical, spectacular and disastrous, Chabon promises, from the first sentence, something big and enthralling, something that we will be able to disappear into for a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment