Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 4

In the fourth chapter of American Gods, Shadow sets out on his journey across the United States with Wednesday, taking a pit stop in Chicago to meet with…I actually don’t know who they are. And what the hell is going on. That is not a question. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.

I’ve struggled to find the right word for what I just experienced here in chapter four of American Gods. First of all, this reflects entirely in my own experience and shouldn’t be interpreted as any sort of fault with this chapter. But as soon as Wednesday and Shadow got to Chicago, I felt like I had been dropped into a large, active party in a part of town I’d never been to. I only came with a couple friends, but they seem to know everyone here, so they split off from me pretty early. I’m left to stand awkwardly by the table full of snacks, and I gorge on handful after handful of Chex mix, but I’m the asshole who picks out all those dark rye pieces because they taste the best and no one’s looking, so who cares? I’ll blame it on someone else later, but for now, I peer around the room and I just feel left out. I can hear snippets of conversation come floating past me. I catch lines I am familiar with or topics I might know something about, but I don’t say anything. It feels too awkward to speak up and butt into a conversation between total strangers.

In short, I feel ignorant. And what I mean by that is that I understand what’s going on here in chapter four, at least on a basic level, but all the details escape me. I thought I’d figured out the general idea behind this book by now, that gods were real physical beings, and the Wednesday/Odin was recruiting gods in some sort of battle with the people who attacked Shadow. I don’t think I’m wrong about that, but I don’t know who Zorya and her family are supposed to represent. Well, I should say didn’t. I had to Google the name to learn that they were part of Slavic mythology, but I didn’t know this until well after I’d read chapter four.

Don’t get me wrong. I still am enjoying this experience, but I was lost. And I’m perfectly fine admitting that! I had not the slightest goddamn clue what was going on, but we’d starting making more headway on the main plot and I was excited to see where this was going.

First of all:

“How’d you lose your eye?”

“Wednesday shoveled half a dozen pieces of bacon into his mouth, chewed, wiped the fat from his lips with the back of his hand. “Didn’t lose it,” he said. “I still know exactly where it is.”

SEEEEEEEE I TOLD YOU. He has to be Odin, right??? THIS IS SO AWESOME.

There’s still a lot of coy and cryptic talk from Wednesday. There’s some meeting coming up “with a number of person preeminent in their respective fields,” and it will be “at one of the most important places in the entire country.” Of course, when Shadow asks where this place is, all Wednesday offers up is that he merely said one of them. There are multiple locations. Which is not fair. You are cheating with words.

But Wednesday is not exactly the pinnacle of someone possessing a lot of social tact. He asks Shadow if he fucked his dead girlfriend. And he expresses that he loves the girls in Minnesota and Wisconsin because they remind him of the girls he liked when he was younger: very white, blond-haired, and blue-eyed. Oh, that’s cool I guess. OMG I bet he would be one of those assholes on an online dating site whose profile says, “I only date wht grls. i’m not racist its just a preferance.” I mean right.

what is my brain

When the two make it to Chicago, things become strange, incomprehensible, and, bizarrely, quite fascinating for me. It’s here that I meet the Zorya sisters, three Slavic gods who possess powers I don’t even begin to understand. (I’m afraid to Google toomuch because I don’t want to accidentally spoil myself.) I understood that Wednesday was not receiving the most joyous welcome from these people, though Czernobog’s greeting to Shadow was AMAZING.

“How do you do, Mr. Czernobog.”

“I do old. My guts ache, and my back hurts, and I cough my chest apart every morning.”

And this is what is so fascinating to me, even if I truly don’t understand what is going on: it seems Gaiman is giving gods physical bodies, bodies that age and hurt and feel and experience life that we as humans do. I’m not sure how the logistics of it work, of course, because obviously these beings are around for a lot longer time than we are. How does aging work for a being like Odin, who is thousands of years old? Why do they live in houses amongst humans? Just to blend in?

I’m asking some SRS BSNS questions that I know aren’t going to be answered yet and are essentially just teasing you to spoil me, so I’ll move on. I admit that despite feeling bewildering by a history I knew nothing about, the entire set of scenes in the Zorya household are layered with a lot of information and subtle bits of character development, so even someone like myself could remain intrigued by what I was reading. Czernobog’s life working in the meat industry is so fascinating to me because…is the dude a god too? Is he supposed to represent Dažbog? If so…I am formulating thoughts. Okay, so, in this universe, do gods have to take a more active role as if they were a human when less people believe in them? I suppose that matches up with the “belief” ideas put forth in the first chapter and…I mean, are there many people who follow this Slavic myth anymore? He even mentions earlier that he’s been largely forgotten. And then there’s that hall of gods that Shadow saw in his dream.

Hmmm. My brain is doing brain-like things.

I still haven’t quite figured out why Czernobog is so adamant about not accompanying Wednesday on his journey at first. It’s obvious that he’s pissed and that whatever Wednesday suggested is ridiculous and absurd to him. Why the resistance? What does Wednesday need from others? Czernobog has a brother? But they are both part of the same person? I AM SO LOST.

“Were you close?” asked Shadow.

“Close?” asked Czernobog. “No. We were not close. How could we be? We cared about such different things.”

YEAH I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

And then, the checkers game. What the holy hell is going on? I knew something was strange when Shadow agreed to play a game, and then Wednesday paused to tell him he didn’t have to do it. It’s checkers, I thought. Of course he doesn’t. So there must be someother reason for this. The old man pretty much annihilates Shadow in the first round, and when he asks for another game, Czernobog agrees, but only if he’ll accept a wager. What do they agree on? If Shadow wins, Czernobog must come with them. If he loses? Czernobog gets one attempt to smash Shadow’s head with a sledgehammer. And Shadow agrees to this. And he loses. He loses and he asks for ANOTHER GAME. SHADOW. I MEAN….WHAT ARE YOU DOING. (Also, I totally noticed Czernobog’s insistence on playing with the dark pieces. I C U THERE.)

But Shadow, realizing the man basically repeats the same game, stomps all over him in round two. Which brings us to an interesting place: now Czernobog has to come with them, and after this is all done, he still gets the opportunity to smash Shadow’s head.

Well that should be fun. What does this all mean? Why a checkers game to decide fate? I can’t figure this out I FEEL SO USELESS.

I also found myself fascinated by Shadow’s meeting with the third sister, Zorya Polunochnaya. First of all, she is unaffected by the cold, scaling a fire escape in the freezing Chicago weather whilst barefoot. It’s clear now that she’s the midnight Zorya, meant to stare at the Great Bear constellation to keep the “bad thing” chained up in those stars. I am not sure if these gods must still do this, but perhaps they do it out of habit. Maybe that’s why the midnight sister isn’t around during the daytime; even if it has no affect, they spent so long doing the same thing that they just continue doing it.

Shadow is starting to become aware of not only how bizarre this all is, but, in his words, like he’s “in a world with its own sense of logic.” And while I might have figured things out just a bit more than he has, I’m still in the same boat. Did Zorya really steal the moon from the sky? I don’t know enough about Slavic myths to make any sort of conclusion, but it’s all just so bizarre to me. I like that. It’s keeping me on my toes because not only am I unprepared, this all feels so new to me, to read a book so unlike everything else I’ve ever read.

“Oh. You’re up,” said Wednesday, putting his head around the door. “That’s good. You want coffee? We’re going to rob a bank.”

Oh, Gaiman. Well, now you completely have my attention.

Coming to America
1721

I don’t know who Mr. Ibis is or why this part of chapter four is framed through his writing, but I wanted to avoid a full-on summary of the story that he gives us because there’s a lot at work here that helps build this world. The history of Essie Tregowan is beautifully written and I’m beginning to hone in on Gaiman’s style, his constant play-on-words, and the way he uses language to weave these complicated stories. Essie’s story almost reads like a fairy tale, and it just might be. But I’m inclined to believe that it’s purpose here is to further demonstrate this idea that gods are real beings with physical bodies as long as one believes in them. Throughout her eventful (and kind of hilarious life, because Essie is a goddamn BAMF), she believes in spirits and creatures that seem entirely made up to us. In particular, she believes in the “red-headed, snub-nosed piskies,” and she follows the rituals of leaving out the first fish catch or a loaf of bread or a saucer of milk. Even through hardships and periods where it seems she might forget, she still takes time to remember and to believe.

This is important because at the end of her tale, a piskie shows up at her house. He says that her belief brought the piskies with her, which seems to me to mean that the people in England forgot the piskies, so they had to travel to America in order to survive. And then:

“Will you take my hand, Essie Tregowan?” And he reached out a hand to her. Freckled it was, and although Essie’s eyesight was going she could see each orange hair on the back of his hand, glowing golden in the afternoon sunlight. She bit her lip. Then, hesitantly, she placed her blue-knotted hand in his.

She was still warm when they found her, although the life had fled her body and only half the peas were shelled.

Yeah, WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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99 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 4

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    Anyone who's seen Fantasia will be familiar with Czernobog. Just listen to Night on Bald Mountain and those scenes that pop into your head are him.

    I was really fascinated by Essie's story, and how I constantly fluctuated in how much I liked her. She had quite a hard early life, but is that enough to justify the good people left harmed in her wake? She kind of seems like a real world Lyra at times, without Will's influence.

    • cait0716 says:

      She wasn't so likable in her youth, constantly manipulating people to her own ends. But I think she grew into a pretty rad woman. I can see the Lyra comparison.

  2. Patrick721 says:

    I felt like I had been dropped into a large, active party in a part of town I’d never been to. I only came with a couple friends, but they seem to know everyone here, so they split off from me pretty early. I’m left to stand awkwardly by the table full of snacks, and I gorge on handful after handful of Chex mix, but I’m the asshole who picks out all those dark rye pieces because they taste the best and no one’s looking, so who cares? I’ll blame it on someone else later, but for now, I peer around the room and I just feel left out. I can hear snippets of conversation come floating past me. I catch lines I am familiar with or topics I might know something about, but I don’t say anything. It feels too awkward to speak up and butt into a conversation between total strangers.
    Oh god, I kind of know how you feel, Mark. I remember when I moved, right before the start of Sophomore year of high school. That whole year, I was just sort of getting my bearings, adjusting to coming from a small private school with 50-ish kids per grade, to a public school with 900-something per grade. And one of the worst parts of that was that everyone seemed to know each other. Everyone had gone to middle school, or at least 9th grade, together. They had all these inside jokes and stuff everyone but me knew about, and I was just left to sit back and listen to the conversations.

    In other words,
    <img src="http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk36/psycoyami/i_hug_that_feel.png&quot; border="0" alt="i know that feel bro Pictures, Images and Photos"/>

    Mark, you know who Czernobog is?
    Chernabog.
    <img src="http://i567.photobucket.com/albums/ss114/violet_chernabog/Violet%20Chernabog/chernabog1.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Chernabog looking mysterious Pictures, Images and Photos"/>

    (Side note, this was my favorite part of Fantasia when I was little. Because screw the dancing brooms, I wanted to see the fucking devil! I always called Chernabog "the Devil Bat".)

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      And a lot of it was actually rotoscoped from a performance by Bela Lugosi.

    • knut_knut says:

      The Chernabog bit gave me nightmares so I always stopped the tape before that point. I hated the Magician’s Nephew too, though, but mostly because I thought it was scary- I didn’t want household objects trying to drown me! I was a big fan of the Nutcracker parts, Beethoven’s Sixth, and strangely enough the Stravinsky. Dinosaurs killing each other, AWESOME! Brooms, nightmares forever.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Haha, I was kind of the opposite, I loved everything BUT the dinosaurs, for some reason. It just didn't do much for me; I preferred the other ones, especially Night on Bald Mountain, Sorcerer's Apprentice, and the Nutcracker Suite.

        I recently saw the Clair de Lune sequence that they'd cut out; I wish that one had stayed in.

        • knut_knut says:

          I honestly have no idea why I liked the dinosaur part; it should have given me nightmares but for some reason I loved it! I like Night on Bald Mountain MUCH more now (it helps that I can actually watch it, period) but I’m still not a fan on Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I don’t like seeing Mickey getting into trouble, haha

          I had no idea they cut a Clair de Lune sequence! I’ll have to find it later 🙂

          • arctic_hare says:

            Yeah, for some reason, the dinosaur one creeped me out a bit as a kid, but Bald Mountain filled me with delight. Go figure. xD The Clair de Lune sequence is so beautiful, it makes me sad that it was cut. 🙁

            One of my other favorites just for sheer prettiness was the Waltz of the Flowers segment of the Nutcracker Suite. I love that song so much, and the visuals are just a joy to watch.

            • knut_knut says:

              Is that the segment with the fairies that go ice skating? I often conflate the Waltz of the Flowers and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy segments into one since they both feature the fairies. I looooooooooved the animation in those segments! I thought it was so beautiful and, in my mind, that was obviously how seasons actually changed.

              I also really liked the Arabian Coffee Dance segment because I thought the fish tails were The Coolest Things Ever. I still can’t believe the animators managed to capture the light refracting underwater and even the current a bit.

              • arctic_hare says:

                Yes, it is! 😀 They turn the leaves all pretty autumn colors, and then bring the frost and do the ice skating and snowflakes and SO BEAUTIFUL. <3 I also just love the design of the fairies, their wings and their body shapes, cause when they fly they look like dragonflies and I adore dragonflies. Best insect ever cause they're so lovely.

                Yes, I love that one too. <3 Anything underwater with fishies is a winner with me, and as you said, the animation is just gorgeous.

                • ChronicReader91 says:

                  Wow, this all makes me want to see Fantasia again.That was one of my favorite movies when I was younger- now I can't remember what msuic was used in half of the numbers.

                  • Marie the Bookwyrm says:

                    Oh, yeah. It's been way too long since the last time I watched Fantasia. Must watch it again when I'm off work. 🙂

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        I'm with you. I haven't seen this since I was a child because it terrified me so much.

      • notemily says:

        I always hated the sorcerer's apprentice too! I thought it was a nightmare! I liked the bits with the centaurs and pegasus and other cute mythical animals. But generally I wanted to watch One Hundred and One Dalmatians instead, which actually had a plot. 😉

    • arctic_hare says:

      My favorite part too! <3 <3 <3 I always ate up stuff like that as a kid, and the music is just BADASS. Night on Bald Mountain ftw. <3

  3. pica_scribit says:

    Hmmm…seems like I use Mark's blogs to share lots of other things I think are awesome and more people ought to know about.

    In addition to their fabulous Neil Gaiman collection (SPOILERS!), BPAL also has a collection of perfumes whose names are based on a wide range of people and creatures from the world's mythology. Czernobog can be found there, as well as a few other names from this book, though it seems that they've now discontinued their three Zorya scents.

    Essie Tregowan makes me think of Moll Flanders, especially the BBC adaptation (1996), which everyone should watch, because Alex Kingston and Daniel Craig are magnificent in it.

    Oh, and Wednesday? I'm guessing when you're the god of Vikings, being PC is probably not your strong suite. Maybe those ladies remind him of a valkyrie he once knew….

  4. knut_knut says:

    This one of my least favourite chapters for 2 reasons.
    1.This is a really stupid reason and it’s not BAD exactly, but Mr. Wednesday’s whole breasts like good cheese thing is an image that I just can’t get out of my mind. I’ll be shopping and wander over to the cheese section, see some blue cheese and think of it. And then I’ll feel perverted for thinking of breasts while looking at cheese 🙁
    2.There’s something about this chapter that makes me feel really awkward too. It reminds me of when I was little and had to go visit distant relatives. Not only was I intruding on their hospitality, but I had NO idea how I was related to them, and chances are I didn’t catch their name so I would spend the entire time fretting over what to do if I had to address the host. It was especially awkward when we would visit relatives in Japan because most of the time I had no idea what anyone was talking about and had to find something else to occupy my attention that wasn’t rude or destructive.

    • OH GOD THIS. And you don't know how much respect you should be showing or who's the most senior in the hierarchy of relatives so you can try and greet them first when you arrive…

      I am only glad that my relatives in Malaysia have FINALLY stopped testing me on the proper way to address them in hokkien or cantonese and I can just call them Aunties and Uncles.

    • elusivebreath says:

      lol #1 really made me laugh and I won't be able to look at cheese the same way again ever!

    • arctic_hare says:

      Yeah, the boobs/cheese comparison weirds me out too. Sigh. I had pretty much forgotten that one. Damn it, Gaiman, GORGONZOLA IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES, STOP TRYING TO RUIN IT FOR ME.

    • Dent D says:

      I guess I love the comparison Wednesday makes between cheese and a woman's chest. Maybe because as a child I was perturbed by how clear some of my veins were in my own, ha ha!

      I love the descriptions of all of the not-so-good food that is served. It amuses me that Mr Wednesday eats all of it as if he's having lip smacking BBQ ribs or something. Actually, the entire way Gaiman describes eating in this book is pretty interesting to me, no idea why. I feel so bad for Shadow though, I strongly dislike that feeling when you are rather hungry but the food in front of you is unappetizing. #firstworldproblems I know…

      • knut_knut says:

        Haha I have a love-hate relationship with it. I think it’s a really interesting and creative way of describing breasts but I loooooooooooooooove love love love <3 <3 cheese and I haven’t been able to get that image out of my head. Props to Gaiman for creating such a vivid image, though!

  5. Why a checkers game to decide fate?
    It's less complicated than chess.

  6. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Essie's bit was probably my favourite 'Coming To America'. Because yeah, isn't that something for a weird life?

    I was just as confused by you by this point. I figured the brothers and sisters were gods, but I didn't look them up out of fear of spoiling. I probably should do it now, since I have the liberty of not hurting myself….we'll see, I guess. We'll see.

    Anyway, yeah. Shadow has to be hit with a Sledgehammer. Dun, dun, DUUUUN.

  7. Ryan Lohner says:

    I'm now reasonably sure that Shadow is going to die at the end. Not from the sledgehammer, but he'll have to sacrifice himself to keep the old gods alive somehow. And then be reunited with Laurie, who he's saved from whatever half-life she's currently cursed with.

  8. Julezyme says:

    “Don’t tell them cow-killing stories” is one of my favourite lines in this book. (Tge rest haven’t happened yet.)

    Also, seconded on the breasts/Stilton comparison. Especially bc a boyfriend of mine once said something very similar to me about, well, me. 😉

    • roguebelle says:

      I love that line because I can hear it so clearly, chastising, mildly offended on her guests' behalf, but not surprised, because clearly this guy flipping loves his cow-killing stories and tells them to everyone he meets. ;D

      • Julezyme says:

        totally! like your great aunt telling your great uncle at Thanksgiving, "Oy, Herman, don't bore the kids about the Old Country", and also because it establishes "cow-killing stories" as an entire genre of stories in the Zorya-Bog household, something of a cherished, nostalgic topic for Czernobog. The sort of banal bathos of it gets me every time. Neil Gaiman sure knows dialog.

  9. Zozo says:

    “Why a checkers game to decide fate?”

    Well… why not?

  10. Did Zorya really steal the moon from the sky?

    In a way, I think she did – or at least enough to create some kind of protective totem – she says that "You were given protection once. You were given the sun itself." So… it's like that. Whatever it is.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Yes. Gaiman’s stories tend to somewhere between literal and metaphorical. I’m sure that in terms of magic, Zorya DID take the moon from the sky to give it to Shadow as protection. She took… the essence of the moon, I guess. But obviously the physical moon is still in the sky to give light.

      The gods themselves seem to be a bit like this too. They are both the ideas and belief they represent, and physical people who may or may not be quite the same thing as the mythical figure that they are.

    • Julezyme says:

      She gave him the "spirit" of the moon – the physical moon is still there. Shadow has slipped into the world of metaphor, which lies beneath the veil of reality*.

      *Had to correct that from "the veil of realty"; that is, the illusion of houses being for sale.

  11. monkeybutter says:

    Try as I might to see a Cornish piskie as a redheaded man, I just imagine this

    <img src="http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lpadq0AZtT1qioqu5o1_500.gif"&gt;
    Poor Neville. Someone really should give that boy some bread and salt. Oh, as a result of the "Coming to America" bit I learned that Cousin Jack was a common term for Cornishmen who lived overseas. Educational!

    Continuing with the theme of making me hungry for cold weather food, oh my god pigs in a blanket/sarma/holishkes/cabbage rolls/whatever your family calls them, so good. Shadow is missing out. I feel for Cooking Zorya because my parents learned to make them from my dad's mom, who I assume learned from her mom or sisters, and I've helped make them before, but I've never done them on my own (I think it's hard not to make cabbage rolls for a large group). I don't know if I could make them up to standard on my first solo try.

    Lbh pna sbetrg guvatf bire trarengvbaf. Rfcrpvnyyl jura gurl'er abg gnhtug, yvxr gur Mbeln jrera'g, gubhtu gurve ceboyrz vf zber gung crbcyr hfrq gb tvir gurz sbbq, ohg qba'g erzrzore URE nalzber. Nyfb, qvqa'g Vprzna gnyx fuvg nobhg fnezn onpx va puncgre 1? Rirelguvat ernyyl vf frg hc va gubfr svefg gjb puncgref. Naq fvapr V'z nyernql gnyxvat nobhg gur Mbeln, Tnvzna ybirf uvz fbzr znvqra-zbgure-pebar. Gurl qb pbzr hc cerggl serdhragyl va zlgubybtl naq yvgrengher, gubhtu. Lnl nepurglcrf!

    • knut_knut says:

      Idgaf I love sarma/cabbage rolls!! I wanted to reach through the pages and slap Shadow for leaving food behind! How rude!

      Nygubhtu va gur arkg puncgre ur pbaivaprf Zbeavat Mbeln gung ur yvxrq ure pbbxvat. Vg’f fgvyy ehqr va zl bcvavba. V srry ernyyl onq gung gur Mbelnf ner abg pbzcyrgryl sbetbggra ohg gur phfgbz bs yrnivat sbbq bhg sbe gurz vf. Vg’f shaal ubj dhvpx gubfr phfgbzf tb. Jura V jnf lbhatre, zl zbz jnf ernyyl qvyvtrag nobhg xrrcvat hc Wncnarfr phfgbzf ohg nf fur tbg byqre vg whfg orpnzr n unffyr sbe ure. Vg bayl gbbx gjragl-vfu lrnef sbe gubfr phfgbzf gb qvfnccrne va zl snzvyl, vzntvar jung uhaqerqf bs lrnef pna qb. V guvax vg’f vagrerfgvat gung Zvqavtug Mbeln, nppbeqvat gb Jvxvcrqvn fbhepr bs nyy gehr xabjyrqtr, vf fhccbfrq gb or gur pebar, ohg Tnvzna znqr ure gur znvqra.

      • cait0716 says:

        Lbh trg gur frafr bs gurfr qvfnccrnevat phfgbzf rira va gur frpgvba nobhg Rffvr. Fur xrcg gurz hc guebhtubhg ure yvsr. Ure fgrc-qnhtugre zvtug unys-urnegrqyl qb vg jura vg'f pbairavrag. Naq ure tenaqxvqf qba'g ernyyl oryvrir ng nyy

      • roguebelle says:

        Nz V gur bayl bar jub vzntvarf zvqavtug!Mbeln ybbxvat yvxr Linvar sebz Fgneqhfg?

        • Dent D says:

          V arire gubhtug bs gung ohg V pbhyq qrsvavgryl frr gung! V qba'g erzrzore vs Linvar ybbxrq lbhat be bs na vaqrgrezvanoyr ntr gubhtu.

    • FlameRaven says:

      I haven't had pigs in a blanket since I was a kid, when my dad would occasionally make them. I got really confused when I learned later that the same term is used more widely for hotdogs in croissants rather than the pork/beef-in-cabbage-leaves I remembered.

      I'm trying to learn how to cook most of the Polish dishes I grew up eating, just so someone knows (I don't think anyone else in my family is really interested) but most of them are just so labor-intensive they're difficult to do on a regular basis. Like pierogis. Delicious when homemade, but making them is a day-long affair. My dad usually spends 2-3 days around the holidays making dozens of them and then freezing them for the rest of the year.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Oh man, I remember being totally bewildered and outraged when someone else's pigs in a blanket turned out to be some bullshit vienna sausages wrapped in dough. (Greasy, delicious) nonsense to kid me. I still resent them a little, and I cackled extra hard when Jon Stewart covered Jimmy Dean's pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick because it is the lesser pig in a blanket.

        I wish it was easier to cook these things (all delicious foods, really), because really liking leftovers and freezing things are your only options.

      • pica_scribit says:

        I just keep thinking of the Veggie Tales song "The Eight Polish Foods of Christmas" (which, whatever you make think of Veggie Tales, is frickin' *hilarious*).

    • Dent D says:

      Lrf, jr fnj gur gevb (be fvzvyne irefvbaf) srngherq urnivyl va gur Fnaqzna frevrf! Vg'f abg rknpgyl hafhecevfvat gubhtu pbafvqrevat gung obgu fgbevrf qenj urnivyl hcba eryvtvba/zlgu/yrtraq/sbyxyber. Gur znvqra/zbgure/pebar zbgvs vf cerggl pbzzba. V jbhyq ybir gb fghql gubfr va qrcgu fbzr qnl!

  12. kristinc says:

    I think Wednesday waxes lustfully appreciative over the women of WI and MN because those states were settled by so many Nordic people. Nordic-looking women remind him of back in the day, and of home, kwim, they make him nostalgic. I wouldn't say it's not racist, because Wednesday is probably completely a racist old bastard, but it's … almost an understandable manifestation of racism?

    I kind of thought the cheese thing was nice. Weird, but nice. How often do you hear veiny breasts being described as beautiful? Usually veins are photoshopped out of existence when a woman is meant to be appealing.

    • Taelor says:

      Wednesday/Odin is a figure from an ancient mythology; ancient mythologies are all horribly racist. It's just the way people were back then.

  13. Noybusiness says:

    Dazbog is a major culture hero according to Wikipedia. Czernobog's name means Black God (Bielebog means White God), and, like Ryan Lohner said, he is the character in the Night on Bare Mountain segment of Walt Disney's Fantasia.

  14. Noybusiness says:

    As for the Zorya, there's not a lot of background on them, so Neil Gaiman actually made up most of the characteristics given to them in the novel.

    • episkey825 says:

      It makes sense to me that there is not a lot of background info on the Zorya, Czernobog and Bielebog because they are supposed to be "forgotten". I find that fascinating.

  15. arctic_hare says:

    OMG I bet he would be one of those assholes on an online dating site whose profile says, “I only date wht grls. i’m not racist its just a preferance.” I mean right.

    LOL yeah. I mean, it makes sense given that he's a Norse god and thus would've seen those types of women almost exclusively before coming to America, but STILL. Just cause it makes sense for him doesn't make it any less racist.

    Zrnajuvyr, V'z ynhtuvat gb zlfrys orpnhfr V xabj gung ur qbrfa'g WHFG qngr juvgr jbzra, naq Funqbj vf gur cebbs. Abg gung vg znxrf uvz yrff bs n enpvfg, frkvfg onfgneq, ohg guvf yvggyr snpgbvq znxrf Znex'f pbzzrag rkgen uvynevbhf.

  16. cait0716 says:

    Chapters like this, with Czernobog and the Zorya are part of the reason I liked this book so much more on successive read-throughs. This chapter is a lot more fun when you know what's going on. But on some level, you aren't necessarily supposed to know what's going on here. The information here is fairly obscure and something you'd definitely have to look up, unless you already had a lot of knowledge about Slavic beliefs.

    Has anyone else noticed a bit of a similarity between Wednesday and Mad-Eye Moody. I mean, the old grizzled man who's missing an eye and is fairly mysterious. Abg gb zragvba gung jubyr ybat-pba guvat. Maybe I'm just reaching. But it wouldn't be that big a stretch for JK Rowling, given that she used another Norse God in Harry Potter – Fenrir.

    I like Czernobog's bit about his brother being blonde and good while he is dark and bad, but now they're both just old and gray so what does it mean anymore.

    Essie is pretty awesome. I really love all the Coming to America sections. I don't believe the piskies came over because people in England stopped believing in them. Rather, I think Essie brought a few over with her belief. Or manifested new ones or something. Sort of like the Vikings with Odin and Thor in the previous Coming to America section. Though it does also show that they had it hard pretty much right from the start. The people aren't all steeped in belief like they are back in the old country. Rather, everyone sort of half-believes something different from their neighbors.

    Qvq nalbar abgvpr gung png? Vg'f bhe svefg tyvzcfr bs Onfg!

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      V jnf jbaqrevat vs znlor gur png jnf ure, gubhtu sbe fbzr ernfba V erzrzorerq ure nf orvat n lbhatre oebjavfu png, naq znlor n gnool(?). V guvax V zvtug or pbasyngvat ure jvgu fbzrbar ryfr.

      • cait0716 says:

        Va guvf fgbel, Onfg vf nyy pngf.

        • Mauve_Avenger says:

          Ahh, that makes sense. Thanks!

          And because it looks like I didn't c/p my original comment completely:

          Nz V zvferzrzorevat, be vf fur nyfb yngre vzcyvrq gb or gur ibvpr ur urneq va gur unyy bs ybfg tbqf? Sbe fbzr ernfba V gubhtug gung vg unq gb rvgure ure be Wnpdhry be Vovf, naq V'z yrnavat gbjneq vg orvat ure, ohg V qba'g xabj jul. Ybbxvat onpx, vg qbrfa'g fnl jurgure gur ibvpr frrzrq znyr be srznyr, whfg gung vg fbhaqrq qvqnpgvp, naq V qba'g ernyyl erzrzore ure fcrrpu cnggreaf be jung fur fbhaqf yvxr ng nyy.

        • kristinc says:

          Uzzz, ner lbh fher? Va trareny Rtlcgvna zlgubybtl, fher, Onfg jnf nyy pngf, ohg gung fbhaqf gb zr yvxr n tbqqrff ng gur urvtug bs ure cbjref (n jnl bs fnlvat fur'f bzavcerfrag). Ohg va guvf fgbel fur'f ybfg nyzbfg nyy ure cbjref. V gubhtug fur jnf cerggl fcrpvsvpnyyl gur bar png ng gur shareny ubzr gung qbrf bqq guvatf yvxr trg vagb ebbzf jvgu pybfrq qbbef. Nsgre nyy, ure oebgure vf abg *nyy* unjxf, whfg gur bar unjx.

          • cait0716 says:

            Fur zvtug abg or nyy pngf, ohg fur pna ng yrnfg ybbx bhg guebhtu gur rlrf bs nyy pngf. V guvax fur zragvbaf ng fbzr cbvag gung fur'f orra xrrcvat na rlr ba Funqbj nyy nybat

  17. shadowen says:

    I absolutely love this book, and I'm so glad you're reading it! I read it years ago, and it completely changed the way I think about stories and storytelling.

    To that end, I really think the mechanics of the universe and the gods are kind of… irrelevant? It doesn't matter whether Czernobog really stole the moon, or whether the midnight sisters really has to watch the stars. What matters is the stories themselves and what they mean for these characters. What matters is that people still tell those stories with some measure of belief, even if it's just a belief in the story's moral or its significance to their culture. Storytelling is often a theme in Gaiman's work, one that gets a bit overlooked, I think.

    And as far as gods coming to America because they've been forgotten elsewhere…. What? You don't think gods can be in two places at once? 🙂

  18. lossthief says:

    Yeah, the first time I read this chapter, I was completely fucking bewildered. I knew pretty clearly that the Zoryas and Czernobog were gods or spirits of some kind, but I'm only really familiar with Greek and Norse mythology (with bits and pieces of Egyptian) so I had no fucking clue who exactly they were.

    Still, I love the Coming To America bit at the end, it's absolutely wonderful.

    • ChronicReader91 says:

      Yeah, I think very few people are familiar with Slavic myths, including me, and I consider myself a bit of a mythology buff. Most people know Greek and Roman, Norse, sometimes Celtic, but the rest of Europe tends to be forgotten. Part of the reason might be that we have pretty good surviving records of the others, whereas what we know about Slavic paganism survived mostly through oral tradition. I should probably go study this some more and be a Social Science geek elsewhere. 😉

  19. pennylane27 says:

    Once again, Mark, you have managed to put my exact feelings and thoughts into coherent words.

    I'm at a point where I'm just letting things happen and not wonder or worry too much, so I don't even blink at sentences like: There was no fire escape outside this window: no balcony, no rusting metal steps. I'm just like "yeah dude, whatever you say".

    I'm going to read the comments now and enlighten myself on Czernobog and Disney's Fantasia. I might have to watch that again.

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    I thought that the Zorya’s were supposed to be mythical beings of some kind, like from Russian folklore, but I didn’t know they were actually Slavic gods. (I actually thought Czernobog might be Thor because of his use of a sledgehammer.) I know next to nothing about Slavic mythology, except that Eostre was one of their goddesses (I think?) and a lot of our modern symbolism of Easter, like rabbits and eggs, comes from her. Yay, I’m learning things from Mark Reads! 😀

    I loved Essie’s story. It’s clear by now that mythical beings become real by people believing in them, which explains how Wednesday and the others exist, but also raises some technical questions. For instance, does a little kid’s belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Boogey Man make them all real too? o.0 Or only beliefs that persist into adulthood, or only beings from ancient cultures?

  21. la.donna.pietra says:

    Mark, I'm glad you decided not to Google too much about the mythological figures, because you probably will end up spoiling yourself. Once you're through, though, there are a lot of AG reference resources out there that are super-helpful with any lingering questions you might have. It's one reason why this book is so great to re-read.

    And Wednesday isn't a racist, precisely; his thing for pale blondes is a little… less of a preference than your average OKCupid dude's. (Which is not to say that he isn't a douche.)

  22. hilarius11 says:

    I am so happy. I've read this book before, but it was when it came out and I DON"T REMEMBER ANYTHING! I'm abroad now and can't read with you, which made me so upset, but I just downloaded the e-book, so now I can!!!! YAY for reading along! And, since I haven't read it in years, it will be like new again! This will be the first book I read with you! SO excited!

  23. tangeria says:

    the beauty of not knowing what is going on detail-wise is that it puts you in a very similar position to Shadow. he is just swept along and thrown into the middle of this on going situation, with less than half of the information he needs. enjoy the ride and the dizziness of not knowing for sure what is going on. it only gets better from here on out…

  24. As much as I love the three Zorya chapter, on my first read I had the same "What the hell is going on here?" feeling. I still liked it, but I had no idea what mythology they represented or what they were going to do.

    And the "Coming to America!" To be honest, my favorite parts in this book are the ones where Gaiman shifts away from Shadow's story and focuses on how other mythological beings are faring in America.

  25. clodia_risa says:

    Neil Gaiman always makes me feel like I’ve never finished elementary school. He just knows everything! Especially old literature and mythology, and I’m constantly having to look things up to get references. (I love learning, so I’m okay with this.)

    I…think…you’d be safe looking up most deities who identify themselves. I believe that once Gaiman’s shown who the character is then you’d be okay knowing their basic mythos. But better safe than sorry, I’m sure.

    I’m rereading this book for about the fifth time because of you, and I’m finding new things even now.

  26. kristinc says:

    How gross is the part about Essie being able to "plead her belly"? Not just the rape, which is bad enough! But this idea of "Oh, you're pregnant, so we won't actually HANG you. But we'll totally send you overseas on a ship in horrific conditions where you're more likely than not to, you know, die." Ugh. NO REALLY YOU ARE TOO KIND. YOUR MERCY IS OVERWHELMING.

  27. Kiryn says:

    Hmm…well, I think I picked up on a couple more things than you when I read this today (and now I'm a chapter ahead, because I may not have time to read tomorrow), so there you have it. I like this book, and I think it's interesting, but I'm not really emotionally sold on the characters yet. We'll see how that develops. But intellectually, I think I am sold.

    Also, I'm glad to know me thinking of Chernabog throughout the chapter is not misplaced. And now I feel the urge to watch Fantasia again also, because I haven't seen it in so long.

  28. fandomphd says:

    So when Shadow asked about Wednesday's eye, I was totally like, "I thought Shadow already figured out that Wednesday was Odin." Then I realized that it was MARK who'd figured out that Wednesday was Odin. And then I felt silly …

  29. muselinotte says:

    Well this is just getting better… at the moment, I also feel a little lost, but hey, I'm just going to go with it and see where Gaiman is going to lead us. If the first chapters are anything to go buy, it'll be a good place, a weird and confusing place, but a good one!

    I pictured the Zoryas flat exactly as my grandparents old flat, it fits so well 😀

    The coming to America part was wonderful…

    Aaaand I feel giddy because I think I figured out stuff and it seems Mark hasn't yet ^^
    Not being able to read the rot13 comments is also kind of hard…

  30. kasiopeia says:

    The history of Essie Tregowan is beautifully written and I’m beginning to hone in on Gaiman’s style, his constant play-on-words, and the way he uses language to weave these complicated stories

    What you pointed here is one of my favorite things about Gaiman 🙂 Even when you don't understand what's happening, it's still worth to read it just for the language, the pictures he paints and the way he plays with it. I love the way he mixes the unknown with things we know. I know you said in an earlier chapter that you knew those places Gaiman was describing, but at the same time I don't know the people Shadow meet or the things he do. Like I can picture the apartment perfectly, but I have a hard time seeing Czernobog. It's that balance that makes his writing perfect in my mind 🙂

  31. FuTeffla says:

    I always thought I was pretty well up on my mythology but the Zoryas were a totally closed book to me when I started reading this. American Gods is both fun and educational!
    I love the Essie Tregowan story, not least because I'm Cornish and I choose to pretend that Neil Gaiman is giving me a big shout-out 😀

  32. James says:

    Reading this for the first time (I'm catching up with you!) so this is speculation. I imagine he gave the gods &c physical bodies because it's an easy way to show their potency. I imagine the older a deity is, the older they will appear (or at least seem, because there's a lot to be said about looking young but feeling old or having old eyes) and the less they're remembered and believed in the frailer they are.

    Czernobog is a Slavic god as well as the Zorya. I only know a bit about Slavic mythology, but there are good deities and bad deities, light and dark in a sort of balance. Czernobog means "dark one" and I'm not sure Bielebog is recorded anywhere, but that name means "light one" and it stands to reason he would exist to be the counterpoint of his brother. And, gah, I just love the bit about how in their age they're near indistinguishable. I also love the Zorya. It fascinates me how many cultures have something similar; the three sisters, maiden, mother, and crone.

    Also the thing she says about Shadow having had protection in the form of the sun that he gave away. I can guess what she's talking about, but you didn't comment on it. I'm not going to tell you what I think, but I'm going to remind you of it because that bit was a very "ooooh!?" moment for me.

    Also, also I fucking love Odin. I hope Thor shows up. I suspect another Norse god already has been on page, but again I won't say who or when. Really enjoying this so far!

  33. TalentedKitty13 says:

    Before reading Mark's review.

    “That’s good,” said Wednesday. “Healthy attitude to have. Did you fuck her last night?”
    Shadow took a breath. Then, “That is none of your damn business. And no.”
    “Did you want to?”

    That's just creepy. I do not want to imagine what that would have been like…oh crap. I imagined it *shudders*

    Is Czernobog really Thor? He keeps talking about sledgehammers.

    The story about Essie Tregowan was very interesting. It definitely showed the superstitions of the olden days. As well it was beautifully written.

    After Mark's review.

    I no longer think that Czernobog is Thor. Thinking back I should have realized that because I do not think that Thor has a brother.

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