A Story About Storytelling (Plus Prude-Approved Sexuality): Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the things I really appreciate about the Neil Gaiman books I’ve read (well, the grown-up ones, which are this one and American Gods) is that they’re not overtly sexual. Sex happens in them, but there’s none of the awkward knowledge that someone sat down and decided which words to use for which body parts, imagined this particular scenario, and now is passing this particular, specific fantasy to me via the words on the page.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that weird.

So, I like that Gaiman lets suggestion and innuendo do the work for him. It gets the job done and doesn’t weird me out. Call me a prude if you like; it wouldn’t be the first time. At least not my first time. (See…like that.)

Even aside from the non-awkward sexual references, this was a good story and the writing was solid. The characters were complex and I loved the way Gaiman played with language, between the dialects and the excellent stoat references. I listened to part of this on audiobook while crocheting a scarf, and Lenny Henry’s command of accents really enhanced the experience (until I started wondering why I was sitting with a ball of wool in my lap in unseasonably warm spring weather listening to a story set largely in tropical climates and I switched back to the large-print version that was all they had left at the library when I went to check out the book).

One idea I really liked was that people reflect the art around them.

“People take on the shapes of the songs and the stories that surround them, especially if they don’t have their own.”

Which is a good reason to avoid television, I think. That was kind of implied in the Grahame Coats character, with all of the cliches he uses and references to crime dramas and reality police shows. These were the stories that surrounded him and that shaped him. And I suppose you’ll just have to read the book to see where that got him. I appreciate that Gaiman seems to lean towards writing the kind of story by which I don’t mind being shaped.

Like I was saying, though, it was good, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way American Gods did. It seemed a little too neat (neat in the “not messy” sense). And all of the transatlantic flights kind of wore on me. I don’t enjoy flying, even in novels.

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