Sometimes the question of what’s real and what’s imagined is an arbitrary distinction. What’s more important is what you believe in.
“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”
So writes Neil Gaiman in his classic 2001 tale of warring deities, American Gods.
The novel follows Shadow, a man just released from prison and looking to find his way home. However, Shadow is intercepted by a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday who enlists Shadow as his assistant and body guard. But Mr. Wednesday is more than what he seems. Soon Shadow finds himself directly at the center of a war between Old Gods (classic deities like Odin, Easter, and more) and New Gods (the figures that we worship now like technology and media).
Sure, it’s an compelling concept — a clash between two mythical forces with one human at the center who unwittingly has the power to change it all — but, the novel’s characterization of tech as diametrically opposed to belief reads as antiquated and stale in 2017, 16 years after the book’s initial release in 2001.
After all, in 2017, with media and the internet at our finger tips at all time thanks to smartphones and other devices, the tech described in the book has become so omnipresent that it’s almost rendered mundane. Because of this, the book occasionally feels like it is curmudgeonly shaking its fist in the air at modernity.
But where the novel does shine is in its inventiveness and world building. With American Gods, Gaiman takes what can be a trite commentary on the impact of belief, and layers on top of it a unique and compelling adventure, populated by unforgettable characters, that will stick with readers (and viewers) long after the story is done.
Join us this week on the MashReads Podcast, as we read and discuss Neil Gaiman’s classic American Gods in our episode featured above. Then, inspired by the novel, we move on to discuss our favorite books featuring mythology, including The Satanic Verses and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, both by Salman Rushdie, Anansi Boys, also by Neil Gaiman, and The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.
And, as always, we close the show with recommendations:
Aliza recommends Last Week Tonight, especially after the show’s episode about kidney dialysis. “I think it’s really important for us to be aware of this specifically because it does impact hundreds of thousands of people.”
Peter recommends Season 3 of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3. “I’ve been really super lucky enough to watch several episodes of the upcoming Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3, and it is so wonderful. It’s just a ray of sunshine. Delighted to have it in my life.”
MJ recommends rewatching the movie Bring It On. “A thing you should know about me is that I have loved Bring It On since it first came out … It is campy goodness that is rightfully in the American cannon. I rewatched it last week and I am happy to say: it holds up!” Along with that, he also recommends MTV’s Oral History of Bring It On, where the stars and producers of the film talk about making the movie.