ADVENT CALENDAR ’15: Re-reading ‘American Gods’

American Gods

Then: I’m quite a big Neil Gaiman fan. Have I mentioned?

I read Sandman out of order and a bit too young, but I loved them. I can’t remember if I read Neverwhere before I read American Gods, but either way, American Gods came with a lot of strings attached as Gaiman’s magnum opus, and a work of literary genius. I’ve normally got a lot to say in these ‘then’ sections but I’m finding myself oddly at a loss to think of anything this time. I can’t really remember what I thought of American Gods. I remember thinking it was big, and sprawling, and I remember that I missed most of the references to the gods and only had them dawn on me over the years afterwards. I remember the chapter with the taxi driving djinn who has gay sex and being quite shocked that there was gay sex in a mainstream novel.

And that’s it. I wrote an essay in my first year comparing the treatment of godlike characters between this and I, Lucifer and realised with four hours to the deadline I couldn’t remember anything about American Gods and had to call my friend Kat (an aficionado of Norse mythology) to be reminded of what the hell I could write about. (I got a 2.2 for that one.) Since then, I’ve read everything else by Gaiman. I regard him as a slightly godlike presence whose writing is about 90% as good as the myth of how good his writing his.

Now: This is a very long book. If I’m honest, this is my main observation. In 500 pages, a man crosses America, stops off for a bit in a nice village, and then doesn’t have a fight on a field. Gaiman’s prose makes this work–despite a lack of action, he’s always interesting to read. The highlights of the book are actually the short interludes about the forgotten gods journeys to America; these are diverse and fascinating (though that gay sex scene… tame!) It’s a good book but it’s undoubtedly a victim of it’s own hype — American Gods could never be as good as it’s supposed to be.

The concept is the killer, of course, but once you’re over that – or once the concept has been around for more than a decade – it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of the book. In fact, it feels like most of the action of the book is happening just over the hill, whilst Shadow putters around not quite being part of it. I’m not the only one to think this, I believe. All reports on the TV show in development indicate that Shadow’s story will be one facet of the show, and that they will explore all the stories of the other gods. The TV show will take on what is happening off the page and put it on the screen, which should make for a great series.

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