Friday, August 14, 2009

Something to sink my Teeth into, Thank God for Neil Gaiman



I was starting to loose hope in all literature. The last few books that I've read have made me feel like a snob. I mean, I'm not even published yet, so who am I to criticize other authors? But I can't help it. I read and things jump out at me, both good and bad, and sometimes it can ruin or make a book for me. I am, by nature, a critical person. If it makes the authors of books I've dumped on feel any better, I'm the same way with myself. You think I'm being critical of you? Imagine how badly I beat myself up.

Anyway, I haven't read a kick ass novel that I had nothing bad to say about since...The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. But hoorah, Neil Gaiman has re-established my conviction in delineating the good from the bad!

In the spirit of my new addiction to audio books I took out Anansi Boys from my library. I obviously knew who Neil Gaiman was prior to reading Anansi Boys. He's famous and you'd have to be living on a rock not to have at least heard his name. I've also seen a few movies based off of his books and I'm a fan of Amanda Palmer, who happens to be his girlfriend. And since I'm following Amanda of Twitter, I also decided to follow Neil. Then I told myself: You're following a famous author on Twitter, but you haven't read anything by him. Maybe we should remedy this, yes?

It took my a day to get through Anansi Boys. I liked it so much that I went and got the only other Neil Gaiman book my library carries: Stardust. And now, I'm officially going to go prowl the rest of Connecticut's libraries until I've heard them all.

Top three things I liked most:

1. The Readers. Lenny Henry, the reader for Anansi Boys, was awesome. He had great accents, read at the right pace, and hate the correct tonalities for each of the characters. Neil read Stardust and what can be better than the writer reader his own work to you? You know exactly how a certain statement was meant to sound. You know exactly where the dramatic pauses are. It's absolutely wonderful and I have no idea why more authors don't read their own books. Perhaps the ability to write doesn't necessarily mean you have an awesome ability to emulate old crones.

2. Neil has a great way of putting things. The way he creates metaphor and simile are fresh and flawless. I often found myself liking a character more because he had a different way of looking at the world. A funny way of looking at the world. Neil didn't come off as repetitive and none of his characters seemed dull or reflective of another character. His characters have life. I can close my eyes and see Anansi doing his soft shoe shuffle in the sand. I can see Tristran's strange fairy ear.

3. Anansi Boys was different. It wasn't a coming of age story...or was it? I like when a story can't be blatantly labeled. Stardust was a little more blatant, but I want to compare it to the story I listened to right before it: The Society of S by Susan Hubbard. Both are coming of age stories for halfling teens who must come to terms with what they are and who they want to be. Both are partly otherworldly, both must explore the part of them that is otherworldly, both of these teens also have separated parents. I think Stardust kicks The Society of S's tush. Why? Motive, climax, conclusion, story building, character building. I cared a lot more about Tristran Thorn than I did for Ariella Montero and Ariella was telling her own story and her story was much longer.

I could probably go on forever, comparing Neil Gaiman against the other authors I've been reading lately. But my husband said it best: Neil Gaiman is famous for a reason. Amanda Palmer dates him for a reason. Yes. Clever girl.

Now, I have to ponder another issue.

So far the top three books I've read this year are: The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. These are my winners because, not only are they good stories, but they are good pieces of literature. I didn't read either of these books without at some point stopping and thinking: "Wow, that was a great line" or "What an interesting way of putting it". Nothing I read in these books made me mentally draw back and think: "Did you really have to write that?" Nothing felt repetitive or contrived. The characters, both major and minor, were interesting and engaging. I cared about what happened to them. I cared about the worlds the authors were operating in. There were sold conflicts and resolutions and development and growth. Nothing was stagnant.

My issue is that these are all male writers and their main characters are also male. I find that concerning. Granted I've purposely been trying to read more male writers...but I just finished two novels by females and neither was as wonderful as it could have been.