Saturday, January 14, 2012

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I knew Loki was in the book--a friend had spilled as much--but he went right by me at first, as he'd gone by my friend, because, as in any good coin trick, I was looking at the wrong hand. I hadn't realized I was being played yet, though I'd volunteered myself to the con.

Fiction is a grift, and Gaiman does it exceptionally well. I've only met one person who read this book who was disappointed with it. His grounds? He felt Gaiman came up with an amazing premise (gods alive in America) but that he let it become the story become about a girl's murder and a car left on thin ice, waiting to stink. I see his point and why he wants more, and if anything, I'd want to book to go the other way. The murder was far more compelling than the gods. I'm more biased towards the living that way, and found the gods more difficult to connect to, slowing the book for me at the moment it was amping towards its climax.

But these are minor points. The main one is this: both of us read to the end, waiting to see what would unfold, not knowing where it would go. The world, fantastical as it was, was still too real to set aside.

Ultimately, this is what the book is about for me: the slight of hand a great fiction writer accomplishes. Gaiman does it again and again in clear prose that seems to hold no tricks in it. The honesty of the writing allows me to believe old gods walk the earth, even in America, along with dead girlfriends and embodied technological wonders and writers for whose grifts I'll again and again enlist.