Anansi Boys Review
“It begins, as most things begin, with a song.”
–Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
A while back I got an idea for a selection of stories surrounding the theme of song. But song, in itself, is not theme enough. Each story needs possess its own themes, even if themes overlap. Even if they all involve song in some way. Still, the overarching idea of songs as a collection (many collections) of short stories began to creep into my mind and, before long, this idea had rooted itself deeply and firmly into the Books of Songs (forthcoming (someday)).
It is a happy coincidence that I stumbled upon Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Well, I suppose I did not stumble as much I sought this book out because Neil Gaiman is always a good, fun read. He always has so much to say. I have read other Gaiman books and always enjoyed them. Anansi Boys though had somehow eluded me, until now.
Here is a short review of a very entertaining book.
Fat Charlie (a nickname given to him by his father) Nancy, who would much prefer to be called Charles, has spent his life embarrassed, nay mortified, by his dad.
Then his dad does the unthinkable. He dies. Just imagine the audacity. The embarrassment. Now Fat Charlie has to go back to America for the first time in years for a funeral. Then, halfway through the funeral Fat Charlie discovers something unexpected and almost equally embarrassing as the death itself. Charlie’s dad was a god.
We follow Fat Charlie as he journeys through the world of the gods, from discovering primitive magic to his secret brother, Spider, who shows up wielding strange magic and generally making a mess of Charlie’s life. His life is thrown into chaos – his fiancée leaves him, his brother moves in on her (in fact, one could argue that this brother is the reason she dumped Charlie in the first place) and Fat Charlie is set up to take the fall for a very terrible person. All the while, Charlie is dealing with the fallout from his father’s embarrassing death.
With themes including confidence, family struggles, love, heritage, cleverness/wit/intelligence overcoming strength/might, deceit/ gullibility, fortune/luck, mingled with expert world building, character building, and a twist of mythology/folklore/fantasy that Gaiman weaves together like no other, Anansi Boys is more than worth the read.
Here are a few passages and lines from the book that are worth quoting. Just a teaser to entice you to dig into this absorbing, funny, face-paced adventure.
“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead.”
“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”
This following exchange is one of my favorite passages from this book. Very clever.
“I am frightened of nothing.”
“Are you extremely frightened of nothing?”
“Absolutely terrified of it.”
“I have nothing in my pockets. Would you like to see it?”
“No, I most definitely would not.”
“Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.”
“Songs remain. They last…A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That’s the power of songs.”
The following is quoted from Spider who is, in my opinion, the most fun character in the book to listen to. I love the way he says things.
“Pain shared, my brother, is pain not doubled but halved. No man is an island.”
And finally, the most important takeaway from this book, at for me as a writer:
“The important thing about songs is that they’re just like stories. They don’t mean a damn unless there’s people listenin’ to them.”