I watched American Gods, and I liked it!

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.


  1. latsot says

    Liked the book, liked the first episode. Lovejoy makes a good Wednesday and Ricky Whittle is great too. The level of sex and gore seem about right, the production values are high, there are several mysteries to be solved and some threats to be addressed, what’s not to like?

  2. killyosaur says

    Only issues I (sort of) had were that the opening prison scenes felt a bit rushed (I realize they wanted to get to the meat of the story but still) and I was a little saddened that they changed Bilquist’s first victim in to a somewhat more sympathetic character (though in retrospect, I believe it to be a good move). I actually liked Shadow’s interactions with Audrey better in the show as well…

  3. latsot says

    I think I am a bit in love with Shadow Moon.

    Me too. Seems like the character is going to be interesting.

  4. citizenjoe says

    Agree about each place being a bit off-kilter. About half-way into the novel, Wednesday makes the point that San Francisco is not even in the same country as New York, and New Orleans not in the same country as Detroit, etc.

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    The opening scene of Vikings landing ~813 was fascinating as the scene concluded with narrator saying they motivated Leif Erickson to investigate their garbled stories of their summoning Odin etc.
    I thought Leif was the original invader of America by Europeans, having finally displaced the legend of Columbus. Here it seems Leif was only the second.
    ?big deal? who needs legends such as this anyway.
    looking at you TechnoBoy with your VR facetrap thingy that looked a lot like the larval form of the Alien Exomorph

    some people (lots actually) question the scene of Shadow ( a POC) being strung up in a noose as being an obvious reference to US history, with not even a verbal mention of it within the story. Well, yeah, it’s so obvious, why should Gaiman have to spell it out when it is so obvious. Spelling it out would be Gaiman insulting us by implying we are stupid of our past and the atrocities committed.

    Only 45* would need it spelled out so explicitly, as he doesn’t even understand the cause of the Civil War.
    wha? pretty effin obvious to anyone without their head up their ess, like Mr Wizduhm

    Worth noting there was a brief foreshadow in the prison scene, where Shadow, prompted by LowKey (not named in the show, only named in the book, for phonetic playing around (hint hint)), looks over at a group of skinheads dangling a piece of rope tied into a noose loop. oooohh spooky.

    interesting that Shadow’s hometown is Indian Point.
    given the opening historical scene of Indian Points making quite the impression on that Viking scout in the lead

  6. says

    The noose is also very much a Wednesday thing, part of the Norse mythos. He is the Hanged Man, and the gallows is one of his symbols. Just saying there’s a lot more complex interlinking of mythology going on there.

  7. sebloom says

    I tried reading the book, but couldn’t get into it…must try again.

    That being said, I was born and raised in the midwest (Chicago), and still live here (Northeast Indiana). I agree that every area of the country has it’s unique little weirdness…and the midwest is no different. However, PZ, your comment about being from somewhere else originally and that makes it feel like home-but-not-home is also true for me being from this region originally.

    Every subsection of the midwest feels different to me: My relatives and friends from Wisconsin are weird in a way that’s different from my relatives and friends from Chicago, who are weird in a different way from my relatives and friends from Michigan, who are weird in a different way from my relatives and friends from Indiana…etc.

    During my current sojourn of 45 years in northeast Indiana, I feel, like you, that “small element of disconnectedness which makes it uncomfortably interesting.” Now, however, going “home” to Chicago feels the same way…

    It’s all weird.

  8. freemage says

    One of the things that hit me hardest when I read the book was the… rightness of the Midwest scenes, especially the bits where he’d be driving along the backroads and the sign for the town he was about to pass through would have the town name, population, and then whatever the most noteworthy high school sports achievement the town could identify. “3rd place State Wrestling Championships” or “Fifth Place Soccer Regionals”. As a Chicagoon, any time I’m driving through Corn Country, I’m always struck by those signs.

    Also, I can’t wait to see Chernevog. During the book tour, Gaiman read from that passage while he was in Naperville. The man’s voice literally cured my migraine in about fifteen minutes (this normally requires four hours, three Aleve and a dark room).

  9. methuseus says

    I started the book, but never got really into it for some reason. The Midwest stuff (from north of Chicago, but now down south) rang true, especially from my trips to western Wisconsin as a kid. I’m pretty sure I was in the area, if not Menomonie itself, for the last time around when Gaiman moved there. Even though I grew up in a more populated area, the smaller towns have always felt more like home to me; some of my favorite memories are of small town Western Wisconsin from when I was a kid.

    I will probably watch this series and then read the book again. I’m sure it was just happenstance that I started reading something else for some reason.

  10. methuseus says

    So, I just watched that first episode. If nothing else, the music is divine. The sounds are just so perfect, better than many series. The best I can remember previously for the sounds and music is Firefly, with the silence at all the best times and great music at other times. I’m looking forward to watching more.

  11. Pilum says

    I absolutely loved the book, but for some reason the movie is not being aired in this part of the world. I guess I’ll have to get the DVD. :-(

  12. Pilum says

    And I just realized it’s a TV show. *feels dumb*
    Still, not being aired here atm.