“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 so 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.”
“Anansi Boys” by Neil Gaiman
While Good Omens was my first real exposure to Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys was actually the first of his individual books that I have read. Light, funny, antic, I’ve always felt it was a great introduction, especially since it helped me be better and delightfully gobsmacked by the much heavier American Gods. So I have read it again, as it peeked out from me in the next spot in great pile of unread books (which has been scattered about the dry spots of the room since the flood and are finally coalescing slowly with some suggestion of order), and it’s just as much a delight now as it was then.
It has been a while since I’ve sat down and read all of it, and not just the Daisy bits for research for my character at Fandom High a while back, so much of it was a little different from how I remembered it. It's interesting how books will sometimes be one way in your mind, and another way when you go over them again. I suppose it is much the same with memories.
Either way, Anansi Boys is the story of Fat Charlie Nancy, who isn’t really that fat, but the nickname has stuck since his father gave it to him when he was younger. You see, Fat Charlie’s father is Anansi, the spider-god, a trickster god, and he loves stirring up trouble, which Fat Charlie has managed to avoid for the most part since growing up and moving to England, but then his father goes off and dies, and Far Charlie is pulled back into that world when he returns to Florida for the funeral. There, he discovers the possibility of a brother; he is told that if he wants to see him, just ask a spider and, upon returning to London, Fat Charlie foolishly does, and along came a Spider.
Spider is Fat Charlie’s forgotten brother, who seems to have inherited all of their father’s most annoying, embarrassing, flamboyant, and tricksy traits. Spider infringes on every aspect of Fat Charlie’s life: he moves himself on in on Fat Charlie’s apartment, on his job, and even on his fiancee. Nothing seems sacred, so, exasperated, Fat Charlie seeks help in getting rid of Spider once and for all, which leads him to the End of the World (or is it the Beginning?), a world of god and animals all rolled in one, most of which who still hold a grudge on Anansi and plan to enact it on his bloodline.
The book starts fairly straight-laced and gets increasingly more mythical and magical as things come to a head. I think Gaiman has a very great talent for taking something ordinary and dipping it deep into the strange and supernatural without the transition being jarring or questionable. Anansi Boys is much lighter fare than, say, American Gods, but sometimes, that lighter fare is just what you need. It’s entertaining, quickly paced, thought provoking and humourous, and it has quite possibly one of the sweetest endings of any book I’ve ever read (except maybe The Westing Game, which can still make me cry). I’m glad I picked it up again, to find myself rooting for Fat Charlie once more as he embraces who he is and transitions from someone content with ordinary to one who is extraordinary just by being who he is. It’s also a great celebration of storytelling and myths, of making your own stories and building off those that already exist.
Books read: 29 out of 100.