Monday, October 24, 2011

An American Classic

I first read this book many years ago on a business trip, one of those things you have to endure where you want some sort of engrossing novel to carry you away from the bullshit of a job you hate (and traveling with the company owner, too) and one of those nerve-wracking times when you have to be “on” all the time because you’re surrounded by clients who are all morons anyway, and you have to be nice to them. I was on board a plane reading the opening scenes of American Gods that take place on a plane. Not that it had anything to do with the novel, but I remember watching what was almost a mugging on a Baltimore street from my hotel room late one night while I read this book. Fascinating, as if the world had become weirdly in-tune and out-of-order from the normal and usual, as if tendrils of the novel wormed their way out of the pages and into the ether.

I finished American Gods well after that trip ended, and when I closed its pages I was startled by an unbidden thought: “That was one of the most satisfying books I have ever read.” And I meant it. Every moment spent reading American Gods had been worth it, every hour with it an hour much more than well-spent. How often can you say that about any book? The works of Shakespeare and Homer; the utterly perfect characters and situations of Stephen King’s masterpiece, The Shining; the overwhelming too-muchness and diamond-flaw perfection of my favorite novel, Les Misérables. Not many others. Not many others at all.

The edition of American Gods I read years ago was the “standard edition,” I guess we could say. I started reading it again recently in the above pictured, Tenth Anniversary edition, with text restored by the brilliant Neil Gaiman. I’m already hooked again. Read this. It’s worth every minute of your time. Very little written today is this goddamned excellent.


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