Neil Gaiman’s writing is a huge delight. I’ve been somewhat slow to pursue his books and maybe i ought to seek and read them in quicker succession. However to come to them intermittently is perhaps greater fun and extending the treat.
I first read Stardust. There the mix of a traditional wizarding-fantasy with much that was almost contemporary and seasoned with frequent ironic or dry wit, made for very entertaining reading. [The film is accomplished with joyful regard for Gaiman’s satirical intent.] Having read just a few more of Gaiman’s books – most recently Anansi Boys – i realise this style, a charming humour that cuts our human pretensions down to size while travelling through a world that’s familiar but just on the surreal side of reality, is Gaiman.
Anansi Boys was very enjoyable for this curiously happy mix which is Gaiman’s characteristic form. Take, for instance, the conjuring of the spirit world around a kitchen table in old suburban Florida.
“Now,” said Mrs Dunwiddy, “the devil grass, the St John the Conqueror root, and the love-lies-bleeding.”
Mrs Bustamonte rummaged in her shopping bag and took out a small glass jar. “It’s mixed herbs,” she explained. “I thought it would be all right.”
“Mixed herbs!” said Mrs Dunwiddy. “Mixed herbs!”
“Will it be a problem?” said Mrs Bustamonte. “It’s what I always use when the recipe says basil this or oregano that. I can’t be doin’ with it. You ask me, it’s all mixed herbs.”
Mrs Dunwiddy sighed. “Pour it in,” she said.
Such blithe, irreverent and typical fun. You really can’t resist so much unlikeliness when the people are so real. So why, when i read the reviews originally, i thought this was not a book i’d like, i now can’t quite fathom. For it has, as the blurb so succinctly puts it: ‘dark prophecy, family dysfunction, mystical deceptions, and killer birds. Not to mention a lime. – Anansi Boys. God is dead. Meet the kids.’
When we travelled to Europe last i needed a book for the plane and decided on Neverwhere – we were bound for London after all. It was a perfect choice. A compelling read it took me deeply away from the tedium of long flights into the marvel of its invention. I’m hugely impressed and think it my favourite of the Gaiman stories i’ve read so far. [Though in a different way The Day I Swapped My Father for Two Goldfish (especially when read by the author himself – not something every writer can or should be allowed to do, but Gaiman is excellent at reading his own stuff here) is very fine too.]