Gaiman's American Gods

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Wed Oct 10 16:48:20 EDT 2001

>While I disagree with Christian's conclusions, I think his observations are
>sound.  Both Arthur Dent and Richard Mayhew strike me as being a peculiarly
>British kind of hero--not the only kind of British hero, but not the sort
>that pops up in American genre fiction.  The bumbling, uninformed affable
>type who is tossed into the middle of things and either learns to sink or
>swim--and the point of the story is to get him to swim.  In American fiction
>this character exists but is almost never the hero.  (In literary fiction
>he's exclusively the hero, but I have Issues with contemporary literary
>fiction.)  When I was a teen, Arthur Dent made an impression on me because I
>had never seen a protagonist like him before.  And he was still the first
>thing that came to mind when I read _Neverwhere_.  Some of that is obviously
>setting and plot: ordinary guy in England is drawn violently out of his own
>world into another about which he knows nothing.  Some of it was the fact
>that even as ancient and decrepit as I am, I still haven't read many books
>with this kind of protagonist.  It sounds as though Christian stopped at
>this point.

This type of hero is so old that recycling him really has to be regarded as 
a literary allusion rather than derivative copying. Everyman in the 
medieval play of the same name has a lot in common with Richard (especially 
as they both encounter a lot of allegorical types in their journey), ditto 
Dante in the Divine Comedy, a lot of Chaucer's dream vision protagonists... 
I could go on, but won't. It is fairly clear from a lot of Gaiman's work 
that he is aware of a broad range of classical and medieval literature.

>I definitely don't think _Neverwhere_ is fluff, to use Christian's word.  To
>me it represents a bridge between two genres.  I'm not going to read
>_American Gods_ because I'm not up to certain kinds of mayhem--there were
>parts of Sandman that I could barely stand--but in my opinion Neil Gaiman is
>still coming into his own as a novelist.  Jacob says he's already there with
>_AG_, which could be true.  Either way, I think it was remarkable for him to
>make the transition at all.

I would have to agree with the 'still in transition'  conclusion. One thing 
that has struck me about Gaiman's written works in the past is that he is 
most comfortable with short stories and that writing something long clearly 
makes him uneasy. Stardust was a pretty short book, after all. American 
Gods is a mammoth effort in comparison with his previous works, but it is 
interesting that it does contain a lot of short stories which interlock to 
make up the plot.

I have to say that I don't think it was that over the top creepy or gory, 
because this normally puts me off; perhaps because it was all important to 
the plot.


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