Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Gods

Christine introduced me to this book yesterday. More than wanting to read the book, I think the idea is interesting - that the God(s) of yore, whatever name you give him, can't survive in America for all of the demi-gods - money, Internet, reality TV shows, talking heads, patriotism, etc. - that distract us. I'm not feeling especially spiritual at the moment, but I can say that I understand the lightning speed chaos that stems from worshipping such idols. The intriguing thing is we don't even know we're doing it. In some cases, we've snowed ourselves into believing that we can be faithful in the midst of such distractions, and feel, dare I use the word, "righteous" in our justifications that are rooted in distraction.

From Publishers Weekly
Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intr
iguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia.

I don't mean to bash faith or religion, or secularization for that matter. I, for one, can't be on any high horse crusade when it comes to spirituality. No one can be, actually (and ironically).

A few years ago, I audited a class that proposed that the reason people/nations war is because they are afraid of losing their cultural identities, that clinging to one's norms in acts of desperation precipitates violence. This makes me think about our country, the "most powerful nation in the world," and what exactly our "norms" are. Are we being clingy? And if so, for what purpose? And do we really want to protect our brand of godliness?

2 comments:

Amy said...

Wow that looks like a pretty interesting book.. Have a great time reading it. I bet it would make a great gift for someone..

Pete the Brit said...

hope you enjoy the book...I loved it when I read it a few years ago :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Gods

Christine introduced me to this book yesterday. More than wanting to read the book, I think the idea is interesting - that the God(s) of yore, whatever name you give him, can't survive in America for all of the demi-gods - money, Internet, reality TV shows, talking heads, patriotism, etc. - that distract us. I'm not feeling especially spiritual at the moment, but I can say that I understand the lightning speed chaos that stems from worshipping such idols. The intriguing thing is we don't even know we're doing it. In some cases, we've snowed ourselves into believing that we can be faithful in the midst of such distractions, and feel, dare I use the word, "righteous" in our justifications that are rooted in distraction.

From Publishers Weekly
Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intr
iguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia.

I don't mean to bash faith or religion, or secularization for that matter. I, for one, can't be on any high horse crusade when it comes to spirituality. No one can be, actually (and ironically).

A few years ago, I audited a class that proposed that the reason people/nations war is because they are afraid of losing their cultural identities, that clinging to one's norms in acts of desperation precipitates violence. This makes me think about our country, the "most powerful nation in the world," and what exactly our "norms" are. Are we being clingy? And if so, for what purpose? And do we really want to protect our brand of godliness?

2 comments:

Amy said...

Wow that looks like a pretty interesting book.. Have a great time reading it. I bet it would make a great gift for someone..

Pete the Brit said...

hope you enjoy the book...I loved it when I read it a few years ago :)