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Our Discussion of American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Several people had read American Gods in 2001 and read the Tenth Anniversary Edition containing the “Author’s Preferred Text” for our meeting. Those who listened to the full-cast recording on hoopla digital (through LLD) really enjoyed it.

A sampling of our comments are listed below:

  • The changes to the text in the later version made it “fuller” and ranged from tweaking a few words to inserting entire paragraphs.
  • The book was better the second time – having read it before, even long ago, made the plot a little more understandable.
  • Gaiman’s Themes: America is not a good place for gods; The power of belief – belief is power; All gods are true.
  • Sam’s speech to Shadow about her beliefs was a high point.
  • Shadow started off as a wimp and a follower, and it was true when Laura said that he wasn’t really alive - her statement seemed to wake him up.
  • Shadow was good and he was chill. He returned the waitress’s money after Wednesday shorted her because it was the right thing to do.
  • Shadow was taught to avoid conflict by Loki when they were in prison in order to survive.
  • The alias “Mike Ainsel” is a reference to the fairy tale 'My Ainsel,' (My Own Self).
  • No one really ever died in the book – Laura, Shadow, and Wednesday were dead, but not really dead. The American incarnation of Wednesday was gone, but he lived on in other countries.
  • The “war” was a little disappointing because there was a huge build up and then Shadow gave a very short speech about the two-man con and then everyone drifted off.
  • Shadow’s obsession with coin tricks also did not really go anywhere.
  • Why was this book a road trip? What purpose did all the traveling serve?
  • The true lasting power came from the land, not from blood sacrifices.
  • Folk tales about Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan differ from belief in gods, although their stories are also told and (sometimes) believed over many generations.
  • Gaiman stays away from current religions, preferring the ancient gods and the new gods of television, fire, technology, etc.
  • This was Gaiman channeling Stephen King.
  • Some of the references were dated (payphones, Nokia phones) – perhaps they should have been updated in the new edition?
  • Gaiman’s humor showed itself when Wednesday made fun of the Pagan waitress and around Laura’s storyline.
  • The writing was strong, “Chicago came on slowly like a migraine.”
  • The bank robbery orchestrated by Wednesday was clever.
  • Americans do worship at roadside attractions.

Please add any additional thoughts or comments you may have about American Gods. We gave this title the codes MYT, HRO, HUGO, NEB, IMM, SEX & HOME with an average rating of 4.

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