It seems that while I was waiting for the weekend to write about the Neil Gaiman book I finished reading another book…
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
I try to read at least one “young adult” book a year and Neil Gaiman is always a good choice. As a language teacher, I delight in his use of language!
I must admit that this one is a bit more predictable than “The Graveyard Book” , which I thought was better, but it is still a good book.
One of Gaiman’s specialties is weaving teen-angst themes into fantasy books. Despite the fact that the main characters in this book are not teenagers (in their 20s, it seems) teenagers can easily identify with them. I won’t give you any spoilers related to the fantasy part but basically this book is about the introvert kid who never “fit in”, felt embarrassed by his father, lacked self-confidence who learns to believe in himself.
It’s good for everyone to be reminded of these issues, particularly if you happen to teach teenagers, which I do!
“When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris
I’ve been reading short stories by Sedaris in the New Yorker Magazine for years and have heard Sedaris read stories of his on This American Life podcast many times. However, it is the first time I have read an entire book by Sedaris, which is actually a collection of short stories.
I was a bit worried because there is a big difference between enjoying a short story by an author from time to time and reading a bunch of them in a row. I thought it would become too repetitive and that I would lose interest.
That didn’t happen.
There’s something unique about his style, I don’t know if I can explain it. The “back cover reviews” includes one that is relevant “This is a man who could capture your heart and lift your spirits while reading out the ingredients of a rice cake”. I don’t about “lift your spirits” but the rest is true. He seems to start by telling the most mundane, simple things he notices about people and places, his unusual family and his life with his partner and you wonder what IS this about. Then suddenly he connects all with thought-provoking observations about life, society, racism, relationships (in general and sexual ) and more.
I wouldn’t say I would describe many of the stories as “funny” like they say on the cover, though the story that connected “Hitchcock-like birds” and music from the sixties was “laugh out loud” funny. Though I do chuckle more when I hear him read aloud the stories.