poison to the mind


1: walking water

Neil Gaiman's last novel (his first novel proper, if you look at it under the right light), while generally a breezy read and packed with humour, also contained lots of death, misery, extended scenes of torture and was hung around a struggle to escape genocide. (If "gods" count as a race.) So, as he said at one of two readings in Sydney last Wednesday, he wanted to make his next book something that people would be able to finish with a smile on their faces and feeling good about themselves. Anansi Boys spins off a character from American Gods, sort of, and from the two excerpts he read is written in a classic British light humourist voice - Adams, D. Noel; Wodehouse, P. Grenville, you know the type.

Fat Charlie is really Charles Nancy, but his dad called him Fat Charlie once, and when his dad named things, the names stuck. His mum didn't stay as keen on Mr. Nancy as she had once been, and took Charlie to live in England, which he was fairly happy about. A couple of decades later, at the wake for said estranged father's funeral, an old woman witters something about s.e.f. having been a god. Charlie of course proposes that this is nonsense, but the biddy insists, and backs it up with phenomena that Charlie had never really given much thought to before.
  "Hold on, if he was a god with goddy powers and fortune and whatnot, shouldn't I, as the son of a god, have some kind of powers and such myself?" he protests.
  "Oh, your brother got all of that," the venerable lady dismisses.

At the outset of this reading, Charlie - back home in England and tipsily removing an inquisitive arachnid from the bath to the garden - has decided to follow his aunt's suggestion that if he ever wants to get in touch with his brother, he just ought to ask a spider.

Neil Gaiman - a bit of Anansi Boys (perhaps the end of Chapter Three or so), Galaxy Books.

Come back tomorrow for a further extract, read a few hours later on the other side of the QVB.

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