Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Neil Gaiman: Anansi Boys

As you may have noticed, I do read Neil Gaiman, but I seldom seek him out. I don't know why actually (and it may change now), but I suspect I was scarred from the Sandman comi... sorry, graphic novels, a genre I do not understand at all. However, Gaiman is a bit of a genius actually. I should really have borrowed American Gods first, since this was his first foray into novels (not comics) on the theme of modern mythology and what-would-the-gods-be-doing-now type of thing. But the cover of Anansi Boys said it was funny, so I went for the comedy.

Fat Charlie Nancy learns that his father is dead, which doesn't upset him at all, since the old man was always making a spectacle of himself and playing practical jokes on people, including him. But at the funeral he learns that not only was Daddy a god, the spider god Anansi, but Fat Charlie has a brother, who leans more to the magical side of the family. Getting to know brother Spider unleashes the supernatural into Charlie's life, and gets them both chased by an ancient enemy of the Anansi bloodline.

I'm quite thrilled with this book, thrilled to the point where I'm pondering whether it shouldn't be required reading in schools, to introduce kids to the wealth of African storytelling and mythology. Gaiman manages something which many (white) authors fail at: he writes about African mythology and black people without falling into the trap of making either of them extra-sweet and super-heroic out of some sort of sense of guilt. The book is suffused with the joy of storytelling and a genuine admiration and respect for the oral traditions of black culture. But people are people, with weaknesses and all. He also is clever enough to never specify someone as black Black's the default. I love that he thought of that - perhaps it even came naturally to him? I have to admit that I would have had to make a conscious decision to not specify race unless white, so more credit to him if he didn't have to. Also, although there is a hint of someone who either enjoys the cinema and writes with that in mind or someone who is an author of graphic novels, he NEVER goes too far. He never puts in a load of one-liners as though desperate for Paramount to make a call. I LOVE THAT. (According to Wikipedia someone wanted to film it but make it "white", and Gaiman turned it down. If so, well done. I'd like to see this filmed, but not by just anyone. A subtle touch is needed.)


bani's li'l sis said...

I love that book.

I have American Gods if you want to borrow it (it's even autographed! Oooooo! cos that enhances the reading pleasure =P). I quite liked it even if it did get a bit... Neil Gaiman at times.

bani said...

Good! :)