Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Neil Gaiman Book Review: American Gods





Hey, a non-Zelazny book review! (Even if the book is dedicated to him.) I think American Gods may be the only non-Roger Zelazny book I've read or listened to at least once a year since its release.

Gaiman's works touch on many of the same themes that Zelazny's did, and he's written a couple pieces about Zelazny and his work, all of which, I believe, can be found in THE COLLECTED STORIES. People compare the two a great deal and it's hard to say which person I consider the better author. I'm not sure that that's meaningful question anyway. I'll just say that I prefer Zelazny for most things and leave it at that.


I'm of two minds on a Brit commenting on the American cultural landscape. On one hand, an outsider can sometimes see things more clearly than someone who's part of a culture. On the other hand, a lot of the things we Americans do are sometimes faintly ridiculous, and we don't need someone coming across the pond and pointing that out for us ("The extra sign announced that the town's under-14's team was the third runner-up in the interstate basketball tournament"), thank you very much.


Ah, but I do like American Gods. I really enjoy audio books. I occasionally call them "books on tape" and I realize that this marks the first part of the inevitable transformation into my grandparents, where I refer to things by names that have not been valid for decades. I have the older recording, which I happen to like quite a lot, and I'm torn on getting the new one. I really like George Guidall's performance, and full cast performances, unless they're done just right, can really put me off. However, the new recording is based on the author's preferred text, which I'm ashamed to say I haven't yet read.


The whole thing reminds me of an exchange near the end of Creatures of Light and Darkness


"What was the Nameless?" 

"A god," says Set, "an old god, I'm sure, with nothing left to be divine about any more."

and that seems to fit Wednesday and his crew.

I love Laura, hate Samantha Black Crow and am almost pathologically indifferent to Shadow. I'm convinced that's by design, however. Gaiman is too talented a writer for it to be otherwise.

And taking Shadow first:

"I'm alive" said Shadow "I'm not dead. Remember?"

"You're not dead" Laura said "But I'm not sure you're alive, either. Not really"

I think that sums up Shadow for me. Shadow reminds me of the god in the book whose name was instantly forgotten as soon as it was said.  At times, he strikes me as little more than a narrator. Shadow's life was turned upside down and he was so passive in a lot of things.

Samantha Black Crow is a mythological figure herself, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and there is nothing about her that's not annoying.


"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen — I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."


She reminds me of Natalie Portman in Garden State, who also happens to be named Sam, something, I am sure, that is not a coincidence.

Aren't you twee, my dear?


I think her role in the novel could have been filled by a mousetrap that snapped shut on my testicles whenever she showed up, which would have at least, made those chapters more tolerable.

And Laura. People often use pathetic not as it once intended, meaning "Inspiring pity" but rather, "inspiring scorn".  It also has a secondary implication of deep melancholy.

She wants to love and be loved. And that's all. She's broken and cannot be otherwise. She's moving around, but not feeling things as the living do. There is one line, when she's rescuing Shadow from the Spook Show and she says "You know why dead people only go out at night, puppy? Because it's easier to pass for real, in the dark."

Not pass for living. Pass for real. 

 
Everything about Laura's treatment in the book is just perfect. And while I think that's partially a function of her relatively limited screen time, it's not entirely attributable to it, and the parts with her are invariably excellent. 


There are so many good scenes. I like the House on the Rock and I like the bit with the TV in the hotel. I think it may be my favorite individual scene. It really seems like it's designed for a visual medium and if that HBO show ever gets made, I think that scene is going to translate well.

If you haven't read the book and you've gotten this far, I don't think you'll have gotten much out of this post. But, just in case, there are real spoilers beyond this point.


SPOILERS
SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS


"Low Key Lyesmith" Okay, is there any excuse for not seeing this ahead of time? I'm not, last time I checked, a complete moron, and it really is, SO OBVIOUS, and yet, I didn't see it coming until Shadow figured it out himself. 

Shadow as Balder. Mmm...not seeing it. Yeah, there's nothing to preclude it, but aside from his identity as Odin's son, there's nothing to imply it either. Now, I know that, per Gaiman, Shadow is Balder, but I've read the book since learning that, specifically looking for information to support it, and I'm still coming up short. I guess Loki has a line later on about stabbing him in the forehead with mistletoe later on, but A.) I think that's in the expanded edition only, and B.) To me, the salient point of that remark was that he was driving a sharpened stake through Shadow's skull, not that the stake was made out of mistletoe. As Loki was the one behind the whole mistletoe exclusion clause to Balder's invulnerability, even the specific reference of mistletoe isn't really a smoking gun.

 It's a great book. There's nothing quite like it. 

37 comments:

  1. What exactly did you find annoying about the passage you cited in full, or so I assume? I personally think it's a bit long. But I also don't know how much Gaiman could have cut it down to get the same point across, since, in my view at any rate, Samantha isn't simply giving a manifesto. Rather, the manifesto tells us an awful lot about American culture. Anyway, it's long, and I don't necessarily agree with it. But it doesn't annoy me. Certainly not to the point that I want to inflict pain on my privates.

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    1. Can't we have one conversation that doesn't involve your privates?

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    2. That's just as likely as a conversation that doesn't involve yours, I'm thinking.

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    3. If you want a serious answer, about why I hate Sam Black Crow so much rather than a sarcastic non-answer, here it is.

      Sam's uncritical acceptance of everything everyone's ever told her is the worst kind of credulity masquerading as open-mindedness. I only wish someone had told her that drinking Draino would give her super-powers so that she would have removed herself from the gene pool and the book before she appeared.

      The Bison God told Shadow to "Believe Everything!", but, to steal a sentiment from Joseph Campbell, while myths are about truth, they are not about fact, and it's a mistake to confuse the two.

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    4. Hmmn. I need to go back and read American Gods to give a proper answer, but I didn't get the impression that Sam is open minded so much as that she'll believe anything.

      I don't disagree with your point about myth not being the same as fact, of course. BUT I think a lot of people make that mistake. Chris Carter made a career out of it. Really, I'm not thinking about Sam at all when I read that paragraph. Rather, even though I disagree with the point Gaiman is making for similar reasons to you, I think it's well written in terms of style, visuals, pace, and what not. It sounds like good writing to me much like Shakespeare, who held pretty repugnant ideas, sounds good. It's been a long time since I read American Gods, but I can still remember that I smiled an awful lot because I liked the writing.

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    5. Oh, I agree. I think Gaiman is an astonishing wordsmith, (look up what he's had to say in praise of G.K. Chesterton) to say nothing of an astounding worldbuilder, and deserves every accolade he's received, and while I'll agree that's a beautifully *written* passage, Sam's rant does come across as a celebration of the utter abrogation of critical thinking, which tends to diminish my appreciation of it somewhat.

      Sam reminds me of the old chestnut, "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out." Gaiman wrote in Sandman: "Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" and maybe that's why I hate Sam so much, because she alone among all the characters Gaiman has ever created seems to lack these inner depths entirely. Her screed strikes me, like everything else the character does, as calculated to give the impression she wants people to have of her.

      For as often as Shadow criticizes the opposition for their empty phrases, Sam's manifesto is as empty as anything Media has to say.

      It's funny you mentioned Chris Carter, because the Men in Black (Messrs. Wood, Town, Stone, etc.) with their black helicopters and alphabet soup remind me of the X-Files, but also of the Technocracy in one of White Wolf's RPGs. They were the villains in Mage: The Ascension, and the thrust of that game's mythology was similar to that which underlay American Gods to some extent. I forget who says it in the book, but someone mentions that that the Men in Black exist because everyone knows they must exist, and that's the deal with Mage. Reality is based on consensus and things like science and medicine only function because everyone *expects* them to function.

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    6. I get what you're saying. I think the biggest difference between us (I was already thinking this before you replied, so either your response confirms it or I'm just projecting) comes down to degree. I'm nearly always fascinated by good writing that tells a problematic story. I'll point to Francis Bacon again. He clearly thought the English were better than everyone else and wrote an awful lot that plays into the way his countrymen went about carving out an Empire for themselves. He validates conquest, war, raping the earth of its resources, and so on. I think Shakespeare is wrong wrong wrong about those things, and it's all too easy to ignore the consequences of that kind of rhetoric because it sounds pretty. At the same time, this doesn't enrage me, though maybe it should. And I have similar feelings about Sam's manifesto. What might be most dangerous about it is that some of the stuff Sam professes, like believing that man's destiny is in the stars, is pretty reasonable. She is a bit like I 3> Huckabees though. She believes in everything, so she believes in nothing.

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    7. Heh. I almost used that exact line about believing in everything and thus believing in nothing.

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  2. Damn you, Josh--I've got a list ten miles long of books that I need to read because I HAVEN'T read them yet, and now you're making me want to re-read American Gods.

    American Gods was the first Neil Gaiman book I read, and it's still my favorite, even though I've only read it the one time and that was a few years ago. I just remember being blown away by how good it was. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I like it more than all but Zelazny's very best works.

    Also, I just finished reading the entire Sandman series, and I read something on the American Gods wiki page that said some of the Sandman characters actually show up in American Gods. So now I really REALLY want to re-read this book.

    But there are just so many books that need to be read, Josh. So many books.

    Ugh. UGH!

    Anyway. Gaiman is my #2 author (you can probably guess who #1 is), and he's one of those people I love to the point of hatred. Yeah, that's right: I hate Neil. Why? Because it's just so frustrating when you reach the end of a Gaiman book and realize, "I will never create anything even 1/100th as good as this." In fact, I just had that feeling when I finished Sandman. It was depressing. I really, really hate Neil.

    But only because I love him. That big jerk.

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    1. I'm pretty sure that Death shows up at one point, when all the gods are gathering.

      I'm taking my time going through it this time around, and man, for such a huge book, it's really tightly scripted. Everything fits together. I love the bit in Cairo and the interlude when Wednesday is talking about grifts. It's flavor yeah, and excellently done, but it ties back to the narrative in the end too.

      Also, strangely, I'm watching Princess Mononoke with my daughter as I write this, and I had forgotten that Gaiman had worked on the dub until right now.

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    2. While I was reading Sandman I recognized a lot of the deities Gaiman used in American Gods (Bast, Loki*, etc.), but according to the Wikipedia article, there's also someone in American Gods who supposedly very much resembles Delirium. I'd love to read that part, especially since I gather the book never explicitly states that it's her--gotta love the subtle cameo.

      *(Oh, and you're not the only one who got tricked on the thing with Loki's name. I think everyone did. And that's another one of those things that makes me hate/love Neil, because it seems so obvious and yet no one sees it and HOW DID HE DO THAT?)

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    3. I was thinking of Sandman when I read it and it made me wonder what kind of relationship Gaiman has with his cats.

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    4. Three things.

      1.) A couple I know are both big Gaiman fans. One time I said to one of them "Bah, I bet you can't name all eight Endless," and I had her racking her brain all week. (Though I suppose you could get eight if you counted the first Despair, Delight and the second Dream as distinct characters.)

      2.) I was at a Dunkin Donuts with Lily and she put a pair of munchkins in front of her eyes and then popped them in her mouth, and I couldn't help but think that I was the father of a little Corinthian.

      3.) Have you read the Books of Magic miniseries? Roger Zelazny wrote the introduction for the edition I have.

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    5. 1-2: Those are both EXCELLENT stories. And I found I really liked the re-made Corinthian, particularly when he runs into Loki. I dunno--he just seemed like a badass.

      3: Haven't read Books of Magic, but I'll go ahead and add it to my RIDICULOUSLY LONG LIST of things to read!

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    6. That wouldn't make 8 Endless. That would make 10 by your count.
      There are 7 Endless:
      Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Destruction, and Delirium.
      It would be 8 if you included Delight, before she became Delirium. Early Despair and Daniel (the new Dream) would bring your count to 10.

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    7. That wouldn't make 8 Endless. That would make 10 by your count.
      There are 7 Endless:
      Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Destruction, and Delirium.
      It would be 8 if you included Delight, before she became Delirium. Early Despair and Daniel (the new Dream) would bring your count to 10.

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    8. Yup. You're right. The math doesn't work out.

      The post is a couple years old, so I can't remember exactly what I was thinking when I wrote it, but I probably just miscounted. See below for an overly detailed postmortem.

      Looking at it from the vantage point of 2016, I suspect that this is what happened:

      If I was referencing the first Despair, I obviously knew the lore reasonably well at the time, and while it's not impossible that I would leave Desire off a quick mental list when counting the Endless (Because Desire is awful and boring) that still doesn't make the math work. I think I must have counted

      Dream
      Death
      Destruction
      Destiny
      Despair
      Delirium

      and left off Desire.

      I asked me friend to name the "Eight Endless", but it was intended as a question without an answer, and eight was an arbitrary number, the main characteristic of which was that it was greater than the actual number of Endless

      Then, as I was writing the comment, I thought of Delight and the First Despair as characters that could be counted as ersatz Endless, bringing the total up to eight, and added Daniel as an afterthought (bringing it up to nine) and didn't include him in the calculation at al,l further muddying the math.

      So it's probably a combination of leaving Desire off the initial list and then leaving leaving Daniel off the second list, so I was adding 6+2 to get 8, when it should have been 7+3 to equal 10.

      tl;dr version: Josh was wrong because he can't count, but now he knows how he made his mistake.

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  3. I tried to read this a few years ago and couldn't get into it -- I found both the writing and the story flat and unengaging. Maybe I'll give it another try sometime.

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    1. Okay, time to burn DeVito in effigy!

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    2. Whoa, hey now! Easy, dude. It's not like Gaiman needs my approval. Can't we all just get along . . .

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  4. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I quite enjoyed AMERICAN GODS and in fact I think I've read it three times now, with the best version being the author's preferred text. In some ways I prefer his novel NEVERWHERE for the characters and humor, and I've read the complete SANDMAN several times without any diminishment in pleasure. SANDMAN has so many allusions and foreshadowings and tie-ins that I discover something new each time. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the new SANDMAN miniseries scheduled for next year. Next time I re-read SANDMAN I will do it with THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN at hand for reference. There are quite a few of his one-shot graphic novels that stand up very well to re-reading. The BOOKS OF MAGIC mini-series is quite good too. Ditto for his take on Batman, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?

    I was privileged in May this year to have dinner with Neil Gaiman (my wife, son, and daughter accompanied). A great time was had by all; he is warm, welcoming, and sociable in person and an engaging conversationalist. He's also kind and tolerant, too. I already owned signed copies of just about every book and comic of his, but I brought along the remaining unsigned items (mostly comics) just in case he'd indulge me. I said I'd brought too much and to tell me how many he'd be willing to sign, he asked "how many?" and when I said "umm, sixty?" he just smiled and said, "bring it on." And it took him only a few minutes; he signs faster than I could hand them to him, and he came prepared with an assortment of black and silver inked pens. For my children he drew elaborate sketches in the books and DR. WHO series disks they brought. My son insisted that they share a dessert.

    I also recently had the unexpected delight of reading his new adult novel THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE which will be published next year. I read it under its former title LETTIE HEMPSTOCK'S OCEAN and he sent the early draft to me to read because I'm Tuckerized in it, i.e. my name is used for a character. That was the result of a charity auction win from several years ago. The book is different from his other novels, shorter than AMERICAN GODS but longer than CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and having a fable-like tone that's somewhere in between AMERICAN GODS and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It may remind you of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK in some ways because it takes place during the narrator's recalled childhood but it's actually for adults. It has a kick to it that made me misty-eyed at the end. I enjoyed it and I expect that it will do well. (To my surprise, I didn't die a gruesome death as happens to many Tuckerized individuals. And my role is so small you might not even notice it.)

    While we're on the subject of favorite authors, of which we've mentioned Zelazny and Gaiman, others for me include George R. R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Michael Swanwick, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Ray Bradbury, Joe Hill, Poul Anderson, China MiƩville, Joe Haldeman, and Dan Simmons. That more than dozen are my top ten list. But I should also mention Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Elizabeth Bear, Allen Steele, Peter F. Hamilton, Robert Sawyer, and Orson Scott Card. With all of these authors I make an effort to get every novel and short story collection, and signed by them too. It's an obsession, I suppose. But an enjoyable one.

    Chris

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    1. Chris, I envy your existence. Rubbin' elbows with my favorite living author? That's . . . that's too awesome for words. (And yet, here I am, with a bunch of words that just aren't doin' the job.)

      Although, now that I think about it, I'd feel like a total goober if I ever had dinner with Neil. The entire time, I'd be thinking about how there is nothing of value I could add to anything he says. I'd basically be sitting there with my jaw in my lap, which is kind of impressive, 'cause I've got a pretty long torso.

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    2. The funny thing was, we were nervous that we'd be awkward dinner company, and then the day before we realized that he might be thinking that the evening would be more awkward for him. This was also a charity thing where dinner with Neil was the prize, and so he didn't know what or whom to expect. We made an effort at the beginning to put him at his ease and to make clear that we weren't rabid fans or weird people (no dropping to knees, no sitting slack-jawed and drooling), and he admitted that the pressure was on him to perform, be interesting and funny, etc. After that initial hiccup where everyone sought to make everyone feel welcome, it was a relaxed and fun dinner with conversation and laughs. We also had some things and people in common, because he was friends with Zelazny, he'd contributed to The Collected Stories with an essay, and he knows many of the authors whom I'd worked with on the collection and the biography. We were able to talk about lots of things, including anecdotes about our own careers. We didn't drill him with questions about his work or life; instead, the dinner conversation just flowed and turned as it should.

      My daughter is normally very reserved and it's difficult to get her to admit when she's pleased or impressed, especially about anything involving her parents. But this one time she thought she had a totally cool dad who could arrange something like this. And for that one time my kids were able to say to their friends, "sorry, no, can't go to that party or sleepover or dance on Saturday night, we're having dinner with Neil Gaiman." Several of their friends, and several of my wife's friends, asked us to adopt them so that they could come to dinner too but we declined. One friend said that even if we brought back a used napkin or kleenex that Neil had sneezed into, that would be heavenly for him. We relayed that to Neil and he wrote something funny and appropriate on a napkin which I suspect has been framed now.

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    3. Chris, these stories made my weekend. There is always, for me, the dread that people I admire will just turn out to be jerks in real life, and while it's still possible to enjoy their works, the enjoyment of those works is always tainted afterwards.

      It's really nice to hear that Neil Gaiman as a person is just as great as Neil Gaiman the author.

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    4. I remember meeting Terry Eagleton a few years back. For those of you who don't know the name, he is, or was, a pretty big English literary critic. I'll let you all imagine what a bunch of book nerds and wanna be creative writers hob knobbing with a well respected "peer" was like. The moment I remember most clearly from that evening is not meeting him but the end of his talk, which he spent not so much critiquing as blasting the United States for being culturally inferior to much of the world. Just about everyone got up and clapped. I was one of the three or four who did not.

      I would much rather have met Gaiman, of course!

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    5. Josh, glad to hear you enjoyed those stories. I've met some other people whose work I admired and who turned out to be self-absorbed jerks in person, but Gaiman definitely isn't one of those. So too Zelazny by all accounts was a really nice guy in person, and he certainly was when I met him briefly. Some people warned me that in researching Zelazny for the biography that I might learn something about him that would cause me to dislike him, but to my relief, that never happened either.

      Chris

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    6. I think that's a big part of why I like the Collected Stories as much as I do, because the non-fiction pieces by Zelazny's friends how much they cared for him.

      And I generally try to avoid speculating about an author's personal life around here, but Zelazny was so influential on me when I was growing up that I am pleased to find out that he really was a decent person.

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  5. Josh, you know more than one couple who are big Neil Gaiman fans? This is one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. American Gods was the first Gaiman I read. I stripped it out of the bookstore where we worked. I'm insanely jealous of your friend who had dinner with him! Like you, I'm glad to hear he is just as great in person as you would think. It's disappointing when people whose work you admire turn out to be jerks. And I agree- everyone gets fooled by the Loki thing and that's what makes it so brilliant. It's so obvious! How did we not see it??

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    1. Jen, you're such a big Neil Gaiman fan that you ripped a cover off one of his books and reported it unsold and destroyed? What are you going to say to his wife if you meet her? "I'm your biggest fan. I tape-recorded all your songs off the radio."?

      It turns out my wife is a Neil Gaiman fan too. I brought him up and she mentioned that she had really enjoyed Odd and the Frost Giants.

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  6. I meant to add this link:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2011/aug/24/neilgaiman-edinburgh-book-festival

    It's a podcast in which Neil Gaiman talks about American Gods at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It's interesting listening, and he does address being a Brit commenting on American weirdness. I like it so much I have it saved on my computer.

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  7. To Josh and Zach...

    Shadow and Wednesday head to San Francisco in Chapter 11 and see Delirium:

    "A young girl, no older than 14, her hair dyed green and orange and pink, stared at them as they went by. She sat beside a dog, a mongrel, with a piece of string for a collar and a leash. She looked hungrier than the dog did. The dog yapped at them, then wagged its tail. Shadow gave the girl a dollar bill. She stared at it as if she was not sure what it was."

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    1. So I looked into the Delirium thing because it struck me that could just be a random inhabitant of San Francisco so I did a little digging at work, and came across a reference to an article where Gaiman is uncertain if the character is Delirium or not and I really like the ambiguity.

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    2. TG: I read the first few lines of your post, then told myself not to continue because I wanted to find Delirium for myself the next time I read American Gods.

      But I continued reading your post anyway, because I couldn't help myself, and I don't know when I'll get around to American Gods again.

      Based on that description, though, I'm going to go ahead and decide that the girl IS Delirium, even though Josh says Gaiman isn't sure about that; I just like the idea of Sandman characters crossing into American Gods too much to believe otherwise. =P

      (Mind you, I wouldn't want a full-on American Gods/Sandman crossover; but I love little cameos like this.)

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  8. And while we're on the subject of American Gods, I finished reading the paper book, but I'm still enjoying the audio book when I have some down time. So even though I finished the book, I'm still working through it.

    I found myself daydreamng while driving, and I wound up thinking of American Gods as almost a fantasy take on the SF-oriented Roadmarks, in that each book has a very clever framework for combining a bunch of characters who don't rightly belong in the same story. It's not a perfect metaphor, but it stuck with me, possibly because I love both books.

    And then at the beginning of Part 3, when driving away from Lakeside Shadiow observed that driving into the South was like driving into the future. So, do you think this was simply an observation similar to the one that struck Zelazny when he was driving down disused byways and prompted him to write Roadmarks, or a deliberate homage to the man to whom the book was in part dedicated?

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  9. And finished my listening of American Gods today. Some final thoughts on it.

    There was so much in it to remind me of Lord of Light, like Shadow squinting at things to examine them on his return, and Loki's speech on what it means to be a god paralleling Yama's, and the description of the arrival of the gods at Rock City, particularly the repetition of "they came" so strongly matches the description of the arrival of the gods at heaven for Yama and Kali's wedding that I have to believe it's deliberate:

    "They came. Out of the sky, riding on the polar winds, across the seas and the land, over the burning snow, and under it and through it, they came. The shape-shifters drifted across the fields of white, and the sky-walkers fell down like leaves; trumpets sounded over the wastes, and the chariots of the snows thundered forward, light leaping like spears from their burnished sides; cloaks of fur afire, white plumes of massively breathed air trailing above and behind them, golden-gauntleted and sun-eyed, clanking and skidding, rushing and whirling, they came, in bright baldric, wer-mask, fire-scarf, devil-shoe, frost-greaves and power-helm, they came; and across the world that lay at their back, there was rejoicing in the Temples, with much singing and the making of offerings, and processions and prayers, sacrifices and dispensations, pageantry and color. For the much-feared goddess was to be wed with Death, and it was hoped that this would serve to soften both their dispositions. A festive spirit had also infected Heaven, and with the gathering of the gods and the demigods, the heroes and the nobles, the high priests and the favored rajahs and high-ranking Brahmins, this spirit obtained force and momentum and spun like an all-colored whirlwind, thundering in the heads of the First and latest alike.
    So they came into the Celestial City, riding on the backs of the cousins of the Garuda Bird, spinning down in sky gondolas, rising up through arteries of the mountains, blazing across the snow-soaked, ice-tracked wastes, to make Milehigh Spire to ring with their song, to laugh through a spell of brief and inexplicable darkness that descended and dispersed again, shortly; and in the days and nights of their coming, it was said by the poet Adasay that they resembled at least six different things (he was always lavish with his similes): a migration of birds, bright birds, across a waveless ocean of milk; a procession of musical notes through the mind of a slightly mad composer; a school of those deep-swimming fish whose bodies are whorls and runnels of light, circling about some phosphorescent plant within a cold and sea-deep pit; the Spiral Nebula, suddenly collapsing upon its center; a storm, each drop of which becomes a feather, songbird or jewel; and (and perhaps most cogent) a Temple full of terrible and highly decorated statues, suddenly animated and singing, suddenly rushing forth across the world, bright banners playing in the wind, shaking palaces and toppling towers, to meet at the center of everything, to kindle an enormous fire and dance about it, with the ever-present possibility of either the fire or the dance going completely out of control.

    They came."

    I do love this book. I think I like Gaiman even better than Zelazny for his striking visuals. He's been writing for a more visual medium than Zelazny for a long time, and I do think he tends to frame his sequences in such a way.

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    1. I think this long and turgid excerpt summarizes what I found uninvolving about the book: simplistic, comic-book images; one-dimensional, repetitive writing; watered-down, poor-man's Zelazny prose that goes nowhere. I've never liked comics (or their glorified, whorified cousins, the oxymoronic "graphic novels"); I doubt I'll enjoy any of Gaiman's stuff.

      Go ahead, Josh -- light that torch!

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    2. Chris, that excerpt is from Lord of Light, not anything by Gaiman.

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