A few years ago, another writer compared me to Neil Gaiman.
That is the kind of thing that makes writers nervous. Gaiman, of course, is almost universally revered as one of the masters of the craft. One might not like his stories per se, but no one doubts his ability or his magnificent talent. So comparisons with Gaiman tend to take the following form: “Unlike Neil Gaiman’s wonderful work, this writer’s tale…”
Fortunately, this particular writer only commented about the similarity of my hair in a photograph to the good Mr. Gaiman’s. Even so, it was assumed that I was following in his footsteps… If I recall correctly, the exact phrase was “did you steal Neil Gaiman’s hair?” That is the power of Gaiman.
I’ve reviewed Gaiman’s work here before, but, as I mentioned then, still had to sink my teeth into his meatier offerings. The Tenth Anniversary Edition of American Gods is about as meaty as they come.
So, does the man live up to the hype? In a word, yes.
The talent is there. The craft is there. The concept of down-at-the-heels gods isn’t particularly new, of course (if you’ve read Douglas Adams’ Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, you’ll know exactly what I mean… and if you haven’t, do so immediately) but Gaiman creates a novel of ideas out of this particular well-plowed field.
It’s a big book in more than just heft. The title of this post is not whimsical. If we ever do get the Great American Novel, it will likely be structured in a similar way to this one. It’s a road movie of a book, a sprawling exploration of what America means. If it’s seen through the eyes of a foreigner, then all the better. Lolita didn’t suffer for that, and American Gods doesn’t, either.
It’s a book that’s hard to put down, with a compelling plot driving it relentlessly forward, but that’s not what makes it great. The greatness is in the little things, wonderfully turned phrases and scenes that, though slightly off from reality, are perfectly realized. Some of those scenes promise to stick in the memory for a long, long time.
In conclusion? You may or may not like this book, but you will agree with Gaiman apologists that the man deserves the accolades. The craft and the talent herein are impeccable.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose gods also sometimes walk the earth, particularly in his novel of ancient Greece, The Malakiad. You can check it out here.