Off to the cottage this weekend. CanNOT wait.
I always take a special read with me when I have the opportunity to spend a few days beside one of the beautiful lakes up near Haliburton. It’s a place of calm and quiet- and comfortable familiarity- totally deserving of a great book.
Last year I decided to reread Foucault’s Pendulum, for the nth time- but the first in ages. The previous read through was for a course I taught many moons ago. I had assigned it as one of the possibilities for review in an introductory class on religious studies methodologies.
Since it was a first-year course I wasn’t terribly confident that anyone would choose to tackle the weighty tome- the beauty of Umberto Eco’s writing notwithstanding. I was wrong. One intrepid and engaged student (out of 130) accepted the challenge- and wrote an excellent reflection on the way we construct beliefs and belief systems.
One of the other choices for that particular assignment was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I was first exposed to Neil’s work in the form of Good Omens– an entertaining look at angels, demons and the apocalypse, co-authored by Terry Pratchett (he of the Discworld novels). It was a lighthearted introduction to the wonderful imagination of Neil Gaiman (an entrée that I followed up by fairly rapidly devouring everything else he had written).
American Gods effectively plays with mythological themes and characters- explaining what happens to the supernatural beings that are brought to the U.S. by its immigrant population.
Once the gods lose the constant worship, adoration, sacrifices and other trappings that deities tend to consider their lot, as newer gods- of things like technology and television- take their place, they are forced resort to other means of getting by and existing in the world.
The underlying premise is that we create our gods, and are therefore responsible for their inevitable fade into dereliction, insanity, day-jobs or complete non-existence when they are no longer sustained by our belief.
It is an eye-opening book, with a unique premise and engaging characters- most of whom are immediately familiar- just trying to keep their existence together. Love the Egyptian deities running a funeral home in the South. And the cab-driving djinn.
The novel puts the gods in their appropriate place in the cultural scheme of things, and demonstrates not only that they need us more than we need them, but that their continued interference long past the point of relevance causes sometimes-irreparable damage to those of us in the line of their fire.
American Gods is a great example of Gaiman’s imaginative invention of often-overlapping worlds.
So how excited was I to find out that
was released yesterday? (Answer: VERY)
PERFECT cottage reading.
Since I have avoided reading reviews or synopses in case they might contain terrible spoilers, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that it is a pretty short book. Like, a read-in-one-sitting book.
Not a problem in itself- shorter novels are not necessarily sub-par or anything- but the thought of running out of reading material while there is still warmth, sunlight and a dock with softly lapping lake water providing the backdrop des jours is worrisome in the extreme.
So I began to browse the bookstore. Always a slippery slope for me. I love good stories (in case you haven’t been keeping up) and discovering new writers- or rediscovering old favourites- is one of the joys of life.
A couple of hours later, and after a cool chat with the cashier about Kobo/Kindle/Tablet/iPad vs. actual, tangible books and the cottage aesthetic, I finally hit the exit with my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and