The book explores themes of the holocaust, survivors guilt, hatred, homophobia, loss of identity, the death of the American dream, the wastedness of peoples lives, loveless marriages and so on. It has people fleeing Nazi oppression, shooting a dog between the eyes and skinning it, and a sexual assault by a police detective. It is also a giant ball of fluff.
The book is about two comic book artists and their creation of a character called The Escapist. Despite its serious themes it is really a celebration of and an exercise in escapism, which at one point it suggests is the highest calling. The book I think is a manifestation of all the worst trends in English language literature of the last 30 to 40 years. I don't think that we need to add escapism to our serious literature. I think I have a lot of escapist options as it is.
Given that it is doing something that serious literature should not be doing, in my opinion, it does it pretty well. The book is extremely well written. It just flows and you sit down and start reading it and before you know it 100 pages have completely disappeared. It is also ingenious. Chabon is very clever indeed. It is all very well put together. It is, in my opinion, far too long and would have been better if it was shorter, given its nature. Because it is escapist there is nothing remotely resembling a real person in it. It is also so in love with comics that at times it crosses the line into fanboyism, which is irritating. Finally, it is really the adventures of Kavalier and his sidekick Clay. Chabon is not particularly interested in Clay.
Recommended for people who want some ingenious light reading, or for people who don't know what serious literature is.