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Fiction

A letter to Neil Gaiman (with regards to American Gods)

Dear Neil,

When I came across your book American Gods 10th anniversary at the library shelf, I knew I had to read it.

I have heard so much about your books and how they topped the bestsellers lists for weeks. Over the years, your books have gathered a worldwide mass of cult followers.

Let me try to refresh my memory about the synopsis of the book:

“The book was about a guy called Shadow. Shadow has just been released from prison to find his wife and best friend dead in a car crash. There is nothing for Shadow now, no wife, no job, no life to look forward after prison. A direct flight to Indiana gets rerouted by a freak thunderstorm sending Shadow running to the far end of the airport to catch a last-second flight. Seated at last, still not even sure why he is travelling, a man next to Shadow turns around and says “You’re late; I’ve got a job for you.”

10th Anniversary UK edition

That’s how Shadow’s life travels from inside a prison cell to the edges of forgotten American, in the service of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday who’s got business with some gods, rivalries with others, and an endless stream of plots and schemes up his sleeve.”

Along the way Shadow met a lot of weird characters, as well as his dead wife ghost who came to his rescue when he is in danger. The novelty of the weirdness wears off after 100 pages and I began to read those weird encounters of Shadow and trying to find some sort of meaning behind the symbols. Trying to read in between the lines. In most part it was just one weird incident after another but I have loved the potential for mythology and the social commentary contained within the novel. Every chapter opens with a lovely quotes and those lovely interlude chapters about how many different ways of different tribes “Coming to America”. You weren’t afraid to comment on the big country’s insecurity and endless quest for money.

“This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into the stillness, ‘that worries about what it is.’

‘What?’

‘The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.’ said Mr Wednesday. – page 116

10th Anniversary US edition

‘When the people came to America they brought us with them. They brought me, and Loki and Thor, Anasi and the Lion-God, Leprechauns and Cluracans and Banshees, Kubera and Frau Holle and Ashtaroth, and they brought you. We rode here in their minds,a nd we took root. We traveled with the settlers to the new lands across the ocean.

The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, to get by on what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find. And to get by as best as we could….. Old gods, here in this new land without gods.

‘Now, as all of you will have had reason aplenty to discover for yourselves, there are new gods growing in America, clinging to growing knots of belief: gods of credit cards and freeway, of internet and telephone, or radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures puffed up with their own newness and importance. – page 136

It’s a shame really. You see, I really really wanted to like the book. So much so that I had read 236 pages of the book. I thought to myself, it’s too late to give up now but yet the world is full of great books that I think I would enjoy without having to plough through the remaining 422 pages of this book.

I remembered you said in an article that: “American Gods tends to be a bit of a marmite book for people: they either love it or hate it. And the ones who hate it tend to be so vocal that I often forget how much the people who love it, love it.” The thing is I love marmite but I didn’t like American Gods.

I heard American Gods 2 is due to be published in early 2013, I wish you the very best of luck. I hope you will understand why I had to abandon the book after reading it for so long. It was too weird and too bizarre for me. It’s just not for me. I’m sure there is a great universal message that you wish to convey through the book.  At times I seems to have a glimpse of the greatness but most of the book was a let down.

I now leave it to my readers of this blog to tell me if I should give any of your other books a chance because I couldn’t read American Gods on anymore. I hope you’ll understand.

Yours Sincerely,

Paperback. Publisher: Headline, 2011, originally published in 2001; Length: 658 pages; Setting: America. Source: Reading Battle Library. Finished reading up to 236 pages in February 2012.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

13 thoughts on “A letter to Neil Gaiman (with regards to American Gods)

  1. I feel the same about American Gods. It was a good book, the idea was intriguing, but then it dragged on too long. There were passages I really liked, the ones you have quoted are among them, but somewhere down the line I lost my interest. I love the idea of people who bring their gods with them when they move to a new country, and also the concept of the new (modern) gods we worship these days.
    Give his short stories a try, some of them may be just ok but others are really great.

    Posted by Delia (Postcards from Asia) | March 23, 2012, 6:58 am
  2. I have never read a Neil Gaiman book, but I really want to. I think The Graveyard book is the one I’ll go for. Too bad this one was such a let down for you.

    By the way, I LOVE Marmite and have it on toast every morning. Have you seen the online articles about the Marmite problem in New Zealand?

    Posted by Helen | March 23, 2012, 12:17 pm
    • Helen,
      I think I would read his short stories. I heard a lot about Neil Gaiman and his books and a pity I did not enjoy this one.
      I didn’t know about the Marmite problem in New Zealand but if my peanut butter ran out of stock I would be panic as well, so I can very well understand!

      Posted by JoV | March 23, 2012, 9:56 pm
  3. I have never read Gaiman. For some reason I am just not drawn to his books. Sorry sorry this one didn’t work for you. I hate it when you invest time in a “tried and true” author and find yourself disappointed. It sucks!

    Posted by Ti | March 23, 2012, 2:52 pm
    • Ti,
      I hate it too! 😦 After 236 pages, I was looking left and right wondering if I should go on or abandon it. At the end I thought, there are many good books out there, it’s ok not to finish this!

      Posted by JoV | March 23, 2012, 10:02 pm
  4. I have not read AG either – darn shame you did not like it. Oh well, since then it does not bide well for me. But what a cute way of writing a review for a book you did not like! lol….

    Still have that stressed out purple guy. Oh yes and I like this new background on your blog.. nice.

    Posted by Shellie | March 23, 2012, 2:57 pm
  5. I haven’t read American Gods although I have been recommended it before. Sadly the only book I’ve read solely by Neil Gaiman was Stardust and while I liked parts of it the generally feeling I got at the end was depression…so haven’t really been that keen to read more of his work. I did read his joint effort with Terry Prachett which was Good Omens which I really liked but not sure if that is just down to the Pratchett influence. I’m with you really not sure if I should try anymore of his books, from reading your thoughts here I’m swaying towards no.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | March 25, 2012, 4:54 pm
  6. Interesting that so many people who haven’t read the book commented. I have slogged through the entire book and I very much agree with you Jov. I wanted so desperately to like it but like you said it drags and seems pointless. When I finally reached the end I did not get it. So like all intelligent people nowadays I googled it. To my surprise its about what it means to be america (or american?), further, everyone seemed to have loved it. I would like to hear someone explain what makes it so good. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Posted by Oliver | May 19, 2012, 3:17 am
    • Oliver,
      Oh dear, just to hear you slogged through the entire book pains me. You raise a good point there, what was the factors that wow or make readers think this is a good book? Maybe it is because I’m not an American, therefore I don’t get it. Thanks for dropping by and commented.

      Posted by JoV | May 22, 2012, 9:02 pm

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  1. Pingback: March 2012 : Wrap-up! « JoV's Book Pyramid - April 10, 2012

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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