First things first. I love Neil Gaiman. I LOVE him love him. This just happens to be the first book of his that I've read. And look, guys . . . I ACTIVELY tried to love this book as much as I love its author. A book has never been given a better chance at love than the chance I gave THIS book. It just didn't do it for me.
|Go ahead, American Gods fans. I can take it.|
Also, America is full of gods from various cultures that were brought over in the hearts and minds of immigrants over the years. The old gods (think Anansi and Kali) are fading, because few actively worship them in the New World, and the new gods (think Media and Technology) are thriving from the focused adoration of the masses. And therein lies the main conflict of the story (I think?): the old unwilling to make way for the new.
This is all perfectly acceptable . . . and even GOOD. Interesting premise. Complex characters. A clever explanation for the significance of roadside attractions ("In the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they've never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit" [p. 118]).
SO WHY COULDN'T I LOVE IT?
SO WHY COULDN'T I LOVE IT?
As far as the content, one of the main complaints I've heard is that certain prominent deities (most conspicuously, the Christian one) don't figure into the plot at all. This particular aspect didn't bother me once I realized that the oversight wasn't an oversight at all.
"'It's going to be a white Christmas,' said Shadow as he pumped the gas.
'Yup. Shit. That boy was one lucky son of a virgin.'
'Lucky, lucky guy. He could fall in a cesspit and come up smelling like roses. Hell, it's not even his birthday, you know that? He took it from Mithras. You run into Mithras yet? Red cap. Nice kid. . . . So, yeah, Jesus does pretty good over here. But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.'" (pp. 207-208)
If Jesus isn't adversely affected by the central conflict between old and new, it makes sense that he doesn't figure into the plot. And, in a Q&A at the end of my edition of the book, Gaiman confirms that the omission was a conscious decision.
"If you're asking why Christ doesn't turn up, it's mostly because he was, like Buddha, or several other individuals, much too successful and busy to be interested (or even interestable) in anything Mr. Wednesday would have had to offer."
There's THAT gripe settled.
But what kept me from loving this book as much as I wanted to was the writing style. It's clipped and cold and . . . kind of soulless. I didn't find ONE sentence that was underline-worthy in the whole book. Not ONE phrase constructed well enough to warrant reaching for a pen. Oh, wait . . . I just found something I underlined toward the end.
"The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies." (p. 547)I really like cookies.
But, once again, Neil explained himself in the Q&A:
"I wanted to write American Gods in what I thought of as an American style---clean, simple, uncluttered---and push the narrator further into the background than I had on previous books."Oh, Neil. You were trying to write "American"? Let's not try that again, please.
I'm about 100 pages into Neverwhere, and I am a MUCH bigger fan of British Gaiman. I've even underlined things! This is good news for me, a lover of Neil Gaiman who didn't QUITE love American Gods.
Now watch as I wantonly compare this book to other things: When I described the plot to my husband, he said, "Oh. So it's like Watchmen." *shrugs*
SOURCE: Gaiman, Neil. (2001). American Gods. New York: HarperCollins.
|I'll never get a better opportunity to use this.|