Saturday 15 November 2008

"The platonic ideal of bananas"

A few days ago, I expressed some concern that I would not pick the appropriate book to help me get over my mild case of reader's block; I suggested that I would have to choose very carefully a book that was heavy on story and light on characters, especially characters with complicated names.

Well, friends, I hit pay dirt when I chose Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. This was truly the most a propos book I could have read this week and because of the way it stimulated my reading cells, I'm almost ready to dip into my Henry James short stories again - almost, but not quite. Still, this is progress; I haven't been even close to almost ready to touch James in several months now.

Anansi Boys was an excellent yarn and so I was happy to sherpa it around in the cumbersome hardcover form in which we own it. The story is about Fat Charlie Nancy and the brother he didn't know he had, Spider, and their troubles with the gods who live at the beginning of the world - although the god who's given Fat Charlie the most trouble is their dad, Anansi, the spider god, who is obviously trouble for he wears a green fedora tilted at a rakish angle.

I have read a number of Gaiman's books now and except for Stardust, they were all very enjoyable and memorable but - BUT - Anansi Boys for me was the Gaiman book I'd been waiting for. I loved this book, absolutely loved it - there isn't one drop of qualification I can add to my gushiness about this novel. I really liked his other stuff, especially American Gods, but I feel that Anansi Boys reached all the potentials and pinnacles promised but maybe not quite achieved in the other Gaiman books I've read previously.

Anansi Boys is the perfect combination of fantasy, horror, and the mix-ups and hi jinx that characterize early Shakespearean Comedy, like Twelfth Night. It was funny and sometimes scary and always, always compelling. I could not put this book down and really, all I want in my reading life is to be engaged with books that I'm desperate not to put down for silly things like sleeping or making dinner.

If you're wondering what this blog post's title is all about, check out this interview with Gaiman, conducted recently by Irish writer David Maybury. In it, Gaiman discusses, among other things, the transcendental experience of eating bananas in Thailand. (I can corroborate Gaiman's claim that eating fruit in Thailand that was grown in Thailand is a spiritual act. Mmmmm, Thai pineapple...)

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