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Gaseous 'Clay'

An Online Guide to Deciphering Michael Chabon’s Comic Marvel

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Aetataureate? Cathected? Nystagmus? What on earth do those words mean? That’s a reaction that many readers have as they negotiate the verbal hurdles throughout Michael Chabon’s best-selling and soon-to-be-turned-into-a-movie novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. So what was Chabon (above) thinking when he planted the brainteasers in his comic-book opus? In part, he explains, ”I was trying to challenge the reader. I figured some people would try to figure them out, and others would just skip over them.” In the absence of decoder rings to help tackle the vocabulary, A Word Game (members.tripod.com/martinetc/id102.htm) may be the Web’s most comprehensive Kavalier & Clay tutorial. Like those lesson books of yore, this vocabulary quiz serves double duty: Word nerds can use it to gauge their smarts — and the verbally impaired can use it as a cheat sheet. And while some of the meanings miss the mark (defining the Yiddishism trayf as an ”unkosher delicacy that goes well with cocktail sauce” is a little meshuga), you have to admire the Kavalier attitude.