Book Discussion: American Gods Chapters 19 - 20

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Book Discussion: American Gods Chapters 19 - 20

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nov 7, 2006, 9:18 am

The End!

nov 8, 2006, 4:38 pm

still very unsure of what happened. There is a definate feeling of incompleatness to everything.

Redigerat: nov 9, 2006, 1:31 pm

Yes, I agree. And there are basically four endings.

1) Shadow stops the war.
2) Shadow goes back to Lakeside and solves the mystery.
3) Shadow pays off his debt' to Czernobog, and is spared.
4) Shadow's visit to Iceland.

I don't think Gaiman knew how to end the book, so he used all four endings.

nov 9, 2006, 12:15 pm

Ah, I tried to think of it as though 1 was the ending, and 2-4 was wrapping up loose ends. I did look down at my CD player after 1 happened, realized I still had almost an hour of book left, and wonder how that much space could be filled.

There was an interview after the audiobook, though, where he said that the came up with the Shadow/Mr. Wednesday plot and the murder mystery separately, and later decided that they were part of the same book.

nov 15, 2006, 7:38 am

I really liked the book. I'll be giving it 4 stars (or 8 on my scale of 1 - 10.) I might have given it more but I think #1, being the "main" climax should have gotten more than 2 pages! I got the definite feeling of "that's it?" The same thing with #2. I enjoyed it right until the cop killed him. It just... ended. Then the same thing with #3. He got "bonked" and walked out the door. All the endings seemed... I don't know. Anti-climatic? The rest of the book seemed to lazily wander in the direction of the plot... then the ends just fizzled out.

nov 16, 2006, 4:25 am

It's now two days since I finished reading, and I still don't know what to say. First I nearly posted a message discursing about the endings. Then I thought a bit more, and... well. I think maybe "inconclusive" is a good word in these circumstances.

I liked the book. I felt the #3 ending was unsatisfactory, but I think maybe the resaon for even having it included was to show a change had begun. #4 I'm not sure of - is it a disclaimer saying "OK, so not all incarnations of Oden are bad and decietful", or has it to do with Shadow as being Balder, or is it a part of the 3# (change has begun)?

nov 16, 2006, 7:31 am

I think I agree more with "not all incarnations of Oden are bad and deceitful" since Wednesday himself whines about how hard it is to be a god in America. Didn't he say it was something about the land itself? Probably because people were so late in arriving there. The land has little use for gods.

Redigerat: nov 18, 2006, 12:17 am

I've just finished rereadng the last chapters, and I still feel the same like something was missing. The incompleate feeling is still there.

It was an intresting read, and I am glad that I picked it up to read with you all, but I don't think that it has a place in my libary.

nov 17, 2006, 8:18 pm

Finished it a couple of hours ago and thinking about the book as a whole, It had some interesting things to say but didn't quite connect with me :(

Although I did read it in two sittings so it must have had some power over me! :)

I think I will be passing on my copy via Bookcrossing at our next meeting. :)

nov 17, 2006, 10:09 pm

I agree, Luna. I read it to the end because I waiting for the payoff. And it never really came.

Did anyone else suspect that Shadow was the reincarnation of some sacred Native American god, only to be disappointed? Or was that just me...

nov 17, 2006, 10:14 pm


Supposedly he's Baldur. Remember Loki talking about stabbing Shadow in the eye with mistletoe?

nov 18, 2006, 5:32 am

Yes, but up to that point I hade the same hunch as Clam...

nov 18, 2006, 7:49 pm

I just visited the website on gods, and it helped a little. I don't know that I thought of Shadow as a god until I read about Baldur. Of course, since he was Wednesday's son, he had to be at least half god, I guess . . .

Where does Laura fit into all this? She was a disturbing character to me.

Ending #2 felt too much like a detective novel ending. It didn't fit the tone of the book at all, at least not to me. I found myself thinking, "Yeah, and why is that in here anyway?"

nov 18, 2006, 8:22 pm

RE: Shadow being Baldur: in Monarch of the Glen, a novella/short story Gaiman wrote about Shadow in Scottland, we learn that Baldur is actually his legal name, so I think it's pretty clear that yes, he's meant to be Baldur.

I'm still really surprised at just how many people disliked and/or didn't get much out of this book. I've read it four times now, and I love it. For me, though, it's not so much about the characters as about the idea of mythology and how it fits into different niches in different areas of the world. I liked the characters well enough, but they aren't the central focus for me.

nov 19, 2006, 1:39 pm

Well, I liked it the first time, but this reread has made me more uncomfortable with the book. Yes, I like it well enough, but it is not one of my top 10, and there is something in there that is disturbing; what I don't know.

American Gods alone does not visualize this "different niches in different areas" idea, mostly because it is set in the US only (except the epilogue, set in Iceland), and so maybe one have to read a number of Gaimans' books to be able to see and appreciate this pattern?

I'm willing to try, and have recently ordered one more of his books - Anansi Boys - only to see if I'm right in thinking this.

nov 19, 2006, 2:21 pm

Gaiman doen't directly deal with other countries, but there's a definite sense that mythology and its components have evolved differently in American than elsewhere. That's what I meant by "different niches in different areas"; though we don't see those different areas, we know that mythology doesn't necessarily operate the same way elsewhere as it does in the US.

nov 19, 2006, 3:13 pm

Well, maybe - he suggests that the earth in the US isn't fertile enough to fit the gods from overseas, and that the earth itself its The God on that part of the planet.
The christian fundamentalists of the US are fast on identifying books to burn, and this seems like one that would fit the bill. Those of you resident over there (from my european point of view) - has there been any such debate about Gaimans' work?
I am also starting to wonder if the difficulties some of us have had with this book has anything to do with religious preferences?

Redigerat: nov 26, 2006, 1:38 pm

Maybe it could be a series of problems with transplanted gods...
they're not native to that land
they don't have a certain tipping point of worshipers that are available. Although there remains a certain amount of memory of worship in certain countries and a respect for the traces of gods it doesn't really exist in the US.
The religions of the book (christianity, judiasm and islam) have too much of a hold on the mindscape of the US

just some thoughts.

I do recommend Anansi Boys, it's an interesting semi-sequel.

dec 11, 2006, 1:49 pm

I've just finished and I'm still digesting the book. But I had also thought Shadow would become more of a god at the end, with more flashy abilities. The more I think about it though, the book was consistent in understating the abilities of the gods in America. They've been mostly forgotten and their powers have waned. Shadow doesn't have any followers but he does embody what Baldur represents (justice, honour, etc). That's just his way. And when he concentrates he can manipulate nature or another's thoughts. So does he not care about the power that could go along with his demi-godhood because that would go against his ideals?

In school, we were taught that the people in the US were part of a melting pot. Maybe there were just too many different people with too many different beliefs and no local history to back them up for any of the gods to get a toehold in America. The absense of any deity connected with Christianity, Judaism and Islam does make for a big gap in the story though.

I'm at a loss to intrepret the change that is inferred at the end of the book. The storm is over and spring is coming, Czernobog is making way for Bielebog. Are they referring to an seasonal change or something bigger? This story was about a con which didn't work. All the deities are going to go on with their lives as usual. Is the big change something to do with Shadow and something he will bring to the world?

Do you think that gold coin given to Shadow by mistake, who then gave it to Laura, was really meant for Wednesday? And that's why whatsisname (I can't remember, the leprechaun) was so upset that he'd lost it? Wednesday was going to come and punish him so he ended life his way?

Yeah, there are some threads left hanging.

Anyone else going to read any more Gaiman? My brother said, if you like American Gods, Anansi Boys is even better. I think I'll wait a while before I read it. I'm in the mood for something different now.

Anyways, these are just my stream of thought ramblings that I thought I'd get down before I forgot too much of the book.

Redigerat: maj 23, 2007, 12:53 pm

Ok, so I'm coming way late, like 6-months late. The bread is not just stale, it's moldy, and growing scary architectures....

anyway, I just read the book, and really enjoyed it, so I came here and read all these posts and found the discussions quite interesting and insightful. (I'm glad I'm not the only one who was thrown by the abrupt ending.) I was confused that a book about Gods skipped the figure all of us Judo-Christian-Muslim-influenced think of as god. Gaiman makes it clear this wasn't an accident, since the most common swear word in the book is something like "Jesus Christ!" So, I started looking for Christian imagery, and got stuck on Shadow -- he really sticks out as a Jesus figure in the book. He is so passive he doesn't even ask questions for most of the book, he has incredible restraint, he forgives everyone, and he is like the sacrificial lamb in the extreme. Then, at the end he practically gets crucified, stabbed with a spear, dies, comes back to life and preaches peace (and then fades to insignificance.... :-\ hmm??) Also, everyone is wooing him. I know he is intended to be Baldur and all the traits above seem to fit the Baldur described in Morphidae's link. But, I just thought I comment on that comparison.

Also, one other thought about the overall structure. The charm of the book really seems to be the all these mythical figures that Gaiman recreates, modernizes, and plays with. It's a great idea, and it's admirably done, if somewhat incomplete. Shadow's story, then (this is my theory), is just a vehicle to meet all these Gods. His silly little story isn't all that important, it just needs to be gripping enough to pull us through the book and meet all these ideas Gaiman has come up with.

Over-extrapolating more along this idea, I get a sense that Shadow's narrative took over the book by mistake. That he was supposed to just be a vehicle, but Gaiman really got into his story, and Laura, and went on and on with it. At some point he had too much book, so he needed to cut some ideas out. I think that is why so many aspects of the actual Gods seem underwritten. We never really get to know Hinzleman, or Sam or Whisky Jack or several other characters. And there is some potentially wonderful characters who never or barely show up -- like the god of highways, or some American pop figures. I'm curious if this makes any sense.

Ok, now I'll go look for a living thread.

Redigerat: maj 23, 2007, 6:42 pm

#20 - Very interesting, dchaikin. I hadn't made any Shadow/Jesus connections.

But doesn't Woden die on a tree, too? And then come back? He doesn't preach peace, though. ;o)

Hmmm, I did some googling, and it turns out that humans sacrificed to Odin/Woden were hung on trees.

The human victims dedicated to Odin were regularly put to death by hanging or by a combination of hanging and stabbing, the man being strung up to a tree or a gallows and then wounded with a spear.

maj 23, 2007, 6:50 pm

Ok, I enjoyed the book. I agree that the ending was anti-climactic but I felt that was sort of the point - there are multiple mini-stories reflecting the various mini-cultures but also the life goes on etc in a wider style.
But furthermore it fits into a wider scheme of Norse mythology. If you take Shadow as Baldur, the battle is an American Ragnarok in which the world is destroyed in chaos and made anew; in later variants of the Norse myths Baldur is reborn as the only surviving God and this was interpreted as a Christian allegory. I'm not sure where that idea first crops up (Robert Graves was certainly infuential in disseminating it) and it is prevalent from at least the 60's - it turns up in authors like Henry Treece & Rosemary Sutcliff. I think for an author like Gaiman who makes use of a vast array of cultural references it is more than likely he was deliberately allowing the conflation between Baldur and Jesus. If you think about the metaphor/imagery this implies Czernoborg and Bieloborg show the same thing -a movement from old to new.
With regard to the Native American spirituality, my impression was that its inclusion was supposed to show Shadow's closeness to the land in comparison to the other Gods.

I agree that Shadow's learning curve is supposed to show us the same things he learns and direct us through the story.

maj 24, 2007, 8:48 am

#21 - Clam, that was one of the most prominent features of the asatro here in Sweden, and the sacrifices (not human, by then) went on well into the 12th century, if historical sources are to be believed. At the end they hanged living animals, mostly domestic, in the trees to bleed and suffocate to death - earlier it had been humans, mainly slaves, that got hanged in the sacred groves (one of the main places are very close to where I live).

This is one of the main reasons I have a hard time taking people who are into different kinds of "pagan" beliefs seriously, as "pagan" in swedish refers to the old gods, not to any eclectic choice of non christian-islamo-judaic belief... Nothing personal, don't take it thusly, I know I'm biased and try to act accordingly ;-)

On second thought I maybe should have posted this in the Heathens group, but what the... etc :-)

jul 13, 2016, 8:47 pm


jul 14, 2016, 1:18 am

For what it's worth, here is all I could bring up for a review on the book. When there are hundreds of reviews on something I don't try very hard.

"Lots of reviews on this, so these are just my thoughts.
I enjoyed the concept of this story, more than the actual story. The idea of the gods in America and what they might be like now that most people don't worship them and so forth is interesting. I was intrigued by Shadow and his story, and that is what kept me reading through the very tedious last half of the book, but I felt let down at the end. In summary, a very lot of nothing seemed to happen in this book."

>10 clamairy: I was SURE that the native gods would somehow play into this more and that Shadow would end up representing them.

I think this was the first solo big novel Gaiman wrote. In The Art of Neil Gaiman he said something to the effect that he started writing and realized at the time he would normally be finishing a story that this one was just beginning. So I wonder. Would it have been better for him to wait? Could it possibly have been more cohesive, coherent if after letting it simmer he approached it again as more than one story? That did seem to be a theme for him in retelling about the writing of several of his books, The Graveyard Book and The Ocean at the End of the Lane specifically. He would have an idea, begin to write it, or even finish, put it away for several years and then be able to bring it out and make magic of it. I wonder if this would have benefitted with the same treatment?

jul 14, 2016, 12:30 pm

I read through all of the threads from your original group read, and some very interesting points were raised. Makes me think it is time for me to reread this one. I especially liked the synopsis of >22 LittleKnife:.

For me, Gaiman novels are insidious; some do strike me as flat at first, but then the visuals and ideas continue to worm their way into my thoughts and I realize the full impact after some rumination.

This book is probably best if you have already read the Sandman series, which is where he originally introduces his concept of forgotten deities and the myths and legends of old that are still there in the shadows. And I love that he brings us to explore what happens to the ones who are fighting against fading away now that they have lost the adulation that fed them. I love that they choose sides against the newer concepts that people worship - money, power, popular culture, etc. The two-sided coin, indeed.

I love that Gaiman loves the old myths and stories as much as I do. I love that moment of "aha" when I recognize some obscure hint he weaves into a character's story.

It is worth the time to listen to two songs from the album Where's Neil When You Need Him (if you aren't familiar with it, it contains songs written around Gaiman characters). The two related to this story are "When Everyone Forgets" and "Even Gods Do", and they do add a little flavor.

I don't usually comment on other people's stuff like this; after all, I wasn't here for your group read and I don't know many of you very well yet. I just wanted to drop my two-cents in here because I feel strongly about this book. I hope I don't come across as defensive - I'm not, at all, I just get excited about Gaiman books :)

Redigerat: jul 15, 2016, 3:08 pm

>26 Darth-Heather: Sadly many of the users that posted in these threads have moved on. I can't recall the last time Busifer posted in here. Or LittleKnife, xicanti or dchaikin for that matter. Looks like they are still updating their accounts, at least.

jul 17, 2016, 12:27 am

>26 Darth-Heather: For what it's worth, etc always felt threads could be resurrected in this group, in fact I kind of like to hear from new folks about stuff. :)

nov 27, 2017, 1:18 am

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.