Friday, January 05, 2007

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I am an ardent fan of Neil Gaiman and I have written many times before about his graphic novel ‘Sandman’ and other books I have read. One title that always captured my imagination is ‘American Gods’ but until a few months ago I was not able to lay my hands on a copy of it. Throughout my mature life I have held steadfast to the belief that expectation is only a setup for disappointment but Gaimans approach to fantasy is nothing short of magnificent and with a title as thus I was expecting to be thoroughly entertained.

The tale commences with an introduction to a character by the name of Shadow serving a 3 year sentence in prison for battery. Through an unfortunate turn of events, upon his release from prison rather than returning home to a warm bath and his wife, Shadow is enlisted by a strange old man to serve as a body guard as the old bugger travels across America taking care of some business. The nature of that business and the characters Shadow comes across are what define this novel.

The explanation I have offered is quite simplistic but that is really all I can say about the story without giving any of it away. I always find the reviews to be far too revealing just to pull readers in, but honestly this book needs no pimping. Gaiman has churned out an epic novel here with a massive theme. He offers mystifying explanations regarding the birth of gods and naturally enough their death. In classic form he utilizes his words weaving a tight web of love, deceit, hate, agony, despair, and finally closure. What I love about this book is how a seemingly simple idea can give birth to such a fantastic and entertaining tale. ‘American Gods’ is one of those books that I was left thinking about for days after putting it down. They were so many characters to consider and passages to go back and reread, appreciate. Gaiman has made use of his fantastic knowledge of history to add backbone to his novel. He has also obviously spent time traveling around the less explored areas of the United States, which provide the backdrop for his epic to unfold.

In fact America is just as much the pivotal character of this novel as Shadow is. Shadows journey takes us to America’s heartland and numerous mystical locations on the subcontinent that most Americans would not even know existed. Gaiman personifies mystical attractions such as a giant ball of yarn or even Graceland where thousands of people gather every year as spiritual vortexes. These places across America are where hopes and beliefs are strongest. I was quite amazed to read about some of the locations he describes.

In the prologue of this book Gaiman does address the issue that many may point fingers at him asking what right a British author has to write about American Gods. But once the book has been read most readers will come to understand that this novel is more defensive of American culture than dismissive. Where as some people deny America of having any real culture, Gaiman substantiates that American culture is present and very significant.

There are numerous angles from which one could perceive ‘American Gods” and to me that is true testament to how magnificent this book truly is. There are abstract motifs that give birth to metaphorical significance and direct character interpretations that could be debated for hours. Whereas some of Gaimans books I have read are only good for the once over, this is definitely a book I could read over and over again over the years. The last time I read ‘American Gods’ I was left contemplating belief and the strength and significance of belief and ritual. I come from a culture abundant with rituals so there was a lot for me to think about. ‘American Gods’ is not just a masterpiece that serves as a great escape but also a protagonist for thought. But as all art is, this is also relative. What’s good for goose aint always what’s good for the gander. But if you do decide to check it out go for the authors preferred text.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, will check about this book. thanks to share ;)


Avi said...

You are most welcome. Check out Susanna Clarke as well if you like this genre. And please suggest other good reads to me.

Anonymous said...

O dokie, will do check it also in this weekend. My reading actually quite not of this type, thats why i want to try them. My latest book was the extreme future by James Canton, just because of my insignificant mind looking for the essence where this world is going ahead..hehe
anyhow, im a big fan of your blog, like how you put your ideas and try to find the understanding.
especially every moments you threw out your wrathfulness, just love when i lol at it...haha
Keep on writing.