Too Many Gods

I have once been in the same room as Neil Gaiman. In 2000, I decided that a job is a job is a job, and that literature is the only thing worthwhile. To celebrate, I emptied my savings account and went to the Book Fair in Gothenburg, where, among others, I saw Gaiman and Terry Pratchett giving a presentation on how they had collaborated on "Good Omens", which was about to be released in Swedish. I enjoyed them a lot, and later read the book (in English).

The other day I saw that Gaiman had written something in the Guardian (I think it was a piece on Lou Reed). He is good, I thought, I should read one of his. I did read something of his not long ago (ok, ten years), "American Gods". That was good, I thought, but what was it about? I remembered a Mr Wednesday and a tree, and that was all. I was a bit puzzled about remembering so little about the book and decided to read it again.

The protagonist is a kind, honest, loyal, and not stupid man in his thirties who goes by the name Shadow. He has an unfortunate tendency to attach himself to Bad People, though, and has just served three years in prison. When he is released, he is hired by a Mr Wednesday, a one-eyed elderly man with a silver tie-pin in the shape of a tree. Shadow is now drawn in to a world of gods, magic, and other trickery. A war is starting, between the old gods: fertilitygods, wargods, deathgods, tricksters, leprechauns, djinns, trolls, brownies, anything you can think of; and the new gods: electrical gadgets, highways, shopping malls, media, "intangibles" (like hedgefunds), and so forth.

A recent addition to my own pin collection.
After I finished it, I tried for days to write something about it, kept going on and on, page after page, trying to understand why it wasn´t working for me. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I wasn´t being fair, I was judging it as something it was not. It is not a good read, it is an entertainment read. An excellent entertainment read, however, and a highly recommendable one. Perfect for the holidays, if you are looking for something that´s well written, cleverly plotted, and very funny. But it will not change your life.

But I expected more; I read it once already and I persuaded myself it was more. Why is that? It occured to me that I must still have the notes from Gothenburg, but where? These days, all my archives are digital, but I still keep a filing cabinet which my husband refers to as my "X-files". I don´t know what he thinks I keep in there, and honestly I hardly remember, but anything earlier than 2005 should be there. It took me less than 30 seconds to find them (to which I credit an anal-retentive streak). Disappointingly, all I wrote about Neil Gaiman at the time was that he had long, black, curly hair and looked like a stray member of Slade. So no clues there. And "Good Omens" certainly wasn´t very profound, it was a good romp about Armageddon.

As I leafed through my notes I saw that I had attended several seminars to do with the publication of the new Swedish Bible translation (which I also read later, cover-to-cover if you can belive it). There was a particularly interesting one about holy texts in all the world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism. I still remember clearly some of the things being said in that seminar, I occasionaly quote from it. Perhaps it´s the topic: gods, religion. Perhaps I made some links of association there, and messed up my idea of what Gaiman and his work is about. Perhaps, also, I have become a more discerning reader; I am not at all unappreciative of Gaiman and "American Gods", but I confess, three days after I finished it, it´s already beginning to fade.

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