if all the books were in the sea

I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s last novel American Gods.

It was good, though I thought that it lacked a certain something. It had a sort of distant feel to it, that I wasn’t sure that I liked. Gaiman sort of sort of addresses what I’m getting at in this essay, and it’s entirely possible that others might not find this to be much of a problem at all.

I like Neil Gaiman. I’ve read almost everything that he’s written–those Sandman books; Smoke and Mirrors, his brilliant collection of short stories, and other random things.

It’s probably heresy among the Gaiman fans, but I just don’t think that he does as well in the novel format. I think he has a unique vibrancy to his writing that is uniquely suited to the graphical marriage of text and image in comic books. He’s also quite good at pinning an idea down (like a bug on a tackerboard) and fleshing it out over 20-30 pages. I found that his language lost a lot of its gumption when scrawled out over 300-400 pages. It grated a little.

So, if you’re going to read something by Neil Gaiman, I wouldn’t recommend American Gods. You’d do better off reading a short story or two from Smoke and Mirrors or cracking open one of his graphic novels.

Still, I think that Neil Gaiman is one of the most charming writers that I’ve ever seen speak in person. He came to town two or three years ago and attracted a huge crowd. I flashed on Charles Dickens, for a bit, the performative aspect of the reading was so strong.

These interviews give you a taste of what I’m talking about.

3 thoughts on “if all the books were in the sea”

  1. I read the book earlier this year, and remember being quite engrossed in it. But that’s the only Gaiman I’ve read.

    What I really loved about the book was the witty and empathic way he used the metaphor of gods to succintly catpure the old-vs-new battle. Gods of thunder vs the credit card gods ;-)

    I also loved his evocative descriptions of small-town, road-side America.

    Can you recommend a good graphic novel of his to begin with?

  2. thanks for the comment.
    that’s cheery.

    well, i’d recommend PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES to begin with. it was written second, but it’s a nice pre-story to the whole Sandman thing.

    DREAM COUNTRY is also quite good and can easily be read out of order from the others.

    FABLES AND REFLECTIONS is also a good stand-aloner. Also, WORLD’S END.

  3. but, about AMERICAN GODS:
    there were lots of good good ideas,
    and lots of really great little moments.
    but… i thought that on the whole the thing
    didn’t hang together very well.

    maybe i’ve been reading too much non-fiction
    lately. coloring my fiction blinkers.

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