Monday, May 19, 2008

So it goes

I apparently have lost the ability to shop for books at a physical bookstore. I notice this on a recent trip to Seattle and confirmed it on my trip to Baton Rouge. I still enjoy poking around bookstores and make a point of doing so when I get the chance, having no bookstores at home, but I have lost the ability to find new novels to read at a store. Moving from working at a Barnes & Noble and being surrounded by books and book people on a daily basis to a location with no bookstores, I was forced to change the way I selected books. Now I am so used to reading magazines such as the former Book and now Bookmarks, the online version of the New York Times Book section and its like, BookBrowse (back when it was free) and blogs, not to mention the hundreds of comments left by readers at Amazon, before I select a book, that I cannot chose one now without that input.

I find this disturbing as I spent many a happy afternoon poking around bookstores (long before I worked in one) and coming home with piles of treasure. Indeed, I started working at B&N simply to get the employee discount and help fund my book habit. This trip to Baton Rouge I set myself a task - to find a book to purchase at B&N. How hard could that be for a bookaholic. The first thing that I noticed was that every book that I picked up I had either already read a review of it or it was by an author that I had already read and liked. Obviously these could not count as being found in a bookstore. Remembering numerous discussion in the blogosphere about the enticement of covers, I endeavored to find a cover that I found appealing. Every singe one of the books that I was drawn to had a cover with some sort of book theme and worse, were all books that I had already read about. After several attempts at this exercise (my hotel was conveniently located next door) I gave up.

I guess I have to accept the fact that my selection process has fundamentally changed. I don’t know that my new selection process is better for all the additional input or whether I am missing out on spontaneously finding unexpected pleasures, but change is inevitable. So it goes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

I read this book as part of the Once Upon Time II challenge. It had been sitting on my shelves since it first came out in hardcover and I had purchased it based upon the great reviews and the fact that I had immensely enjoyed Neil Gaiman's book Good Omens that he wrote with Terry Pratchet. American Gods is the story of Shadow who is released from prison where he was serving time for bank robbery only to learn that his wife has died in a car accident. At lose ends he meets up with a grifter named Wednesday who offers him a job and Shadow becomes embroiled in the world of the American Gods. Unbeknownst to most people, America is full of gods that where brought here whenever someone from their homeland believed in them and therefore brought them to America. There is conflict between the old gods that we may be familiar with from mythology and fairytale and the new American gods of the media, internet and dot coms who think that they are superior.

I enjoyed the book but not as much as I had hoped. Of course with any book that gets so much hype it raises your expectations so that it is bound to be somewhat of a disappointment. I enjoyed the portrayal of the gods as everyday Americans, the old gods usually down on their luck and the new ones enjoying their time in the lime light. I loved the idea of tacky road side attractions being important power centers. I found the story a little slow to begin but then I got sucked in and just had to know what happened to Shadow next. I did not find any of the characters particularly compelling however, even Shadow. While I wanted to find out what happened next I didn't really care about any of the characters. I also found the sheer number of gods way to much. I would have preferred to have fewer gods but developed more then to have a very interesting three pages on a particular god never to see them again except once for one page. And I saw the punch line a mile away.

I also found a couple things confusing. While I liked the gods portrayed as regular people and I appreciate that some of the older gods were not very powerful because they were forgotten and not worshiped anymore, I found it odd how easy it was to kill any of the gods. I also kept wondering what about the same god in other locations. For example, say Odin comes to America from Scandinavia in the belief of Scandinavian immigrants, is there is another version of himself still in Scandinavia and another version of himself in each location that his people travel too? If so is the American version aware of the other versions? I know I am nit picking but I kept thinking about it through out the book.

All in all I enjoyed American Gods but I don't know if I will read its sequel, Anasazi Boys. I would highly recommend that everyone read Good Omens.