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Anansi Boys

Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider is on his doorstep—about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting . . . and a lot more dangerous.

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  1. Leonard Fleisig "Len" says

    The web of our life is of a mingled yarn good and ill together. That line from Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well captures the essence of Neil Gaiman’s latest creation, Anansi Boys.Charlie Nancy is one of life’s more passive characters. He is perpetually embarrassed by those around him. He grew up in Florida embarrassed by his father who had an eye for the ladies, never seemed to have a job, and who bestowed upon Charlie the nickname “Fat Charlie”. It is a name that stuck to Charlie like glue and has followed him everywhere he goes, even to England where he now lives and works. More than anything else, Fat Charlie is embarrassed by himself. His life is an endless stream of self-conscious needless apologies for his life. As one would expect from a character like Charlie he is timid in front of his boss and can’t seem to convince his fiancĂ© that there is nothing wrong with consummating their relationship prior to their marriage. The word perpetually frustrated comes to mind here.As the story opens, Fat Charlie is back in Florida for the funeral of his father. Charlie no doubt hopes his dad’s death, which occurred while singing a song in a Karaoke bar much to Charlie’s embarrassment, will put an end to his own state of perpetual embarrassment. That is the closure Charlie seeks. But the old ladies who made up his Dad’s circle of friends tell Fat Charlie that their father was something of a god, in fact a spider god. They also tell Fat Charlie he has a brother. Fat Charlie, of course, will have none of this nonsense and returns to England.Of course, life is never so simple for any character drawn by Neil Gaiman. It turns out Fat Charlie does have a brother, Spider, who is everything Charlie is not. Spider is personable, charming, glib, and has the ability to charm the pants off just about anyone he desires. As the name Spider implies, Charlie is soon drawn into the parallel world inhabited by Spider a world of small gods and vengeful animals. Fat Charlie is introduced to a whole new universe of characters and his ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy grows increasingly thin.Anansi Boys worked on two levels for me. First, I actually grew attached to the character of Fat Charlie. I was surprised that I developed such empathy for Fat Charlie. Generally, I do not find `passive’ characters all that attractive, but, as the book wore on I felt myself rooting for him. Second, Anansi Boy is, at its heart a story about a dysfunctional (but very funny) family and explores how its members try to reach some accommodation with their past and their present relationships. This is not meant to imply that the book is weighed down with ponderous statements on the meaning of life or families; far from it. The great success of Gaiman’s writing in my opinion is that he can handle a topic with both humor and sensitivity. The story does not bog down in `deep thoughts’. Gaiman spins his yarn and leaves it up to the reader to read between the laughs. I found the conclusion to be particularly well done.Anansi Boys, like the spiders that form its conceptual heart, draws you inexorably into its web until you cannot get out. Fortunately, Gaiman has spun such a fine yarn that you don’t mind being ensnared at all. This was a book worth reading.

  2. Jack E. Holt, III says

    Some stories are better heard than read I have a comment on the CD version because, frankly, it was much more magical and interesting than the written work by itself. Anansi stories were made to tell around a fire at night, or out on the trail to pass the time, or, ever so quietly, while casting in a line to fish.They are stories for people who do things, not just read things.You can’t read “Evil-doers beware!” and not think it’s all a bit silly. But when you hear it around the fire, and thrill to the sound in your own blood, it doesn’t sound silly at all. THAT’s the power of stories told instead of read.More importantly, Lenny Henry’s voice captures every character as a unique creation. At first, the island accents are a little hard to follow, but then you get into the spirit of the thing. I know Lenny Henry as a comedian. I think the best comedians are observers and Henry has clearly observed a lot.I enjoyed Mrs. Higler and Graham Coates the best, I suppose. Mrs. Higler is the voice of every well-meaning-but-meddling old woman who ever lived. Graham Coates is a fat weasel of a man who wants to be a big man. We’ve all met their type before. Lenny Henry takes us into their hearts with just a little bit of pacing and a fake accent or two.Truthfully, though, I liked the stories BEHIND the stories, the original African tales worked into the novel, most of all. I played them for the toughest audience in the world– my five-year old son. My son listened to the Anansi stories with a smile on his face that could outshine the sun. At the end of the tar-baby story he laughed and asked for more.(Unfortunately, some of the book is a little too intense for young kids. So, I’m probably going to spend a fortune on e-bay to find some tapes Lenny Henry made of Mother Goose Tales. If they’re half as good as Gaiman’s & Henry’s tale, it’ll be worth it.)I saw that a lot of people didn’t like the book and all of those reviews compared this book unfavorably with American Gods. I suppose that’s so. American Gods is a dark ride through the landscape and the psyche. It’s magic at it’s most threatening. A tale of terrors long-forgotten. A tiger tale. And those have their place.If that’s the only type of tale you like — then neither this book nor this recording are for you.But if there’s a little “flexibility” in how you view the world. . . if you like to hear someone new tell an old story. . . if you think Br’er Rabbit and Bugs Bunny are zen philosophers in disguise. . . .Well, then, this might be the best story you’ve ever heard.

  3. Brian Welsch says

    It’s all in how you sing your song Anansi Boys started off a little slowly, I thought. Fat Charlie was such a drab anti-hero, but I found myself wondering how this guy was going to become interesting, because I genuinely liked the character despite his awkwardness. Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job pacing this story. We get sucked into the eccentricities of Charlie’s brother, Spider, right along with Charlie. I found myself getting frustrated with Spider, much as I imagine Charlie was.By the second half of the story, you could see the brothers’ relationship changing. They were feeding off each other in a way, taking on characteristics of each other. Brilliantly done.An interesting addition to the book was the 2 or 3 fables about Anansi that were spaced out in the first half of the tale. It made for a great lead-in to the interaction at the beginning/end of the world. I especially liked the scene with Tiger and the weasel. More so than in American Gods and Neverwhere, I felt Neil’s writing was up to the task of his creativity. Definitely recommended to anyone with an imagination.

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