According to the Introduction to the Tenth Anniversary Edition of American Gods, Neil Gaiman began writing this novel as an attempt to explore “all the parts of America that obsessed and delighted [him], which tended to be the bits that never showed up in films or television shows.” Much of it was written on the road, and the resulting novel is very much the story of a journey: Shadow and Wednesday, meandering through the heartland, down highways and dirt roads, drifting through the mundane and the sacred and the surreal (sometimes all at once).
In the same spirit, we’d like to frame this reread as a literary road trip—whether you’ve read the book once or a dozen times, you bring something new to it each time you take it down from the shelf (or from your e-shelf). American Gods tells the story of a journey which is at least as important as its eventual destination—it’s packed with odd, meaningful moments and small but fascinating details, not to mention a vast web of mythological and literary references to untangle, discuss and play around with. Each week we’ll be bringing our collective knowledge to bear on Gaiman’s richly allusive text, teasing out the references, exchanging theories, sharing bits of esoteric knowledge, and swapping opinions all the way. We’ll try not to ramble or take too many detours, and we can’t wait to hit the road….
Just so we’re all on the same page, we’ll be using the aforementioned Tenth Anniversary/Author’s Preferred Text edition published by William Morrow, covering two chapters a week to start off. [Note: In spite of some extra material in the new edition, the chapter divisions remain identical to the original text, so there shouldn’t be much confusion for folks reading the older version]. And, since every great road trip needs the perfect soundtrack, we’ll be chronicling every song mentioned in the novel in our ongoing American Gods Mix Tape—a bonus series in which we’ll discuss each song in relation to the novel (and maybe add in a few tunes of our own, over time).
Finally, we just want to underscore that these posts will often include some spoilers for future chapters and for the conclusion of the book (as well as the related novella “The Monarch of the Glen,” should it happen to come up). If you don’t know how the novel ends, you may want to catch up before joining the discussion!
Now let’s begin at the beginning: Chapters 1 and 2 of American Gods.