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Literary Glance: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

May 30, 2017

When it comes to American Gods by Neil Gaiman, everybody knows about the “worship” scene.  I mean, everybody who’s read (part of) the novel knows about it.  It’s within the first few pages of the book, and if you’ve never read American Gods, I’m not going to explain it to you, but the scene stands out.

My youngest daughter walked in on my wife while she was watching the first episode of American Gods on television, and of course it was during the “worship” scene.  My youngest daughter usually walks around the house staring at her phone while wearing headphones, but this time she was well aware of her surroundings and saw exactly what was going on in the worship scene on the TV.  Now she’s traumatized.

When I checked out the novel American Gods from the library and opened the book, the pages turned right away to the “worship” scene.  That told me everything I needed to know about the book’s popularity.  Maybe American Gods is well-written.  Maybe it has a fascinating blend of old mythology with today’s culture.  Maybe the unique plot holds readers’ attentions.  But a lot of people like the “worship” scene and probably hope there’s more scenes like that.

A couple years ago, one of my daughters had to read The Graveyard Book, also by Neil Gaiman.  She liked it but not enough to go out and read more of his books.  I’m glad because she might have grabbed American Gods without me knowing about it and turned straight to the “worship” scene.

There’s a lot more to American Gods than just the “worship” scene, but even if you don’t read the whole book (or watch the whole television series), at least the “worship” scene is memorable.  Nobody forgets the “worship” scene.


What do you think?  Were you traumatized by the “worship” scene, or do you know anybody who has been?  What else is great about American Gods?

  1. Not in the least. The sexual aspect of worship on this show is bombastic, wild and frenzied, perfectly matching the tone and scope of what Gaiman is reaching for. From a visual standpoint alone, AG is presenting some pretty vivid, sultry fair. So far, I am duly hooked.

  2. Not that I knew of. But WTH: this is Europe, we don’t mind some sexual explicitness and would rather reduce the amount of graphic violence because we consider that damaging to OUR children.

    BTW, I can’t help but notice that Galman’s premise is a really old hat. They didn’t notice it on Wikipedia, but the notion of gods being as powerful as their number of worshippers has already been exploited both by Fredric Brown and Poul Anderson 70 years ago. I find it rather strange that it may still be used, though – doesn’t it have the inevitable and disconcerting consequence that Allah is mightiest of the whole bunch?

    • I like this reply. In the US, we have no problem showing in detail how to kill someone as part of our entertainment viewing, while showing a bit too much skin, or god forbid a nipple (Janet Jackson), and we are incensed. Our priorities are screwed, as evidenced by that ‘person’ we elected as our president.

  3. I’m probably unqualified, having read only two of his other books, but I find Gaiman’s popularity troubling, given his (as mentioned by Codex Regius) his lack of originality and also paltry substance–I found reading his work like eating cotton candy.

  4. I’ve never read him. shrug. I’m not sure why.

  5. Now I am going to have to read the worship seen – and the book.

  6. Just recently listened to the whole audiobook, and had forgotten the “worship” scene. It’s all lost in the subsequent story. Very enjoyable piece of fantasy. That’s all I’ll say for it. Saw one episode of the tv show and was a little disappointed at how many liberties they took with the book.

  7. I’ve read most of Gaiman’s work, and though it’s been a few years since I read “Gods”, I don’t remember it being overly sexual beyond the worship scene. Or perhaps the worship scene was so over-the-top that the rest seemed tame by comparison.

  8. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman collaborated on Good Omens. Haven’t read any Gaiman otherwise. Hard to shield your children, isn’t it? (Hard to know when to stop, although they usually let you know. 🙂 )

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