But then, I also liked the novel, which is not to everyone’s taste. It was refreshingly pagan, with a plethora of gods, and not much difference between a leprechaun and the king of the gods — they’re all manifestations of human belief, and since they merely reflect humanity, they tend not to be very nice. The show has an element of the surreal to it, too.
If you’ve read the book, you know that one of its featured elements is the Upper Midwest. In an interview with Neil Gaiman, the author makes that explicit.
“I couldn’t have written it without living in Wisconsin, and Minneapolis and St. Paul being the nearest big cities,” said Gaiman, chatting last week from a Los Angeles hotel where he was preparing for the world premiere of Starz’s TV adaptation of the book. “It just wouldn’t have worked.”
Gaiman, so thoughtful in responding to questions that you sometimes worry the phone line has gone dead, wasn’t referring so much to specific landmarks, such as the House on the Rock or the wintry landscape, both of which play pivotal roles in his 2001 book. He’s talking about the region’s general weirdness.
“There’s that tiny off-kilter nature in the Midwest that’s in the details,” said Gaiman, 56, who moved from England to Menomonie, Wis., in 1992. “I would enjoy stopping at a little restaurant somewhere and half the place would be selling peculiar stuff like … warrior princess dolls. That’s weird.”
As someone who has lived in the Pacific Northwest, the Desert Southwest, the East Coast, and now, Minnesota, I can confidently say that everywhere is a tiny bit off-kilter from everywhere else. The Midwest is not weirder than any other part of the country, but it does have a different flavor, and as someone who grew up in a place with mountains and evergreen trees and the ocean and temperate weather, long-term residence makes it feel like home-but-not-home, if you know what I mean. You live in it, but you’re not of it, and that small element of disconnectedness makes it uncomfortably interesting.