I've been suffering under a bit of a reading block recently, especially when it comes to fiction. I keep picking things up but not quite opening them, or only getting a few pages in before getting distracted, or knitting, or any one of a dozen different things. An early Easter has made work a bit hectic too, the wine marketing opportunities are coming thick and fast right now, and it's tiring.
There are bigger problems to have, but I suspect most of us will be familiar with the underdressed, unsettling, feeling of not having a book on the go. I've found the best cure for readers block is to either fall back in a familiar old favourite, or to dig out something different. This time I found some unread Neil Gaimans on my phones kindle app. It's not a format I particularly enjoy, but sometimes it's useful, and so there's a motley collection of things sitting on there.
I found Gaiman through Terry Pratchett, and the collaborative novel 'Good Omens' that they wrote together, and that I'm inclined to think bought out the best in both of them. After that I read my way through The Sandman graphic novels which I loved at the time (I got rid of most of my Sci-Fi in my twenties, which I just occasionally regret).
There's something about reading Gaiman's adult novels that makes me miss the pictures of the graphic works, and something else which makes me think I want to listen to these stories rather than read them.
In 'Anansi Boys' the god Anansi (I'd sort of heard some of his stories - he's a major figure in West African and Caribbean folklore, but I'm not overly familiar with him or the tradition he comes from) has died, leaving his son, Fat Charlie, a bit of a mess to sort out. What I particularly like about Gaiman is the way he uses established folklore, myths, and legends, for so much of what he does.
It feels like a proper continuation of an oral tradition - which is why I want to hear rather than read his books; I never lost the sense of being told a story, and so never really lost myself in the book. In an ideal world you could ask the teller to embellish on certain details, and you might follow some over avenues before winding back to the main arch in this particular version.
Meanwhile the story unwinds with plenty of jokes to soften it's dark edges, it's folklore elements making it both comfortably familiar as well as providing undertones of genuine disquiet as I remember all the things in fairy tales that really frightened me as a child. There's no doubt that everything will work out more or less as it should by the end, but that doesn't mean there isn't some really nightmarish imagery along the way (things I'm grateful aren't illustrated).