Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Peanut Gallery: American Gods

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Man, it feels like a long time since I did one of these review-y sorts of things. And after finishing American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I knew I needed to bring this segment back desperately.

If you've never, ever read a work of fiction in your entire life, read American Gods. It's probably not the easiest fiction book to start with. But it is BLOODY BRILLIANT.

As you may know, Neil Gaiman is an author generally associated with fantasy sorts of novels. He's written Sandman, Stardust, Coraline, and loads more. I have read a pathetically small amount of his books (Coraline and Stardust, both of which I loved). So when my Shakespeare professor mentioned that this book was becoming a mini-series when consulting with me about my final paper and I realized that I hadn't actually read this book yet, I decided it was high time I changed that. Especially considering it's about gods living on earth, having been brought over in the mind of immigrants coming to North America, and prepping to war against the new gods of things like media and television. It's ridiculously great.

I... I ah... asdfhjsgkldfd. That's all I can say right now. I haven't had such extreme book fangirling since I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Speaking of which, I think both Chabon and Gaiman should get together and talk about Norse gods, because I think they'd have some really brilliant things to say. Trust me - read Chabon's Maps and Legends and then read American Gods and you'll see why. I'd tell you, but I'd be giving away a pivotal plot point in Gods and I don't want to ruin it for you. Because I should have seen it coming; I was anticipating something of this nature to occur. But I didn't think it would. AND THEN IT DID. And then I felt like this:
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I am utterly aware this made zero sense. I apologize. Let's just say that one of my favorite mythological figures showed up in an unexpected way. And it made my life.

That's not the only thing that makes me fan over this book. The whole plot of all the gods in the history of mankind being real is something I find really intriguing - and something I was totally writing about in a rough start to a novel not long before I read this book (in mine, the gods of love are trying to move away from being matchmakers and help people out beyond just typical romancey stuff- though that happens too). Not know that that was involved in American Gods, I felt like an accidental plagiarist for incorporating a similar theme in my work. Oops. Maybe great minds just happen to think alike. Not that I could at all be compared to the brilliance of Mr. Gaiman.

Because Neil Gaiman is downright made of awesome (http://whatculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Picture-323.png)

Also, two of the strange tourist attractions of my childhood are prominent locations in this book -  the House on the Rock in Wisconsin and Rock City in Tennessee. I wrote a short story for class (that ended up being very, very long) about a fairytale-like story that described how certain features of Rock City became what they are (sort of mythological I suppose). This was in fourth grade and I lost that story, which I've regretted it ever since. I loved it as it was the first serious thing I'd ever written and it has haunted me ever since. Reading American Gods with its inclusion of Rock City was like having that story returned to me, albeit from a much better written and thought-provoking standpoint.

The short version of all this is that I have once again had one of those weird mind-melding moments while reading a book and thinking, "Damn, this author gets me. I've thought about these things. A lot. And it's said SO BEAUTIFULLY... I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK."

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More or less, that's how it went.

So, if you're looking for a summer read, may I recommend this book? It's dark and compelling and strange and beautiful, so if you enjoy that kind of thing, then I can't recommend this highly enough. And did I mention there's gods?

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