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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The stories we tell ourselves and others is how we make sense of the world.

In searching for who said the above quote I came across, “Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all” (Philip Pullman).

I was searching for the origins of these quotes in reference to Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. Gaiman has written a book of stories, myths and legends that collide and at times are at war.

American Gods are the gods who have come to America in the minds of its immigrants. Odin, Easter, Ganesh, Anansi. The ancient gods are the left to their own devices, poised to disappeared as they are pushed out by America’s newest gods. The ones we make sacrifices to daily: TV, big cars, the internet, warfare in the name of liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Both worlds become Shadow’s world. Shadow, who did time for assaulting his bank-robbing partners for cheating him of his share of the proceeds, who is hired by Wednesday to rally the old gods against the new, and Shadow, who represents our look into the shadows. Gaiman asks us to take a closer look at the things that sometimes catch the corner of our eye. The things that we hope not to be true, but deeply believe to exist.

As our protagonist, it is Shadow’s job to make sense of this world. To tell the story. To sort things out. To know under which cup the nut is, into which hand the coin drops.

I enjoyed this book.

Anansi Boys is still my favourite, maybe because I read it first. But American Gods is one of those novels that will hang in my mind like a remembered dream.

I wanted to write about the power of narrative, how it informs what we do, how we understand ourselves, our country, our beliefs. Instead of telling you my story, why don’t you read this one.

I preferred “American Gods”, because it’s darker, and I love the mystery at the end. I also loved how Laura took a job at a late night gas station…

(if you ever get a chance, go see Neil read. He’s quite charming)

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