Thursday, June 26, 2008
Seduced by Humor
Well, it’s been awhile since I updated you on the status of my crush on author Neil Gaiman. About a month ago our “relationship” hit the skids when I read his short story collection Fragile Things. Was the book that bad? Actually, it was excellent, and helped me realize I wanted to get back to writing short fiction. However, several of the stories truly freaked me out and I found myself more perplexed by and scared of Mr. Gaiman than attracted to him. What can you expect, really, from a horror fantasy collection? But I was emotionally unprepared to deal with the man’s monstrous side, even having read his admittedly dark American Gods.
I put the whole thing out of my mind and carried on. 2008 is the year in which I am alternating between reading Gaiman and C.S. Lewis, so I turned to A Grief Observed (marvelous!) and otherwise did a lot of writing and playing Peggle. I had brief “love affairs” with Benjamin Linus, cucumber margaritas, and Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster (don’t worry, Kerry Wood, you’re still my main man baseball-wise). I also had a longer and more intimate dalliance with Nate Jonas, the bestselling sci-fi author who wrote The Vicious Views of Eyes, and who is completely fictitious and the male lead in my new short story “Nate and Erica Write a Sex Scene.”
You may suspect from that last sentence that all this while I was in denial, seeing as I chose to pen a tale about a romance author and a sci-fi author collaborating. My protestation that Neil writes fantasy and that the four-letter-names-beginning-with-N is pure coincidence will probably sound like I doth protest too much. But seriously, Nate is more a much nicer version of Harlan Ellison, and younger of course. When you read the story sometime in 2009, you’ll see he’s nothing like Gaiman.
So I was totally on a break, until I had to take a book to the oil change place last Saturday and picked up Anansi Boys. Ah, Neil, what a multi-dimensional creature you are! This spin-off of American Gods is, as the author frequently points out in interviews, totally different in spirit from its predecessor. And worlds apart from the often horrific Fragile Things.
For one thing—and perhaps the most important thing—it’s hilarious.
I’ve watched interviews with Neil and the man really can be, and frequently is, funny. It’s that polite, smart, quirky, articulate kind of British humor, perfectly employing absurdity and hyperbole. “Shaun of the Dead” type humor. It’s disarming, it’s charming—it makes you smile while you’re laughing if you know what I mean.
Another author would say, “Mrs. Dunwiddy was amazingly old.” Neil Gaiman says, “There were geological ages that were probably younger than Mrs. Dunwiddy. As a boy, Fat Charlie imagined Mrs. Dunwiddy in Equatorial Africa, peering disapprovingly through her thick spectacles at the newly erect hominids.”
And Anansi Boys is not simply seasoned with this humor like Neil’s other books I’ve read. It’s jelly-rolled with it. I’m telling you, reading this book is like enjoying one of those 12-layer tortes, and the frosting is humorous-Neil-Gaiman flavored.
Okay, I’ve said before how sexy humor can be. Let me tell you, I should have listened to myself. I read a chapter of this book, I sit there letting Neil spin his yarns to me, with that voice so British you can hear it from the printed page. His words make me grin, fill my belly with that warm, happy, delighted feeling. Every page brings new pleasure, and it’s actually physical, not just cerebral. Then I reluctantly put down the book and there’s that great picture of Gaiman on the back cover.
All right, I surrender!
I’m still in love with this guy and I suppose the fact that he can also scare the crap out of me only makes it all more interesting. As Alan Tudyk (Wash from “Firefly”) can tell you, when I fall for funny men it’s hard to get over it, and as Eddie Izzard can tell you, when they’re Brits it’s even worse. (Oh yeah, and Nate Jonas is American, so there.) If Neil could sing and survive in the wild, I’d simply have to let my reason go and become a stalker…but fortunately, he and Les Stroud are separate people.
[Sidebar: Ryan Dempster, if you google your name and find this, I’m aware that you are one of the funniest men in pro baseball. I am trying not to read your interviews lest you attempt to lure me away from my devotion to Kerry with your hilarious Harry Caray impressions and what-not.]
Okay, so Neil and I are back on. I bought Smoke and Mirrors and Neverwhere last weekend. I figure I’ll need to go back to some more serious Gaiman to prevent myself from driving to Minneapolis and staking out the comics shops where he reportedly hangs out. But first I have to get through Anansi Boys with my heart and sanity intact.
Pray for me.