Last year, I read the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. For years, I had tried to get back into reading, but could never find anything that made me as excited about reading as I had been when I was younger. Through years of reading and analyzing and writing essays for classes in middle school, high school, and college, I had lost my love for reading.
Then one day last year in the Spring, I decided I wanted to read a book and I randomly decided on American Gods, having read one Neil Gaiman book beforehand and hearing a lot of good things about his writing in general.
American Gods drew me in slowly. The beginning was slow, and I read off and on before about a third of the way through I became enthralled with the story.
The characters were so fascinating, yet surprisingly relatable for a ex-convict, a bunch of gods, and even a dead woman. The story was strange and confusing, but fascinating and thought-provoking. The novel takes on the idea of there being many “gods” in the world, and in the story there is a war going on between the old gods and the new gods of America. Reading this book will change the way you look at America. I went on a road trip a few months after reading this novel and realized that the way I saw places like tourist traps had changed. In American Gods, tourist traps are essentially “holy” places — they are the places where the gods meet because they hold so much of the power of the American consciousness.
American Gods is one of the most wonderful pieces of writing I’ve read. Neil Gaiman is so great at using mythology and fantasy in a modern way. In Neverwhere, he showed us the hidden side of London, and in American Gods he shows us the hidden side of America. He continues to show the hidden side of America in the so-called “sequel” to American Gods, Anansi Boys. While I wouldn’t really consider it a sequel, I did read it and it had similar themes and ideas. I just completed Anansi Boys recently and will discuss it in my next post.
I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from American Gods:
“I can believe things that are true and 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 the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, 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 wrinkled 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 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 bumble bee 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 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.”