Monday, August 1, 2011

50 Books in a Year: Book #32 American Gods

OK, so trying to explain this book is like trying to explain The Fountainhead...usually what I say about that book goes a little something like this: It's a book about this guy Howard Roark, who wants to build buildings his own way and people don't want him to and he's all for helping people, but not at the sake of himself and supposedly there's a rape scene and he gives a 40ish page speech. I love this book so much that I can't talk about it properly. This is not the book at all, but when I try to talk about it, I get all jumbled about and just can't sell it. And, I sooo want to sell it!

I want to sell this book as well! Here's my botched attempt at telling you what it's about: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is about this guy named Shadow who gets out of prison early because of the death of his wife and gets hired by a man named Wednesday, who is more than he seems and they go all around America recruiting Old Gods to fight the New Gods of today.

But, it's so much more than that!

This book is about one of my favorite subjects: What it means to be an American and to live in The United States of America. It's about what I talk to my students about all year--American culture, Pop Culture and reverence and Faith/faith. It's about the journey we all take to figure out who we are.

It starts out with Shadow having a fight with a leprechaun and receiving a gold coin that inadvertently stops his wife from being totally dead, she assist him through-out the whole book and saves him from death more than once. There are some gods, like this kobold, who wish they'd never been brought over from the Old World and two Old Gods (Loki and Odin--who Shadow finds out is his father) who want to live so badly, they almost pull off the greatest con ever. There's an excellent conversation between Johnny Appleseed and some other tall tale heroes about why Paul Bunyan (who is a manufactured tall-tale) isn't as cool as those that are based on real people. The God Media is a beautiful newscaster and Technology is a fat kid full of computer parts. And, it seems the more we (as Americans) 'worship' our gods the stronger they are...Jesus in America is not as strong as He used to be, but He can't even get someone to give him a ride in the Middle East. And, who are the stronger gods, the New Gods, of course, and while a god can die (they have feelings and can hurt like the rest of us), if you believe in that god he/she can reappear. The thing is that most gods seem to not have enough people believing in them to reappear as healthy active beings. For instance, Wednesday is this old wisened man and Easter is a beautiful middle-aged blonde because people still celebrate her, even if they do for the wrong reasons.

To understand this book it's important understand world religions, American tourism (I want to visit the House on the Rock so bad now), culture and counter-culture, Native American mysticism and your own beliefs and how they play into what decisions you make and who you are.

And, there's this lovely strong female character, Sam Black Crow, who has the best monologue ever:
"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."

The lady at Border's said that she loved it and hoped I would to, I do! If you read this book because you like Stardust you will be surprised as this book is deeper and longer and will make you question, if even you don't like it!

Did I sell it? If not, go out and read it won't be sorry!

5 Stars

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