The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Loving Husband's favorite book, it's taken me six years to read. And very much worth the wait. It's about hope in the face of inescapable odds, heroes living everyday lives, love in a time of cholera--no, wait, that's something else...
Seriously, an excellent book connecting the early years of comic books with World War II, magicians, Judaism, and love. (The following is an excerpt which sums it up but doesn't give away any of the plot. Made me a bit weepy because it's so true.)
"[Joe] thought of the boxes of comics that he had accumulated, upstairs, in the two small rooms where, for five years, he had crouched in the false bottom of the life from which Tommy had freed him, and then, in turn, of the thousands upon thousands of little boxes, stacked neatly on sheets of Bristol board or piled in rows across the ragged pages of comic books, that he and Sammy had filled over the past dozen years: boxes brimming with the raw materials, the bits of rubbish from which they had, each in his own way, attempted to fashion their various golems. In literature and folklore, the significance and the fascination of golems--from Rabbi Loew's to Victor von Frankenstein's--lay in their soullessness, in their tireless inhuman strength, in their metaphorical association with overweening human ambition, and in the frightening ease with which they passed beyond the control of their horrified and admiring creators. But it seemed to Joe that none of these--Faustian hubris, least of all--were among the true reasons that impelled men, time after time, to hazard the making of golems. The shaping of a golem, to him, was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something--one poor, dumb, powerful thing--exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape. To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws. Harry Houdini had roamed the Palladiums and Hippodromes of the world encumbered by an entire cargo-hold of crates and boxes, stuffed with chains, iron hardware, brightly painted flats and hokum, animated all the while only by this same desire, never fulfilled: truly to escape, if only for one instant; to poke his head through the borders of this world, with its harsh physics, into the mysterious spirit world that lay beyond. The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited 'escapism' among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life."
--Chabon, page 582 (New York: Picador, 2000)