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Called Out

Carey rightfully calls me out: despite what I have in the sidebar at the right, I'm not currently reading Neil Gaiman's new novel Anansi Boys. It would be more accurate to say that I am re-reading Out and waiting impatiently for Anansi Boys to get here. I'd love to say I had a prerelease copy, but sadly I don't know how I'd get hold of one.

I'll admit to some trepidation. On the one hand, Anansi Boys draws its inspiration from the trickster god of African folk lore, and I've always had a fondness for stories of trickster gods. For a few years there's been a trend towards the little rascals of mythology making their way into popular culture. For a while there was a small boomlet in Kokopelli jewelry, for instance, although it seems to have died out. With a new edition of the Principia Discordia out ten years ago, Eris made a bit of a comeback. But if I'm really lucky, Gaiman might do some justice for Anansi and he'll get a little place in the spotlight.

I wish I could find the book that first introduced me to these West African tales. It's one of those books I can still see, a cloth-bound volume that, at least if memory serves, bridged the gap between child and adult fare. I doubt I could still tell you the stories themselves, though I remember they involved weaving webs across the sky and encountering magic sticks. I can remember they were written with a fantastic cadence: they were some of the first books that showed me what language could do. They were also tremendous fun to read out loud.

And the main character! Anansi was at once cunning and yet managed to keep getting himself in trouble. I never knew quite where I was with him. As with most tricksters, he didn't seem entirely malicious, but instead a bit greedy and somewhat mischevious and in love with his own cleverness. I'm sure there are versions of the tales that are darker and less kid-centric. (Certainly Kokopelli's role as seducer doesn't get as much play in children's books as it does in more adult fare.) In any event, I read and reread that book, a volume in an elementary library that I must have checked out a dozen times, and I still have a soft spot for the spider god.

So I worry a bit as to whether I'll like Anansi Boys. I wasn't that convinced by Gaiman's previous modern-mythology novel, American Gods. But hope springs eternal, and if nothing else, it's served to remind me of something I once enjoyed a very great deal. If anyone happens to know a more "adult" telling of Anansi stories, I'd appreciate the recommendation.


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