News / 

'Anansi' sneaks in a snicker

Save Story

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Neil Gaiman says upfront that his new novel, Anansi Boys, "is not a big, solid, serious book."

After all, from his Sandman graphic novels to his best-selling epic novel, American Gods, Gaiman has made a career of being dark and fantastical, the cerebral conceit behind a cult of Goth and gloom.

So when birds begin pecking out the hero's eyes in Anansi Boys, it comes as a surprise when you start to laugh.

Where American Gods was bold and profound, chasing across a fractured American landscape in search of the secret beings who rule the Internet and cellphones, this sequel is funny and subversive, a comedy of ill-mannered gods and bad-hearted mortals.

It isn't quite Gaiman Lite, but if Mark Twain could be channeled through an Englishman's prism, it might very well emerge as this singsong reverie, narrated by some karaoke-induced Huckleberry Finn.

"Fat Charlie wasn't sure that he liked freedom," Gaiman writes. "There was too much open air involved."

Want more Huck?

The hero decides to make peace with his dead father, the god Anansi of the title, who is to be buried among artificial flowers at a Florida cemetery. He pours out his heart, cries, says he never told his dad he loved him and shocks the mourners, who gently inform him he's at the wrong funeral!

Despite the book's fanciful edgings -- the hero's brother is a mischievous godling who steals his girlfriend, his job and his life -- Anansi Boys is Gaiman's most mainstream work to date with an Everyman's heart and a romantic's cruelty.

Where American Gods sought to discover the New World through a rude boy's eyes, Anansi Boys is more intimate, picking apart the fears that lock families together.

In this world of petty gods ruining the lives of desperate men, Gaiman is pitiless and arch. He often sacrifices narrative for wordplay and improvisation. You can almost hear his writer's voice shouting, as if at a Second City nightclub, "OK, now have flamingoes attack!"

But Gaiman's mastery of language carries the reader through to a satisfying conclusion.

Set in a dreamlike world of reality and circumstance, Anansi Boys belies Gaiman's admonitions. No, it is not big, and it may not even be serious, but it is laugh-out-loud funny and scary as a spider on your arm. Or a spider you think is there.

To see more of, or to subscribe, go to

© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Most recent News stories


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast