Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neil Gaiman in Three Parts: Part II and III

Okay, I find it funny to put these two in the same post because they're so contridictory. It just shows you how much my opinion can change in a week or two (and over the last two thirds of a book).

Part II

I can't decide if I like Neil Gaiman's style or not. Okay, that's not accurate. I like his style. It fits the character. What I really don't like is the main character. Fat Charlie is so weak, there is nothing to root for. Every chance he gets to redeem himself, to fight back, to take a stand, he wimps out. It's not a trait I like in a person or a character.

I like to read books about characters I like, not characters I like to hate. I spend a lot of time with each book (especially now that I'm trying to slow down and study them a little, per Prose's comments). So reading about a character that I just plain don't like is like inviting people that I don't like to dinner. All the fun things, all the shared conversations, are drained dry, sucked of fun. It's not something I would do to myself in real life. And yet…

Yet, I argued with myself every time I thought, "Let's just skim ahead and find out what happens, put this book aside, and go back to enjoying the rest of the books on my shelves." I couldn't make myself do it. I want to continue to read, if only, I decided, for one simple reason: Gaiman has no qualms about making his characters miserable. Not just making their lives miserable and yet having them buoyed by some inner strengths through the rough times. Nope. Not Gaiman. He leaves Fat Charlie to suffer, and suffer, and just when it couldn't—shouldn't—get worse, Gaiman adds a little more to Fat Charlie's load. As an author who cringes when putting my favorite characters through tough ordeals, it's a good lesson for me to watch a master perform. Books without conflicts are dull. Characters who have it easy are no fun. I understand this, but try spending a month or two with a person, and during that time wishing them ill will at every turn. It's hard.

So I continued. Will I read another Gaiman novel? Not for a long time, if ever. Am I glad I did. Yes. Frustratingly, yes.

Part III

(This is from a few days after I finished the book, about ten days after I wrote Part II.)

Did I like Anansi Boys when it’s all said and done? The fact that I’m still talking about it says a lot. Yes, I ended up liking it. I liked the character growth. Fat Charlie grew on me, as he was supposed to. I liked the fantastical elements interwoven. I liked that it got me out of my comfort zone. (I say this, having finished it and now being back within my comfort zone.) Am I ready to rush out an buy another Neil Gaiman book? Definitely not. Will I ever? Yes.

Reading this book made it hard for me to find the next book to read. For me, that’s a good sign. It means I was so in an author’s world that I’m not ready to leave it. My two books I planned to read—Kim Harrison’s The Outlaw Demon Wails and Janet Evanovich’s Foul Play—I decided against. Evanovich doesn’t have enough meat in her books (I like them, but sometimes I want a little more—she’s like the Hemingway of the authors I read); Harrison had too much meat, and I wanted to be in the right mood to savor her novel.

I read the several pages of a Jayne Castle paranormal, returned to it later in the day and realized I couldn’t remember a thing I’d read. I read the first chapter of a Caitlin Kittredge novel, only to realize I wasn’t in the mood for her kind of violence (I’ve never read her before, so I didn’t know what to expect). I’ll be in the mood again, I’m sure. Just not yet.

So I finally decided on something in the middle—with a little more lust to boot. Sitting in the number-one spot on the shelf is the book I’m currently reading: Lora Leigh’s Mercury’s War.


Shaida said...

Anansi Boys is my least favorite NG book. When you're ready to pick him up again, I recommend Neverwhere or Stardust. I know you don't like the kids' books as much as I do, but Coralne and the Graveyard Book are also great. I even think you would like American Gods more (which is sort of related to Anansi Boys). I remember having similarly mixed feelings when I finished AB.

Rebecca Chastain said...

Shaida--I checked out the flap copy of Neverwhere last night when we were in Barnes and Noble. That one does sound more like my kind of book. I've also had a chance to read an abridged sort of text for Coraline, but not enough to get the flavor of it. Given my general disinterest in YA, I'm especially hesitant to read a Gaiman YA. I really did love the movie Stardust, so I'll probably give that one a read sometime.

Don't you think that reading osmosis would be a great super-power?

Shaida said...

I often wish for the power to read by osmosis (and to photosynthesize), but I think it would make me too greedy (I assume that the osmotic reading would take less time than actually sitting to read, so I could get through a lot more fiction in a much shorter time) and perhaps not take as much time to "absorb" what I've absorbed as I should. Here's a power that would satisfy both my desires, and ultimately lead to my downfall: books you could read by EATING them!

Rebecca Chastain said...

I find your superpower idea hysterical and horrifying. I'd love it, too, and I'd be hopelessly overweight. I'd have to read/eat while on a tredmill just to hope to keep my weight under 500 lbs!