Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman, 2005)

Trickster narratives are not my cuppa, so I was all prepared to give this particular one a pass, but then musesfool wrote: "what I really, really liked about this book is that it's about stories, and how they get told, and what they mean, and how they can change your life." Now, that’s pretty much as close as I get to a bullet-proof kink, so I had to read it.

We open with
Chapter One: Which Is Mostly About Names and Family Relationships

     It begins, as most things begin, with a song.
     In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little god and the animals, how all of them came into the world.
     They were sung.
So yeah, I was kind won from the start.

Fat Charlie is too easily embarrassed, though I frequently found myself wanting to bash his father’s head in. Susanna Clarke [back cover blurb] says, “Guaranteed to make all but the most committed arachnophobe feel gratefully towards spiders,” and I was surprised to find myself actually agreeing with this by the end since, as stated above, Anansi is not really my fave.

     “But I brought them, thought the spider. Like you asked.

I got all teary at that.
You told me to go for help. I brought them back here with me. They followed my web strand. There are no spiders in this creation, so I slipped back and webbed from there to here and from here to there again. I brought the warriors. I brought the brave.
Yup, definitely choked up.
     “Now, Anansi stories, they have wit and trickery and wisdom. Now, all over the world, all of the people they aren’t just thinking of hunting and being hunted anymore. Now they’re starting to think their way out of problems—sometimes thinking their way into worse problems. They still need to keep their bellies fill, but now they’re trying to figure out how to do it without working—and that’s the point where people start using their heads. Some people think the first tools were weapons, but that’s all upside down. First of all, people figure out the tools. It’s the crutch before the club, every time. Because now people are telling Anansi stories, and they’re starting to think about how to get kissed, how to get something for nothing by being smarter or funnier. That’s when they start to make the world.”
     “It’s just a folk story,” she said. “People made up the stories in the first place.”
     “Does that change things?” asked the old man. “Maybe Anansi’s just some guy from a story, made up back in Africa in the dawn days of the world by some boy with blackfly on his leg, pushing his crutch in the dirt, making up some goofy story about a man made of tar. Does that change anything? People respond to the stories. They tell them themselves. The stories spread, and as people tell them, the stories change the tellers. Because now folks who never had any thought in their head but how to run from lions and keep far enough away from rivers that the crocodiles don’t get an easy meal, now they’re starting to dream about a whole new place to live. The world may be the same, but the wallpaper’s changed. Yes? People still have the same story, the one where they get born and they do stuff and they die, but now the story means something different to what it meant before.”
That, folks, is how you sell me on Anansi.

“God is dead. Meet the kids” says the blurb. I had no idea how true that would be. And my above-mentioned issues with Charlie and his father passed fairly early on, so for most of the story it really was really interesting watching the different dynamics and the interplay of different forces, and I am so not being articulate here, but suffice it to say, I liked the book a lot despite having expected to not like it at all.

I’m not gonna bother quoting all the great/amusing bits (flamingos and shrimp, correct numbers, rational fear of birds, etc.) but oh the Neil Gaiman love. The Acknowledgments end with:
      And a final thank you to something that didn’t exist when I wrote American Gods: to the readers of the journal at www.neilgaiman.com, who were always there whenever I needed to know anything and who, between them all, as far as I can tell, know everything there is to be known.
Tags: books: read, neil gaiman, neil gaiman: anansi boys, the power of stories

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