Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gods Old and New

American Gods

A novel by Neil Gaiman
Tenth Anniversary edition, William Morrow, 2010

Nordic Gods and Heroes

Translated by Padraic Colum
Illustrations by Willy Pogany
Dover, 1996, reprint of The Children of Odin, Macmillian, 1920

   I picked up the Colum book in Colorado Springs on a recent road trip. I needed another book for the road, something to unwind with after driving all day. These old stories still hold their appeal—the Thor "franchise" is currently filling the cinemas! Recently, the Weaver mentioned that her current library book, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, had some of the same characters as my Nordic Gods book. I had thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic adaptation of Gaiman's Coraline (a horror story for five-year-olds, as the author put it) and reading American Gods, a book aimed at a much older audience, did not disappoint. Gaiman's twist in the novel is in placing the ancients in a modern American Midwest context. Gaiman reworked the book a bit for this edition, some reviews I had read of the original version suggested it was a little choppy in parts, this newer version, with 12,000 additional words, is seamless. This books works on numerous levels—horror, mystery, fantasy, and even as a study of Americana.

   Both of these books are VERY TALL TALES, great yarns full of preposterous situations, many of which are quite gruesome. As an example, I'll leave you with this illustration from the Colum book; there is also a scene with a similar "thrust" in American Gods as well:

Willy Pogany, 1920

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Caroline said...

Now that's an interesting combination.
I still haven't read American Gods. He does some sloppy writing sometimes, Gaiman, I guess he doesn't get edited anymore. I don't mind all that much usually. I like his creativity. It's infectious.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I've looked at other work by Gaiman (Anansi Boys) and wasn't impressed, and he certainly isn't a "great" writer, but this was a very engaging work. I think that the updated version I read was better for having been revised. There are probably a lot of "near-misses" which would be much better books with the luxury of a rewrite after ten years! I usually don't care much for fantasy, but this book grabbed me. I've read some criticism that the language in this book is "flat" but I think Gaiman was trying to capture the Midwestern dialect.

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