MacK's Reviews > American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
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Dec 03, 11

bookshelves: am-lit, contemporary, favorites
Read in August, 2011

A few years ago, among my college friends here in the States, there was a popular phrase: “I’m spiritual but not really religious.” I think that phrase touches part of the beauty of American Gods. Americans, especially young Americans, can find beauty and magic and sacred elements in any number of our worldly nuances: food, technology, sports, cultural tastes and when we express our devotion to these things we forge a spiritual connection to something we love, even if we never say a prayer, sit in church or burn a sacrificial offering.
It’s nice to have Neil Gaiman around to highlight our tendencies as a thoughtful and objective observer (not to mention one with a talent for imagination and written expression). But American Gods is about so much more than a concept as titularly obvious as “religion/faith”, so his dips and swerves into notes on folklore, love, stereotypes, racial segmentation, appearances, hypocrisy, tourist traps, regional variations on “American” culture and--perhaps most compellingly--our willingness to treat anything and everything as utterly disposable.
I can’t pick out one of those themes and say, “this is why the book is great,” just as I can’t pick out one scene or one character or one literary device. All I can do is say that, as an American who enjoys finding beauty and magic and sanctity in the little parts of my world, this whole book reminded me of how I can feel an incredible bond with a piece of literature, with writing and characters and stories and themes. When I feel that connection I want to use the book as a guide to ask questions about what I feel and think and believe, to plumb the depths of my mind and heart and soul.
I don’t think books are a religion (I won’t start spouting any “Gospel According to Gaiman”) but I do think that great books can be tremendously fulfilling, spiritually.
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