Friday, March 20, 2009

Know thyself...but stay away from feathers (Books - Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman)

Fat Charlie finds out as his father's funeral that a) his father was a god and b) he has a brother, Spider, who he has never heard of. He calls him (by asking a spider, yes the kind with eight legs that makes webs) and all sorts of trouble results. Spider appropriates Charlie's fiancee, gets him put in jail for embezzlement, and then Charlie goes to the land of the gods through some sort of weird ceremony accomplished by old family friends who are witches. He trades his family line to an over-the-top bird-woman for the favor of getting rid of his brother, but frankly, that doesn't work out either because the struggle between the gods is really about who has control of all the stories and that's why the the whole thing finally comes down to a feather, only Charlie doesn't know what to do. So he goes to one of the witches to ask.
Fat Charlie's mother had told him, when he was young, to count to ten before he lost his temper. He counted, silentely and unhurriedly, to ten, whereupon he lost his temper. "Of course I don't know what to do with it, you stupid old woman! In the last two weeks I've been arrested, I've lost my fiancee and my job, I've watched my semi-imaginary brother get eaten by a wall of birds in Piccadilly Circus, I've flown back and forth across the Atlantic like some kind of lunatic transatlantic ping-pong ball, and today I got up in front of an audience and I, and I sang because my psycho ex-boss had a gun barrel gainst the stomach of the girl I'm having dinner with. All I'm trying to do is sort out the mess my life has turned into since you suggested I might want to talk to my brother. So, no. No, I don't know what to do with this bloody feather.
Neil Gaiman's writing is nothing if not a little effusive but it is also very funny. As I close in on the last few pages of his Anansi Boys my reaction to this book is much more favorable than the one I had to American Gods. This has been my favorite book of his written for adults. It is a highly entertaining read with an amusing premise, an involving plot - the final 150 pages or so are very suspenseful - and a meaningful theme of learning how to know and accept yourself and then to face the world from that knowledge, although the message is thankfully handled with a light touch. Really fun. Here and here are my other posts on it.

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