The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

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Part VI, Chapters 1–6

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Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1248

Chapter One 

It is now the early 1950s and Sammy, Rosa and their son, Tommy, are living in a nice house in Bloomtown, bought with the last of Sammy’s Empire Comics money. Sammy has made a series of poor investments, including a flat for his mother in which she soon died and which he sold at a loss. Rosa draws romance comics, and Sammy edits other artist’s comics. 

Tommy is now twelve and beginning to be handsome. He is very tall and has taken to wearing an eyepatch, a habit that both Sammy and Rosa dislike. Sammy asks Tommy to promise him he isn’t planning to sneak into the city rather than going to school. Sammy is beginning to feel disconnected from his son; he is unable to handle him any more. He tells Tommy that he will walk him to school.

Chapter Two 

A group of men who work in the comic business, including Julie Glovsky, are discussing a book which has just been published about the negative impact of comics on children. They also discuss a letter in the paper from a man who calls himself the Escapist and has threatened to jump off the Empire State Building. They wonder whether it might be Joe.

They go on to discuss Sammy. Sammy has tried other things, such as advertising, and aspires to be an “epic novelist,” but ultimately he has returned to the comics business to work for the publisher Gold Star.

When Sammy arrives at Gold Star, his colleagues ask if he’s seen the news and whether he believes the self-proclaimed Escapist might be Joe. Sammy says it can’t be true. He remarks that whoever it is will need a costume. He takes Julie with him up to his office, where he has a box in which Bacon’s Escapist costume was once stored. However, in the box there is only a calling card from “the League of the Golden Key.” Sammy has seen such cards before and knows it must be from Joe.

Chapter Three 

A detective named Lieber arrives to speak to Sammy about Joe. Sammy explains that his mother received a letter to say that Joe was leaving Guantanamo Bay for Virginia, but when the ship arrived, Joe was not on it—he had escaped. Sammy tells the detective that all of Joe’s family is dead and that he was trained as an escape artist in Europe.

Sammy’s father-in-law, Longman Harkoo, arrives. He says, “He’s afraid you'll be angry with him,” and Sammy thinks Longman is talking about Joe and suspects that he has seen Joe recently. However, Longman is actually talking about Tommy, whom he has brought with him. Tommy escaped his homeroom, which Sammy escorted him to, and went to his grandfather’s house.

Chapter Four 

Several hundred people are gathered around the Empire State Building, hoping to see the jumper. Joe’s name has been mentioned widely by this point. By five-thirty, however, when nobody has appeared, Lieber says he is beginning to think it is a hoax. He asks Sammy (who is present with Tommy) whether anyone knows the story about how much money Kavalier and Clay were “cheated” out of by Anapol. Anapol, who has just shown up to see the event, resents this. He says it is character assassination that people have been talking about this without proper knowledge of the contracts involved.

Lieber winks at Tommy and is surprised to see him turn pale. He thinks this indicates guilt and says to Tommy that he hears he’s been skipping school. Sammy says that Tommy has been forging letters from his mother...

(This entire section contains 1248 words.)

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to excuse his absences, and the detective asks to see an example.

Having seen the example, Lieber explains that typewriters have “fingerprints” of their own and that this letter matches the one sent to the Herald-Tribune from the supposed Escapist. The hoax was orchestrated by Tommy.

Sammy realizes he is disappointed that Joe hasn’t really come back, but Tommy interjects that Joe has, insisting that he is in New York. He goes into the building and presses the button for the elevator that goes all the way to the top.

Chapter Five 

Earlier, on July 3, Tommy is taken into town for his eleventh birthday. Tommy has inferred from overheard conversations that Sammy is not his real father.

Tommy is interested in magic, and Sammy takes him to Louis Tannon’s Magic Shop to buy the Demon Wonder Box, an illusionist’s tool that he covets. He has begun learning magic from library books. When Mr. Tannen is demonstrating the Wonder Box to Sammy, Tommy sees a large-nosed man in a white suit wander into the back of the shop.

Every week, Tommy goes to Spiegelman’s comic store to arrange the comics. Before he leaves, he buys a copy of The Escapist, in secret, and reads it on the way home. One afternoon, when he is at Spiegelman’s, he sees the man from Tannen’s watching him. He feels a strange affection for this man.

The man introduces himself as “your cousin… Josef Kavalier,” and Tommy recognizes him from family pictures. He knows a lot about Joe from his mother, and from the conversations of some other women he has deduced that his mother is in love with Joe.

Joe sees The Escapist in Tommy’s hand and buys it for him. Afterwards, outside the store, Tommy asks Joe to come over for dinner. Joe says he can’t but that Tommy should tell his parents he has seen him. Tommy says he won’t.

The pair discuss magic. Joe shows Tommy a pass but says Tommy should not bother trying to learn until his hands are bigger. He does, however, teach him how to perform the trick, manipulating the cards in Tommy’s hands.

Chapter Six 

Tommy receives a letter from Joe. In code, it tells him to catch the 10:04 train via Jamaica to Penn Station, to the Empire State Building, and then go up to Suite 7203. He is to wear an eye patch (supplied with the letter) under the guise of visiting an opthalmologist in the city.

Every Thursday for seven months, Tommy does this, meeting Joe in his suite. He begins to think of Joe as “Secretman.” Joe is not really supposed to be living in an office building, so Tommy can tell nobody he is there.

Tommy is caught twice: first by a train conductor and again a month before the Escapist leap hoax. Rosa happens to get on the train Tommy is on and demands to know why he isn’t in school. However, she says she will take him for a trip into town and not tell his father.

One day, Joe asks Tommy how Sammy is. Tommy suggests again that Joe come home with him, saying he can sleep on the trundle bed in Tommy’s room. Joe suggests jokingly that maybe he will dress up as the Escapist and jump off the building to draw attention to what Anapol did to him. Then he trips, hits his head on the edge of a desk, and knocks himself out, to Tommy’s considerable alarm.

Joe wakes up, but Tommy has made up his mind in the interim to write the letter to the newspaper. He is trying to help Joe. he wants Secretman to be a secret no more.


Part V, Chapters 1–7


Part VI, Chapters 7–13