Books I’ll Never Read #8 – Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

So, because I hated American Gods, I’m not ever going to read this one.

Let me just remind you, with some other reviews from Goodreads, why Neil Gaiman gets mythology all wrong:

The basic idea: the more worshippers a God has, the more powerful they are. The plot: there is a building power struggle between the old Gods (Norse, Native American, pagan, etc.) and the new Gods (Technology, Television, Money, etc.). Okay, I’ve heard the ratio-of-worshippers-to-power idea before so that’s not so original. But it’s not a deal breaker. It has potential. Here’s the unique twist in American Gods that caused my political antenna to start twitching—every God (like say Odin) has an “avatar” of him or herself in each country. Or is it each continent? Gaiman’s not quite clear about that. Would there be an Odin in Belgium and Luxembourg? Or does all of Europe get one Odin who is different from the American Odin? I find it politically disagreeable to suggest that every country (or even continent) has different God-avatars. To make this the premise turns intangible political entities (nations) into strictly bordered spiritual containers. It’s parochial thinking. I disagree with this premise radically because I reject that people of a given “nation” are somehow bonded spiritually. Countries are artificial. Like Afghanistan. Like how we stole the native people’s land to form America. I ascribe to the perspective that while people should always be fighting for political freedom and better political systems locally and nationally, we are truly citizens of the world together. The premise of American Gods manages to privilege the people in one country as somehow being united in their spiritual energy, feeding the Gods only within that country. As a metaphor (Gaiman repeatedly feels the need to state that this premise is a metaphor) it fails.

If we’re dealing with powerful gods, where was the Christian one?

Second, yes I understand Gaiman’s use of metaphor in the story. The “new gods” are the internet, credit cards, television, etc, etc. but since I’m an American and Gaiman is a Brit, I just don’t see America the way he does. Afterall, the Brits have internet, credit cards and television too! The entire world has come to worship these things and so his attributing them to America feels a little like criticism. His road trip across America was not recognizable to me. I guess I live in a different America and if I want a road trip, give me Jack Kerouac’s On the Road…..oh yeah.

I am really into mythology and found that Gainman’s portrayal of the new gods to be weak. I know about Norse myth. I know about Egyptian myth; however, if America has created new gods then what are their myths? He barely gets into any of them at all, which was disappointing. That could have been very profound especially if the idea is that America has completely different gods based on our culture versus the old gods.

Even the novel’s basic premise (that America is a land unfit for gods because only the land itself could attract worship) flies in the face of history, as i can think of at least three major world religions that have thrived and given birth to new sects here — several of which have since spread to become massive international sects. Likewise, his reductionist approach to Native American religion is remarkably offensive, in that it dismisses every aspect of every Native American religious tradition which is not connected to Earth-worship.

I just read The Golom and the Jinni and it had a lot of little character stories, but in the end, they all came together and made sense. The ending was so much more satisfying when all the parts have a reason for being there.

I’m afraid when an author becomes “famous”, editors start to over look all the normal criticisms they would have if a nobody author wrote such a thing. This book is in sore need of a ruthless editor.

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