The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'American Gods'

I read a lot of blogs. In fact, I think I spend too much time reading other blogs and neglect my own. Sorry. In other news, new colors! Get excited.

Before I get to the promised review, there was something I wanted to discuss: why we read.
Recently, a teacher in Kansas had to rewrite her curriculum because a bunch of (stupid) parents complained. I think this is ridiculous, but it led me down a different sort of thought process.

The books the teacher had initially chosen were defended because they were books that not only get teens interested in reading, they also help them make sense of their lives (the books were, by and large, about teens in real-life situations). I thought that was an interesting concept -reading to find sense in life. Life is a pretty senseless thing, I think. We have to give meaning to our lives, and no one else can do that for us. Books can definitely help, though, I agree with this teacher.

Books give us a sounding board for our own lives. They let us compare ourselves to other people without envy, malice or pride -characters in books are what they are, and we can read stuff into them until the cows turn blue, but they're not real people. We don't have to be afraid of hurting their feelings when we say that we hate one character for whatever reason, or love a character for another.

We can place ourselves in a spectrum of lives and situations and make an assessment about what we might or might not do, what our reactions would be, whether or not we would ever have gotten into such a situation -and so on, etc. into infinity.

Books help us make sense of ourselves, and it's hard to know the world if you don't know yourself first.

But books serve another purpose -in the above, I'm mostly talking about fiction and novels. They entertain us, but they also educate us about ourselves. However, there are also books that purport to educate us and make us raise our own mental standards, and there are books that serve to entertain us without making much of a social or personal message.

And sometimes escapism is just escapism.

Book review:

In brief, 'American Gods' is rocking my socks off (and I'm not even wearing any socks). It is awesome. I have come to expect this from Gaiman, and rightfully so.

I'm not done with the book yet, so it will be a day or so before I can give a full report, but allow me to ramble a bit now.

The characters in this book will not get out of my head. I've been thinking about Mr. Wednesday all day (I'll try not to give away any spoilers), and I still can't decide whether I hate him, love him and, either way, I don't know if I want him to survive the story. He's a rascal, but he's also kind of sad, and I love how he's unfolding and yet becoming more confusing as the story develops.

Same for Shadow -Shadow is a great character, and I think he's fascinating. He's a relatively passive character: he found a course and he's sticking to it, come hell or high water (and probably both), but he's also a compelling moral study. There's a lot of back story that's still coming to light, so I'm enjoying watching everything come together.

I can't get over the plot, either -I have long wanted to write a short story about what happens to the old gods, the discarded and forgotten gods. Gaiman got there first, and he did a much better job than I could ever hope to. It doesn't mean I won't write something of my own someday, but 'American Gods' is more than satisfying right now.

One last thing about Gaiman before I sign off for the evening: the man knows how to write a good sex scene. The thing I don't like about romance novels/erotica/whatever is that sex generally does not move the plot forward in any way other than that it's just a bunch of inevitable bawdy, lewd, overly descriptive scenes filled with vapid purple prose (and for some people, that's fine -I'm just not one of them). What I admire about Gaiman is that he can make a scene erotic and sensually charged, but it still serves the plot in a big way. His sex scenes reveal something about the characters that you didn't know, but needed to, and they're still...well, sexy, while the plot goes chugging right along. Big points for that.


  1. I bought you a book with SEX in it, oh heavens... ;)

  2. Haha no worries, it's not going to corrupt me or anything. ;)