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About the Author
Born in England, he now makes his home in America, in a big dark house of uncertain location where he grows exotic pumpkins and accumulates computers and cats. He is currently at work turning his first novel Neverwhere into a film for Jim Henson films.
Date of Birth:November 10, 1960
Place of Birth:Portchester, England
Education:Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
Read an Excerpt
The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we arebounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by therising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of theEquinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgment.-- The American Joe Miller's Jest Book
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
The best thing – in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing – about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get hurt, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.
It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done what you had been convicted of or not. In his experience everyone he met in prison was aggrieved about something: there was always something the authorities had got wrong, something they said you did when you didn't – or you didn't do quite like they said you did. What was important was that they had gotten you.
He had noticed it in the first few days, when everything, from the slang to the bad food, was new. Despite the misery and the titter skin-crawling horror of incarceration, he was breathing relief.
Shadow tried not to talk too much. Somewhere around the middle of year two he mentioned his theory to Low Key Lyesmith, hiscellmate.
Low Key, who was a grifter from Minnesota, smiled his scarred smile. "Yeah," he said. "That's true. It's even better when you've been sentenced to death. That's when you remember the jokes about the guys who kicked their boots off as the noose flipped around their necks, because their friends always told them they'd die with their boots on."
"Is that a joke?" asked Shadow.
"Damn right. Gallows humor. Best kind there is."
"When did they last hang a man in this state?" asked Shadow.
"How the hell should I know?" Lyesmith kept his orange-blond hair pretty much shaved. You could see the lines of his skull. "Tell you what, though. This country started going to bell when they stopped hanging folks. No gallows dirt. No gallows deals."
Shadow shrugged. He could see nothing romantic in a death sentence.
If you didn't have a death sentence, he decided, then prison was, at best, only a temporary reprieve from life, for two reasons. First, life creeps back into prison. There are always places to go further down. Life goes on. And second, if you just hang in there, someday they're going to have to let you out.
In the beginning it was too far away for Shadow to focus on. Then it became a distant beam of hope, and he learned how to tell himself "this too shall pass" when the prison shit went down, as prison shit always did. One day the magic door would open and he'd walk through it. So he marked off the days on his Songbirds of North America calendar, which was the only calendar they sold in the prison commissary, and the sun went down and he didn't see it and the sun came up and he didn't see it. He practiced coin tricks from a book lie found in the wasteland of the prison library; and lie worked out; and he made lists in his head of what he'd do when he got out of prison.
Shadow's lists got shorter and shorter. After two years he had it down to three things.
First, he was going to take a bath. A real, long, serious soak, in a tub with bubbles. Maybe read the paper, maybe not. Some days he thought one way, some days the other.
Second he was going to towel himself off, put on a robe. Maybe slippers. He liked the idea of slippers. If he smoked he would be smoking a pipe about now, but he didn't smoke. He would pick up his wife in his arms ("Puppy," she would squeal in mock horror and real delight, "what are you doing?"). He would carry her into the bedroom, and close the door. They'd call out for pizzas if they got hungry.
Third, after he and Laura had come out of the bedroom, maybe a couple of days later, he was going to keep his head down and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.
"And then you'll be happy?" asked Low Key Lyesmith. That day they were working in the prison shop, assembling bird feeders, which was barely more interesting than stamping out license plates.
"Call no man happy," said Shadow, "until he is dead."
"Herodotus," said Low Key. "Hey. You're learning."
"Who the fuck's Herodotus?" asked the Iceman, slotting together the sides of a bird feeder and passing it to Shadow, who bolted and screwed it tight.
"Dead Greek," said Shadow.
"My last girlfriend was Greek," said the Iceman. "The shit her family ate. You would not believe. Like rice wrapped in leaves. Shit like that."
The Iceman was the same size and shape as a Coke machine, with blue eyes and hair so blond it was almost white. He had beaten the crap out of some guy who had made the mistake of copping a feel off his girlfriend in the bar where she danced and the Iceman bounced. The guy's friends had called the police, who arrested the Iceman and ran a check on him which revealed that the Iceman had walked from a work-release program...American Gods. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroducción a la Edición X Aniversario,
Sobre la presente edición,
Aviso para navegantes,
Primera Parte Sombras,
En algún lugar de Estados Unidos,
Desembarco en América,
El desembarco en Estados Unidos,
En algún lugar de Estados Unidos,
Segunda Partem Mi Ainsel,
Mientras tanto, una conversación,
Desembarco en los Estados Unidos,
El desembarco en América,
Tercera Parte El momento de la tormenta,
Cuarta Parte Epílogo: algo que los muertos no nos revelan,
¿Cómo te atreves?,
Una entrevista con Neil Gaiman,
What People are Saying About This
Here we have . . . a real emotional richness and grandeur that emerge from masterful storytelling.
American Gods is like a fast run downhill through a maze — both exhilarating and twisted.
Gaiman has managed to tell the tallest of tales in the most believable fashion. An important, essential book.
Neil Gaiman, a writer of rare perception and endless imagination . . . is . . . an American treasure.
“Gaiman understands the shape of stories.”
A magical modern Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — this book will astonish you on ever page.
American Gods is sexy, thrilling, dark, funny and poetic.
“Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions.”
Reading Group Guide
Shadow Moon spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife, Laura, and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But just a few days before his release, he learns that Laura has been fatally injured in a car accident.
On the plane ride home to the funeral, a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday makes Shadow an offer he can't refuse. But Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road odyssey and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know a great deal about Shadow's private life.
Shadow will discover that everyone in Mr. Wednesday's world harbors secrets, that the living and the dead are all around him, and that nothing is what it appears. As a storm of epic proportions threatens to break all around them, Shadow and Wednesday get swept up in a conflict as old as humanity itself; for beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a pitched battle is being fought over America's soul.
As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey into an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, this work of literary magic will haunt the reader far beyond the final page.
- Where is Shadow at the beginning of American Gods? Where is he at the end? Of the many characters he encounters along the way, which did you find mostmemorable? What did you make of Shadow's obsession with coin tricks? How did you interpret his determination to participate in the vigil for Wednesday?
- How does Laura die? Were you surprised by what happens at her funeral? How does she come to Shadow's aid? What explains the phenomenon of her persistence in the world of the living? How does Shadow release her from her state of limbo?
- How would you describe Wednesday? How does he interact with Shadow at the start of the book? Did you find any of his grifter schemes especially entertaining? What is his connection to Odin? By the end of American Gods, what relationship between Wednesday and Shadow is revealed?
- Who is Czernobog? How would you describe him? What is his relationship with the three Zoryas? What did you make of this group? What role did they play in Shadow's experiences?
- "There are new gods growing in America ... gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." How do you interpret this remark? Do you think there's any element of truth to it?
- How would you describe Shadow's sojourn in Lakeside, Wisconsin? How do Hinzelmann, Chad Mulligan, Marge Olsen, and Missy Gunther treat their mysterious new neighbor?
- Who is Alison McGovern and how does Shadow come to know her? What clue enables Shadow to determine her killer? What did you think of the outcome of this mystery?
- "Would you believe that all of the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today?" Shadow asks this question of Samantha Black Crow. Do you find this premise compelling? Did any elements of the plot of American Gods push this idea in interesting directions?
About the author
Neil Gaiman is the critically acclaimed author of the novels American Gods (winner of the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel), Stardust (winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award), and the award-winning Sandman series of graphic novels, as well as Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of short fiction, and Coraline (winner of the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella), a tale for readers of all ages. His first book for children, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, illustrated by Dave McKean, was one of Newsweek's Best Children's Books of 1997. In 2003, Gaiman and McKean teamed up again to produce another illustrated children's book, The Wolves in the Walls. His small press story collection, Angels & Visitations, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won the International Horror Critics Guild Award for Best Collection. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in America.
An Interview with Neil Gaiman
Barnes & Noble.com: American Gods is far and away the most ambitious and wide-ranging of your novel-length narratives. Was this sense of near epic scope implicit in your original conception of the book, or did your story, like Tolkien's, grow in the telling?
Neil Gaiman: I always knew it was going to be a big book -- I don't think I really knew just how big until it became apparent that I was already 100,000 words into the book and I was only half way through the story. It took me twice as long to write as I had expected and planned.
It certainly grew in the telling; and to be honest, I suspect that if someone had said "Here, take another year on it," it would have been half as long again. America's such a big country that trying to squeeze even a small bit of it into a book demands a big book.
B&N.com: One of the most obvious literary influences present in American Gods is, it seems to me, Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories. How important was this influence? Has Ellison's work in general played a significant role in your own artistic development?
NG: I think that's true, although it's not something I saw until I had finished the first draft of American Gods. Harlan was certainly an influence, although just as important were James Branch Cabell's gods in Something About Eve, who existed because they were believed in and, when they were no longer believed in, walked down the road to yesteryear, and Roger Zelazny's people-as-gods in Lord of Light and gods-as-people in Creatures of Light and Darkness. All of the books and authors I read as a boy.
Harlan was certainly the first time, as a reader, I became aware of a writer as a person through the work. There's a white-hot fierceness to the best of Ellison that I would love to have in my own work. I was thrilled when he broke his rule about not giving blurbs to give American Gods an (unsolicited) blurb...
Another influence, of course, in many ways, was The Sandman.
B&N.com: American Gods is, in part, a road novel in the classic tradition, a novel that takes a close, even intimate look at the American landscape. To what extent does the novel represent your attempt to assess and come to terms with your adopted country?
NG: Pretty much 100% -- I'd been writing about America for years before I came to live here, albeit an America constructed out of films and movies and other books. But living here made me reassess everything I had seen -- and every way I had seen the media portray America. I thought it would be a good thing to try and put the America I saw down on paper.
B&N.com: Much of your creative energy has, in recent years, gone into the creation of full-length novels. Has novel writing become your preferred form of expression, or are you equally interested in exploring a variety of forms?
NG: In many ways right now, writing novels is the next form I'm trying to master. I felt like I got pretty good at comics, and I'm fairly comfortable with my ability to write short stories. American Gods is the first novel I've written that I felt I was beginninng to show any sign of talent at the medium.
I'm no less intersted or active in other forms though.
B&N.com: You developed an enormous, even fanatical following with the Sandman series of graphic novels. Do you have the sense that this audience has followed you into your recent forays into prose fiction (Neverwhere, Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors, etc.)?
NG: It's hard to tell -- Sandman sold in astounding quantities, and while the novels also sell astonishingly well, it seems to me like half of the readers were Sandman readers, while half of them had no idea who or what I was and just picked up the books because they liked the look of the covers or read a good review.
I suspect that also Neverwhere and Stardust (while popular, award-winning, and bestselling) wouldn't have given Sandman readers the same buzz they got from Sandman -- they were an adventure novel and a fairy tale respectively. American Gods has the same kind of meat that Sandman did, I think.
B&N.com: Are you still interested in staying involved in the comics industry, either through future Sandman stories or through something altogether new?
B&N.com: Good Omens, your comic collaboration with Terry Pratchett, remains one of your most popular creations. Do you have anything to report either on the rumored sequel or on the possibility of a film adaptation?
NG: Terry Gilliam is signed to direct it and has just written the first draft of a script. I'm excited.
B&N.com: Speaking of film adaptations, is it true that you'll be writing and directing an original screenplay in the near future? Can you tell us anything about this project?
NG: I'm working on adapting Death: The High Cost of Living into film form for Warner Brothers. Let's see what happens.
B&N.com: With American Gods, which must have been an enormous effort, now behind you, do you have any immediate plans for a new, novel-length project, or are you planning to let the tank fill back up for a while?
NG: I think it's going to be short projects for a little while. And then I'll want to take refuge in a longer project.
B&N.com: You once remarked that you were lucky in that you had stories to tell that a good many people clearly wanted to hear. Would you care to single out some good writers who have been slightly less fortunate, writers who deserve -- but have not yet received -- a larger share of the public's attention?