Wednesday, December 06, 2006

 

American Gods, Part II

I finished reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods today. I savored it this time through. When I found a particularly good sentence, I reread it just to catch its subtleties.

Now, I'm not going to be a nasty spoiler and reveal things I shouldn't, but here's what I discovered during my second reading of the book. I picked up on little important things this time that I didn't notice before. Neil is very good - and I mean VERY good - at throwing in a seemingly insignificant detail somewhere near the beginning of the book and rolling back around to this detail later on. How does he have the memory for it?

Neil's also got a facility for setting an accurate & believable scene. Part of the book takes place in Wisconsin & Minnesota and he's dead-on with his descriptions of the weather and scenery. It makes me trust him when he describes places I've never been.

During the first reading, I bawled my eyes out at one point in the book - broken-hearted sobbing, really. I didn't do that this time; the effect was worn off for the second read. I did, however, almost cry at the ending, which, come to think, I probably did the first time, too. I like it when a writer gets to me.

I was astonished at the number of gods Neil mentions in the book. I was more aware of this for the second read because I was going to try to keep track, but there are so many, it was impossible. Makes me wonder how long the research took for the book.

Finally, I noticed the beats Neil used within his dialogue. This is a writerly sort of thing, but beats are the actions characters engage in while talking to each other. They make the dialogue easier to read and more believable. Neil gave his main character, Shadow, a habit that made for a continually effective beat. Shadow does coin tricks, which gives him something to do with his hands. This use of beats is something I'm definitely going to remember for my next short story.

Am I recommending that you read American Gods? Yeah. And if you've read it once, I'm recommending you read it again.

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