Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of American Gods, Shadow and Wednesday orchestrate the most non-violent bank robbery of all time and make their way to a meeting place of the gods. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.

CHAPTER FIVE

I love living in the United States. I’ll come back to that in a second because it doesn’t mean what you think it might mean, but Gaiman is helping me to remember what really is so awesome about this sprawling country.

First, though, let’s talk about the bank robbery. I knew Shadow would have reservations about this because…well, what’s a pretty much guaranteed way to get sent back to prison? Trying to rob a bank. Wednesday had promised that Shadow wouldn’t return to that place and part of me is inclined to believe him. The man hides a lot from us and from Shadow, and most of his actions in chapter five prove that to us.

Wednesday is man full of opinions when he does decide to speak up, though he doesn’t necessarily do that often. He prefers to be silent, and I think he senses the fact that he knows Shadow finds some of his opinions to be a bit…archaic? I mean, the entire bit about Liberty needed to be fucked is bizarre to me. I think I understand what he’s saying? Actually….no, I don’t know what he’s getting at. Is he saying the American notion of liberty is a lot more flawed than we let on? Surely he could say this without it sounding like…rape?

To be fair, I did like this:

“So you aren’t American?” asked Shadow.

“Nobody’s American,” said Wednesday. “Not originally. That’s my point.”

a;kdlfja;fdk YES. I LOVE THIS.

So let’s get to the bank robbery. Until it actually started happening, I could not figure out what it was that Wednesday was trying to do. The man has complicated plans and through the process of pulling this off, we see just how charming Wednesday can be. Look at the way he speaks to the teller in the bank, or how he treats any number of people throughout chapter five. Even if he is a con man of sorts, I was pleasantly shocked at how genuine he seemed in his interactions with other people.

We’re also introduced to another facet of this idea that belief has a real, tangible effect on the world. Wednesday announces to Shadow that what they truly need to pull this off is snow. Snow.

“Think ‘snow’ for me, will you?”

“Huh?”

“Concentrate on making those clouds–the ones over there, in the west–making them bigger and darker. Think gray skies and driving winds coming down from the arctic. Think snow.”

We’ve been introduced the idea to belief in this world means more than just some sort of whimsical action. Shadow, unquestioning Wednesday at this point, obeys, running through a rather poetic recitation of snow, imagining just as Wednesday told him. He concentrates so hard that he is unaware they’ve made it to their next destination. And even there, he continues to think about snow while Wednesday makes copies and signs.

“I think that’s enough, don’t you?”

“Enough what?”

“Enough snow. Don’t want to immobilize the city, do we?

The sky was a uniform battleship gray. Snow was coming. Yes.

So how does this work? Does it work through Wednesday? Or can Shadow do this on his own? Why don’t I possess this power? Wait…don’t give me this power. I would make it snow in like…Palm Springs. Why do I specifically operate through annoying people? I AM AN ADULT.

So Shadow willed snow into existence through the sheer act of belief. Kind of amazing, and a new twist to the story. There’s another one to be found later, but what Gaiman takes us through from here until the final scene in chapter five is representative of what it is like to travel through the United States.

I mentioned in the introduction that I love living in the United States. I don’t really consider myself a nationalistic person in any way and I don’t think that I have ever referred to myself as a patriot or anything. But there’s something to this country that I came to love only in the last few years. I grew up in a remarkably poor household and aside from an occasional trip to Hawaii to visit my father’s side of the family and one camping expedition, we didn’t travel. We stayed in Southern California the entire time, and mixed in with my desire to escape, I longed to see the world. I wanted to see anything outside of Riverside.

A few years back, I had the privilege of find the means to start traveling, and the vast majority of that was through my job. I got sent on the road a lot to cover music and other events, and in the process, I got to see parts of the United States I may never have otherwise seen, and my mind starting wandering to these memories as I read this chapter. At first, the Clearance Depot reminded me of something that probably exists in other countries to an extent, but I know that we here in the U.S. have this obsession with things, with knickknacks and antiques, things that are owned before, that have little monetary value a second time around, but might give us thoughts of a time before or a specific memory.

There’s a nostalgic part of me that buys into this, so I’m not setting up any sort of criticism of American society. Just a few weeks ago, I was on a road trip to Los Angeles for the Labor Day weekend and I made the party stop at a second-hand store along the 5. To be fair, it’s not just a fascination with such things, but when I was younger, the only way I could possibly afford some “new” clothes was through thrift stores. (I still have some of those shirts, incidentally!)

When I got the chance to start to see more of the United States, I was enamored with how much of it was not only so different from what I was used to, but how I could find that same social obsession almost anywhere I went. I don’t mean to skip over the actual bank robbery as if it isn’t a huge moment in the chapter. It’s not only entertaining, but shows Wednesday’s ingenuity that–again–relies on kindness and charm. But American Gods is reminding me what travel across the United States is like and how this gave me a new insight into what this country is like. Wednesday says:

“This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.”

“What.”

“The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”

My country is impossibly big, a mammoth chunk of land that is so diverse that it’s hard to even imagine the scope of it all. Sometimes, our states feel like countries in and of themselves. The people from California seem so different from the people I’ve met in New York, in Arizona, in Oregon, or in Nebraska. And while we are currently in a political climate where a specific group of loud, shrill people are trying to define this country by a very strict, erasing standard, I can only think about all the places I’ve been to across this country. And I accept Wednesday’s assertion, but it’s not an insult to me. Our country is too varied to ever fit one national identity, and I love that about this place.

And it’s here that we visit the House on the Rock and Gaiman expands on the American condition that deals with our fascinating with things, with themes, with the ever-expanding road between our feet. I have friends who live in Europe who have visited me and are astounded by the idea that driving across the U.S. takes days. Or that cities in my state are a half day’s drive apart. Or that we specifically plan vacations based on how long we must drive. (Actually, our reliance on cars in general seems to mystify people.)

I love road trips and traveling because my country has so much weirdness to offer, so many quirks built up as entire stops off the highway. If you’ve ever driven from southern California to Las Vegas, which is a common weekend trip for a lot of people who live in the lower half of my state, the House on the Rock is real to each and every one of us. We have all never been there. (I believe Gaiman is making this up, right?) But that does not matter. Our thoughts wander to Zzyzx Road off of the 15. Or the Alien Jerky shop in Baker, California, where you can also take time to see the World’s Largest Thermometer. Or drive to the gateway for Death Valley.

In the southern part of Oregon, you can visit It’s A Burl, a “store” near no large cities out in the forest off the Redwood Highway in Kerby, Oregon. It’s not easy to get to and it’s always out of the way on most major trips. There’s the Trees of Mystery roadside attraction in Klamath, California, not far from the Oregon border, guarded by a gigantic Paul Bunyon and his mighty blue ox. You can see a redwood tree shaped like a bolt of lightning. There’s the Calico Ghost Town. Or the Rock-A-Hoola waterpark, now abandoned, a part of American culture left to rot and rust by the roadside.

We do this thing here in America, and we all fall for it every time. It’s not an ironic thing for me. I love these places and I love that America is home to “attractions” that feel like they could not exist anywhere else in the world. (Which is not to imply that people aren’t obsessive or creative in other parts of the world, or that tourist “traps” don’t exist elsewhere. Also, I hate that they’re called traps. They’re treats as far as I am concerned.) I was simply blown away by Gaiman’s explanation of it, given by Wednesday:

“No, in the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat-house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”

Didn’t Gaiman just move to the United States when he wrote this book? How was he able to distill this phenomenon so brilliantly in very little time? As Wednesday and Shadow walk though the House on the Rock, there’s not a bit of it that feels foreign, forced, or unnatural to me. I’ve been in that house so many times on trips, on tour, while I’m on the road. I am the traveler who wants to stop constantly to enrich the journey to the ultimate destination, to peek into stores selling wares I might never need in my life, to obey the roadside signs that tell me that this is the World’s Largest Thing or perhaps The Only 50s Diner In The Entire Mojave Desert or maybe There Is No Place Like This On Earth.

Bless you, Gaiman. This is absolutely fantastic.

Even if every one of these places is not an Important Place as distinguished by Wednesday, Gaiman has tapped into a phenomenon that’s familiar to me as an American, about our obsession with places and the things that attract us there. Yet he turns it into the fantasy plot piece and it just works. I don’t understand a lot of the terms that Gaiman uses (“So let us designate this Sybil our Urd, eh?”), nor do I know how Czernobog knew to come to this exact place. There’s a lot at work here under the surface that’s still being kept from me. The gods appear to have an underground society built around they way they operate and the House on the Rock is merely one of the known meeting places. Characters share eternal truths with Shadow, though he still hasn’t figured out what the hell is going on. Are these truths relative to the person telling them? Is Czernobog correct in stating that “The Drunkard’s Dream” clock is indeed the “real world”?

We’re also introduced to Mister Nancy, who is…I don’t know. I don’t know who he represents. He’s West Indian, and that’s all I know. I was wondering…what exactly constitutes a god in this series? Does it require religious worship or worship in general? If Shadow can believe in snow so fiercely that it becomes real, can this be done with more abstract concepts like love or hatred? I AM JUST THINKING OUT LOUD, OKAY.

All of the strangeness and the theorizing leads us to the Carousel. The Carousel. Is it the biggest one in the world? I suppose it doesn’t matter at all, because there’s not a carousel in the world that can do this:

It was as if the last thirty-six hours had never happened, as if the last three years had not happened, as if his life had evaporated into the daydream of a small child, riding the carousel in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on his first trip back to the States, a marathon journey by ship and by car, his mother standing there, watching him proudly, and himself sucking his melting Popsicle, holding on tightly, hoping that the music would never stop, the carousel would never slow, the ride would never end. He was going around and around and around again…

Then the lights went out, and Shadow saw the gods.

This book. This book.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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149 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 5

  1. Alla says:

    "House on the Rock" is a real place. http://www.thehouseontherock.com/

  2. Ryan Lohner says:

    I don't know if the House on the Rock is real, but it should be. I want to go on that carousel too.

    • Mary Sue says:

      It is real. The book descriptions barely do justice to the true strangeness of the place. And every year they have a gathering for fans of American Gods.

  3. cait0716 says:

    All those pit stops between LA and Vegas are so familiar to me. Twice a year I used to drive from Denver to LA, back and forth to college, with my dad or a friend or whoever I could get, and I just adore that entire drive. There was a restaurant in Baker or Barstow called the Mad Greek, and there were billboards for it starting Utah. By the time you got to it, usually the next day, you just *had* to stop and get a gyro. And then there's a random roller coaster right on the California/Nevada border that's probably the worst coaster I've ever been on, but you just have to go. Yes, road trips and roadside attractions. Gaiman captures it perfectly. I think he actually wrote a large chunk of this book while driving around America, at least the northern Mid-west where Shadow currently is.

    Also, the House on the Rock is, in fact, a real place. I really, really want to go there some day.

    Like you, I wish I had the power to make it snow just by thinking about it. Of course, knowing me, I'd just make it snow all the time and everyone else would miserable but I'd be in heaven.

    In some ways, this book is a love letter to America. And no matter the political climate, it makes me fall in love with America again every time I read it. Which is probably a big part of why I enjoy it so much.

  4. seresy says:

    The House on the Rock is a real place! I'm not sure if you actually want to look at the pictures, as they never live up to the pictures I've constructed in my own head, but it's here: http://www.thehouseontherock.com/

    I love this book SO MUCH.

  5. seresy says:

    The House on the Rock is a real place! I'm not sure if you actually want to look at the pictures, as they never live up to the pictures I've constructed in my own head, but it's here: http://www.thehouseontherock.com/

    I love this book SO MUCH.

  6. seresy says:

    The House on the Rock is a real place! I'm not sure if you actually want to look at the pictures, as they never live up to the pictures I've constructed in my own head, but it's here: http://www.thehouseontherock.com/

    I love this book SO MUCH.

  7. It is real and they actually organized a big American Gods costume party there last Halloween with Neil himself in attendance as seen by this video. I know I found a larger gallery of photos from the event before but hopefully this blog post will serve in the meantime: http://www.geekosystem.com/neil-gaiman-at-the-hou… uTr9fz_f9hE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTr9fz_f9hE youtube]

  8. Patrick721 says:

    Even though I’ve read this book a bunch of times, there are some parts that still amaze me. this is one of them. I mean, how does Gaiman get America so well? What is your brain, Neil Gaiman?

    “I don’t understand a lot of the terms that Gaiman uses (“So let us designate this Sybil our Urd, eh?”)”

    And now for some definitions, since I’m a Classics major and I really can’t help myself.
    -Sybil=the usual term for a priestess who gave prophecies in Greek mythology. The priestess at the Oracle of Delphi was a Sibyl. There was also the Sibyl of Cumae in the Aeneid, who guided Aeneas into the Underworld
    -Urd=(I’ll admit, I’m not nearly as familiar with Norse mythology as I am with Greek/Roman, so everyone is welcome to correct me if I get anything wrong.) Urd was one of the three Norns in Norse mythology, who are roughly analogous to the Fates in Greek mythology.

    • I worry about that too – I really want to comment because I am a huge mythology buff but I don't want to spoil things.

    • @threeparts says:

      V'q phg bhg gung ynfg fragrapr nobhg gur Abeaf fvapr jr zrrg gurz yngre ba jura ur'f unatvat ba gur gerr.

    • monkeybutter says:

      V nterrq jvgu guerrcnegf, fb V gbbx gur ynfg cneg naq gur ovg nobhg fcbvyref bhg whfg gb or fnsr. V'z cbffvoyl orvat gbb frafvgvir, fb V'z gbgnyyl bcra gb n sbhegu bcvavba.

      Nyfb, V ybir ubj gur ovg nobhg Heq vf cebonoyl Jrqarfqnl naq Tnvzna grnfvat Funqbj naq gur ernqre nobhg shgher riragf.

      • @threeparts says:

        Jrqarfqnl vf fhpu na nff ba frpbaq ernqvatf. V tebna rirel gvzr abj jura gurl'er znxvat gur qrny va Wnpx'f one naq Jrqarfqnl gryyf uvz gung, va gur "hayvxryl rirag" bs Jrqarfqnl'f qrngu, Funqbj jvyy unir gb ubyq uvf ivtvy. Vg frrzf fb vaabphbhf gur svefg gvzr, ohg gur byq gerr-unatre jnf cynaavat ba chggvat uvf fba guebhtu vg fvapr gur fgneg!

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      So it comes out as "predict our fate"? Or would that be better translated as "make our fate"?

      I'm also more familiar with Greek/Roman, so I know what you mean.

    • Shiroikami says:

      Urd is the oldest of the Norns, the sister who knows the future.

      • Jenni says:

        Urd is the oldest she knows the past Verdandi is the middle sister who knows the present Skuld is the youngest she scores the runes of the futer & settles the debt…Urd's well is an oracular tool though.

  9. Viridescence says:

    :DDD My friend has this book, and so I'm borrowing it from her to read it with you for the first time. I'm so excited!

    But YAY MR. NANCY~! :DDD I love Mr. Nancy~! He was briefly in another one of Gaiman's books, which I shan't name because I think it's spoilery, but as soon as I read the bit about the canary yellow gloves, I was like, "OHMIGOD IT'S MR. NANCY!" Hee. ^ ^

  10. roguebelle says:

    You don't have to be out west to get this bonkers sort of stuff, either — Rt 11 through Virginia will give you plenty. I live near Foamhenge. It's a replica of Stonehenge… made out of foam. Going there is pretty much a standard pilgrimage for anyone who lives in or moves to this area.

  11. pica_scribit says:

    I love Wednesday's theory about places of power/mystical convergence. It makes sense out of a collection of phenomena that seem to make no sense at all. Whenever I drive I-90 from Seattle to Montana, ever since I was a kid, we've always stopped at the kitschy 10,000 Silver Dollar Saloon in Haugen, MT (which I noticed on my last visit has been re-christened the 50,000 Silver Dollar, dropping the "saloon" from the name). I couldn't tell you why we stop there. They sell weird tourist tat, and the food isn't very good. But I can't pass it without going in for at least a few minutes. It's a touchstone for me.

    After I made one of my friends read this book a few years back, he visited the House on the Rock, and bought me a mug depicting the carousel. I still have it.

    I still buy all my clothes from thrift stores. Who needs to spend $50 for a pair of pants? Or get crappy stuff that's made by small children in sweatshops? All the best clothes are second hand anyway. I haven't bought anything new (apart from socks and underwear) in years. Also, I spent the majority of my time unemployed, so… yeah.

  12. Vikikiwa says:

    I'm not American so I'm not familiar with the things said here but he makes it so interesting. I really do feel like I'm going a journey across the country and all the little details make it feel so real. I really want to go visit America now.

    Though one quick complaint
    “This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.”
    Since a large part of my life at university is analyzing culture and identity, I had a rather strong reaction to this. Bullshit. American culture is unique in many ways but lots of other countries have identity problems too. I'm sure it's the character, not Gaiman, saying this but yeah.. annoyed me rather alot.

    • Robin says:

      Agreed. I think, for instance, that any country that has undergone colonization or civil war or an abrupt shift in borders worries about what it is, and while I'm sure to some extent it's the character talking, Gaiman can be pretty ignorant about indigenous peoples (see: his "a few dead Indians" comment regarding The Graveyard Book). I think this may be a place where his coming from a long-standing colonial power is showing.

  13. pennylane27 says:

    I'm not from the US (I don't like calling it America because it leads to confusion when you're from Latin America like me), and yet this chapter managed somehow to make me think "yes, that is America.". It fitted perfectly with this romantic notion that we have of what your country is like, and yet it also felt real. I also agree with Wednesday when he says that about "finding the heart or the soul" of other countries. It reminded me of America by Simon and Garfunkel: All gone to look for America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCbOEZ8c8dM

    I don't know if any of that actually makes sense, so I'm moving on to different things. I love road trips too! Except that you can get from one end of the country to the other in less than half a day. Yes, my country is tiny and only 3 million people live in it, and things get here really late or not at all and sometimes I wish I lived in Europe or something but I still love it. But I wouldn't call myself a patriot either. The only times I feel really nationalistic is when Uruguay plays football.

    And holy shit this has been a rambling comment. So, to end it properly, I LOVE OCTOPUS'S GARDEN AND RINGO STARR IN GENERAL.

    • cait0716 says:

      Man, I'm still adjusting to being able to get to another state in less than half a day. From Denver, you can drive 4 or 5 hours in any direction and still be in Colorado. But then I moved east and everything is *so close* back here.

      Aside, I love that it's always "out west" and "back east". Oh, America.

      Octopus's Garden is an awesome song!

      • pennylane27 says:

        The best part is that most of the seaside towns, along with their beaches are within a two-hour range from the capital, where I live. Which means that you can spend the day on a beach far nicer than the ones in the capital and be back home in no time. Incidentally, here it's always "the city" (the capital) and "the countryside" (the rest of the country).

      • That boggles me. Although, it boggles me that it's conceivable that I could go to Paris or Barcelona or Rome for the day if I felt like it.

        • pennylane27 says:

          SO. JEALOUS.

          • I live about 40 minutes from Luton airport, then the flight might be like… an hour, hour and a half?

            OR I hop on the train and BLAM. France.

            Ok, yeah, it'd take 4 hours in the car to get to York. Longer than that to get to Scotland. But to drive for 6 hours and not be in a different country? MIND BLOWN.

            Although I remember thinking about going to California to visit family and while I was there try visiting a bunch of other places within the state, I discovered that it would take me days to get anywhere because I couldn't drive at the time.

            • Kiryn says:

              Hahaha, I live in California, and it's a 10-hr round trip drive, to go from Fresno (where my family lives), to Riverside (which is where I go to college…and I can see your distaste of the city itself, Mark, but the Univerisity's pretty cool here), if I want to visit my family. Which is why we mostly skype during the school year. But yeah, for me, it's bizarre the other way around.

              Also, because I have state pride if nothing else, ORIGINAL DISNEYLAND FOR THE WIN!!! Okay, I'm done. :p

              Also, Shadow's reasoning about Disney World startled me and made me laugh. Because…yeah, this book so far is like a gigantic nostalgia trip for me, and it's like…oh yeah, I totally get what you're saying, Gaiman.

      • FlameRaven says:

        Yeah, Indiana's not as bad (and I used to live very near Chicago, so Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois were all easy to reach) but it still takes 4-5 hours to get across the state. The idea of the East Coast where all the states are tiny boggles my mind.

        Also, hills. Not gonna lie, I went to Pennsylvania and was so glad I didn't have to drive, because they had real hills and I would have been scared to drive around town.

        • t09yavorsaur says:

          Oh PA, where even the mountains are just giant hills. If you find a good slope biking down it can be awesome. I wish they made ski-lifts for biking so I could go down over and over.
          It's a pity that hills scare you though because driving through the Poconos is one of the best things ever. Fall especially is an absolutely gorgeous time to be in northern Pennsylvania. The trees come right up to the road and if they dont it is because you are looking out over some mountains full of more trees. And when the trees are just changing colors…words can't even do it justice. I have never actually lived there but I have visited often and Northern PA will always be my home

          • FlameRaven says:

            I'm sure if I lived out there I'd get used to driving on them, but I am from Indiana, where we are lucky to get a hill with a 5-degree slope, so driving on steeper hills make me a bit nervous. It was also far darker than I'm used to at night, since the hills blocked out the light pollution and the roads we were on had no streetlights. And that was the turnpike. On the way back we took the road we missed the first time, and it was twisting around both up and down and sideways. I would not have wanted to be on it in the pitch dark.

            • t09yavorsaur says:

              I've never noticed it before but, now living in a flatter state, I suppose it does get darker in PA. (One more thing I forgot about my love of the mountains, all those stars!!) Also roads with no street lights, is that uncommon in the rest of the country :P. All these things I am used to, I wonder how different it would feel if I were to visit Indiana or somewhere similar.

              • cait0716 says:

                No streetlights? Isn't that what headlights are for?

                Mountains are excellent for blocking light pollution.

              • FlameRaven says:

                It's probably not all that uncommon, I've just mostly lived in fairly dense urban areas that are more or less flooded in light pollution. In Indianapolis you've got to get to the edge of the city before you can really see any stars at all.

                I did see the Milky Way once in Pennsylvania and it was gorgeous. But it'd still be terrifying to drive around at night over there, I think.

    • notemily says:

      Octopus's Garden gets kind of annoying when it's played over and over and over and you can't block it out and you're like LOOK I JUST CAME TO SEE THE GIANT WHALE OKAY, CAN YOU PLEASE STOP SINGING, GIANT OCTOPUS.

  14. FlameRaven says:

    Speaking of roadside attractions, I just remembered I did visit one.

    When I was 8 or 9, we rented an RV and drove it from Chicago to Georgia. On the way down we kept seeing all these signs for Ruby Falls, literally every few miles. There were so many of them that at the end of the trip we decided to go see it, just to see why it needed SO MANY signs. It took a lot of tricky maneuvering to drive the huge RV up and around these tiny, twisty mountain paths, but we did get there. Turns out Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall, and when they first let you in all you hear is water, and then they light it up. It really was very cool– I kept a postcard of the place for the longest time, although I lost it a few years back.

    I also have fond memories of driving through the Florida Keys and looking for food, and having to stop at a place called "Mama's" (or something similar) that claimed to have "the World's Best Key Lime Pie." It was, indeed, very good, and the inside of the place was covered in license plates from across the country. It's that kind of atmosphere you just can't skip.

    • cait0716 says:

      That sounds so cool.

      One of my favorite things about road trips is stopping in little local places for food. It's always so much better than stopping at a McDonald's or Wendy's or something. I had the best quesadilla of my life somewhere off I-15 in Utah.

      • FlameRaven says:

        We took a lot of road trips as a kid; we used to build blanket forts in the backseats of the van to entertain ourselves. Not, you know, the safest option, but it WAS fun. It was mostly to the Midwest and South, though… I still need to make it to New England.

  15. Sophia says:

    This book I know I know and the ENTIRE THING is this good. Hnnng. Best book. Neil Gaiman, what is your brain and can I steal it?

  16. pennylane27 says:

    Also Mark, you need to review Pottermore, and everyone comment with their usernames so we can add each other. I actually squealed when I got the notification you accepted my friend request. I'm MoonMist145 in case you want to nickname me.

    • pennylane27 says:

      All the emails have been sent! And yes, Pottermore is down. Overwhelming demand. Oh dear.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Haha, it's always down. And I always hope it means that they're going to get dueling up and running.

        • roguebelle says:

          I want duelling to work so freaking badly. I'm predictably crap at potions, but practising spells has gone really, really well for me so far. ;D

          • monkeybutter says:

            I'm actually pretty good at potions because I did so many when I first got in while waiting for duelling to come back up any moment now. But now I'm bored with potions and I want to duel!

            • roguebelle says:

              I got better once I figured out to grab bottles and things from the very top, not around the middle (which makes no intrinsic sense whatsoever to anyone who has ever picked up a thing, but, whatever) — but I still have issues with the timing. Either the graphics freeze so I can't get all the ingredients together before the hourglass runs out, or, I just can't guarantee I'll still be at my computer within the right time frame to finish it up. Meh. I'm so over potions. Bring on combat. 😉

              • pennylane27 says:

                I'm actually good at potions, the only time I blew up my cauldron was because the site was glitchy. But still, I want duelling!

    • elusivebreath says:

      Oooh I just got my welcome email last night!! SO EXCITE! I'm RainJinx51 😀

      • Ladybug says:

        Hi is it ok if I add you to my potter more? I got my email last week but have no friends 🙁 my name is midnightcharm40

        • elusivebreath says:

          Of course! Everyone can add me, I am just getting started so I only have a couple of friends so far (and all of them from this thread lol)

    • porkercat says:

      Add me! HeartLeviosa54

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      NIMBUSQUEST125.

      or LORD NIMBUS QUEST TO ALL OF YOU.

      I will add you (or update your nickname) when Pottermore is not being a buttface. 🙁

      • pennylane27 says:

        Siriusly though, how are they going to handle it when they open for public! They have three days to fix the issues and the capacity of the site….

      • SteelMagnolia80 says:

        YES. Adding. NightSpell205.

        They didn't say exactly when in October it would be opening, so maybe it will be later. It's just too glitchy at the moment for them to flood the gates, in my opinion. I keep losing potions because I can't log on. Snape is so pissed at me.

      • nanceoir says:

        Have you been judiciously saving people's user names, or are you going to make, like, an official Pottermore thread/post as handy reference for us all yourself? Or is there already a thread and I've completely forgotten it?

        So many questions!

        (Also, StormHazel116, right here!)

  17. Elexus Calcearius says:

    The thing that strikes me about this book is how different my feelings about the phenomenon that's intrinsically 'American' is.

    I recognise the things they're saying. I do. I know what they mean about the "heart of America". I've never seen that term used for any other country. Its absolutely true how diverse the culture of Americans are. I also understand the concept of roadside attractions, and I like the in-universe explanation for it. But for me, they hold no attraction at all.

    For me, they're just so ….cheesy. I think I was spoiled. I spent most of my childhood traveling. So after visiting cultural displays in India and Cambodia, or visiting countless (countless, it was a pain for my ten year-old self) art galleries in Europe, road-side attractions lose their charm. All I can think is "this isn't real". I guess I'd just prefer to spend my money on something else. Its weird how a different upbrining can cause such a different reaction.

    (lol, I sound so heartless! I'm not, I swear.)

    That said, I really do enjoy these scenes, and when the Merry-Go-Round enchants Shadow like a kid, its wonderful. Also, I adore Mr. Nancy. I really do.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Oh, they are completely cheesy and pointless. I think that's the charm, and I think that's what Neil Gaiman is saying about how they are sort of intrinsically American. I have not gotten to travel abroad much, but it seems to me no other country would bother to create things like the above-mentioned Foamhenge, or the World's Largest Ball of String, or other things. Other countries build actual monuments, or have attractions from history or natural wonders. Americans seem to prefer adding to the natural wonders we have with really random clutter in the middle of nowhere.

      • affableevil says:

        Yeah I mean if I'm traveling and I detour to go see the World's Largest Ball of Twine (much different from the World's Largest Ball of String, obviously), there's always a part of me that's like "this is the stupidest thing it's just a giant ball of twine". But there's another part, the part that makes it fun, that is saying "I really, really need to see this ball of twine holy shit". I know it's cheesy and pretty goddamn unimpressive in the scheme of all the amazing, awe inspiring sights out there, but sometimes I love the ridiculousness of cheesy roadside attractions (or events like the Maryland State Fair where I have the privilege of watching pig races and I can buy pretty much anything ever fried).

        I guess I'm trying to say that I can see where Elexus is coming from, but that I enjoy these things because they are so cheesy.

        • roguebelle says:

          Pig races! Hee. I've been trying to convince my boyfriend to hit up a local fall festival that has pig races in addition to a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, haystacks you can rope-swing into, and a zipline. He has thus far been skeptical of my enthusiasm. 😉

    • arctic_hare says:

      I adore him too. <3

  18. Not only is House on the Rock a real place, but last year there was a Gathering of American Gods there. There was a costume party on the night of Halloween in the House itself, and the winners of the costume contest got to ride the Carousel. Neil read this chapter on the opening night. It was… pretty freakin' amazing.

  19. Jae says:

    “This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.”

    “What.”

    “The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”

    Well, I'd say that's almost true. If anything I'd say it's more true of Canada than the U.S. I once heard Rex Murphy do a bit about Canadian identity as compared to American — because you almost can't discuss Canadian identity without bringing up the 800-pound gorilla next door — and he said, "Say what you will about Americans, but they know who they are." It all looks a little different from the other side of this particular case of sibling rivalry. 😉

    (That's how I always figured it: that Canada's the younger sib who's had to watch America go barging out of the house, get in all sorts of trouble and throw obnoxious loud parties all the time, while Canada's still trying to get along with Mom, be well-behaved and all that, but too much of the nifty stuff they do gets overlooked thanks to their noisy older brother, and oh, boy, does it get irritating….. 🙂

  20. cait0716 says:

    I forgot to mention – Zzyzx road is a godsend when you're playing the alphabet game on a roadtrip.

  21. I'm immensely tickled by your mention of It's A Burl. My husband and I used to drive by that place all the time. We lived in Selma, which is one of the larger of the small towns along Hwy 199 going southwest out of Grants Pass. It's like we had a little road trip every day just to and from work.

    Going home from Rogue Community College, we'd pass the town of Wonder ("Oh, I wonder wonder who be-doo-be-doo… lives in the town of Wonder?") with its very visible Wonder Bible College (better than ordinary Bibles!).

    Then the road would climb Hayes Hill, and shortly after that you'd get to Selma. Selma was mostly a post office, an elementary school, and a restaurant we just called "The Inn" (though it wasn't a hotel or anything) that served some awesome brunch and whose walls were covered in wooden shelves with country tchotchkes. In the same building as the post office there was also a video rental and a small coffee shop. If you took the next right you'd go by Deer Creek Ranch, home of (we all heard) a sort of scary racist militia group that didn't quite make it in Grants Pass so had to set up shop 30 miles down the road. We were really glad not to still be living near them for Y2K Eve.

    So if you turned left, you'd get on the big loop road off of which our road spurred. If you kept going down 199, Kerby was the first town. (We had a friend who lived there with his spookily intelligent pet wolf.) And we couldn't stop ourselves reading aloud, every time we passed through, "Yes, It's A Burl!"

    But we didn't often stop at this point, because we were looking for pizza and beer in Cave Junction, at the Wild River Brewery. They have a restaurant in Grants Pass, but it's the one in Cave Junction that's made of awesome. Cave Junction is named after the caves that you can visit. We took the tour once. I was smug about being too short to have to worry about low ceilings, so the caves got me back by thrusting out a knot of basalt right at the 5'2" marker and conking me in the temple with it.

    And then, of course, you can keep going to the Hwy 1 juncture, south into the Redwoods or back north again along the Oregon coast, depending on whether you want humungous trees or sea anemones in tide pools.

    I don't really miss living there, but I sure do miss driving around there.

  22. Mary Sue says:

    And this is why I said when you started this book that I think American Gods is the best introduction to Gaiman for US folks. We do forget things, like that the entire UK, including Northern Ireland, is smaller than California*. And California is not the largest state in the US.

    *I looked it up yesterday for an argument with a friend of mine in NI. About 250,000sqkm versus around 400,000sqkm.

  23. gsj says:

    not only is the house on the rock real, it was built as a giant fuck you to frank lloyd right. truth.

  24. Laura says:

    I have been to House on the Rock. When I was like 4. And the only memory I have of it is the carousel, the neverending carousel, the carousel in a dark room that went faster and faster than any carousel is ever supposed to go, and scared the hell out of 4-year-old me.

    The funny part was, I thought it was just a nightmare of my childhood. I had dismissed it to being a place my imagination created. Until I read this book. And I was *floored.* Because Neil Gaiman got it all right. And having the moment of realization that the place I had thought was a dream was acutally REAL made me believe for a bit that the gods did reside there.

  25. knut_knut says:

    *tear* I feel so un-American because I've never stopped at a road-side attraction 🙁 My parents just wanted to get to wherever we were going as fast as they could before my sister and I killed each other in the backseat. I did make my parents take me to the Clock Musuem and the Carousel Musuem ALL THE TIME, so maybe that makes up for my lack of kitschy attractions. Next time I'm in Wisconsin to visit family I will be sure to visit House on the Rock, especially if they have the World's Largest Carousel <3

    • arctic_hare says:

      Me either! YANA.

    • Elaienar says:

      That's a type of American too (the type that I and my parents are). I think the problem with America "worrying about what it is" is that it's simply too big to be any one thing. Or rather, the one thing that America definitely is is a lot of smaller things, numerous sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures based around race or age or pay grade or political group or type of sport you watch or sports team you support or the fact that you're homeschooled or that you've lived in this one particular little town your whole life or that you've never lived anywhere for more than three years at a time.

      The most interesting thing to me about the internet is that it's made these sub-divisions that much more apparent, because people's sub-culture options aren't limited by physical proximity anymore.

  26. tethysdust says:

    Hm… I think Southeastern US culture is very different than Northwestern (I know you did say how different we all are). I don't think I've ever stopped at a roadside attraction, despite spending a lot of time on road trips… maybe they exist down in the southeast, but they would be things my parents would deem a "waste of time and money" :(. So, this part of the story did not really resonate with me, though I can see it would for a large portion of US culture.

    Also, this is really maddening, all these characters I can't talk about! (I was obsessed with mythology as a child, so I loved the inclusion of all of these quirky, recognizable characters).

  27. KvotheCase says:

    Hmmm… I live in Ireland. We don't really seem to have the urge (or the room, haha) to create these sort of attractions 🙁 But there is a sign for a 'bible garden' on a route we often take around here. I am strangely intrigued. Is it a garden full of bible scenes? Maybe it's just a garden where you read the bible. I DON'T KNOW THESE THINGS. For some reason I really want to see… 😛

    • Vikinhaw says:

      I'm in Ireland too and I've never heard of 'bible gardens'. I've asked my grandmother the gardener and she says they're a garden that have plants which are in the bible. She then invited me to go see it. Em, I do love plants especially the trees I've grown but I don't have a burning desire to go see tree just cause it was mentioned in a religious book. Ah Ireland and Catholicism…

      As tourist attractions I suppose we do have stone circles such but the ones I've been to were full of … a certain type of people who tell me they were built by aliens or maybe as a secret conduit of positive energy that lights up the island and also I'm pronouncing Irish words wrong.

      I think I'd rather go see the world's largest carousel. It sounds so fun.

    • Cecil says:

      According to google, a bible garden contains only plants mentioned in the bible. Hmmm.

  28. kasiopeia says:

    “This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.”

    “What.”

    “The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”

    While I get what Gaiman means about identity and that America is unique in a way, I don't necessary think it's true. A lot of countries are trying to find their identity and heart today. Of course not all countries are like that, and America is pretty unique in what it is: like Wednesday says, noone is from America.

    But I think the examples he used was clever tho, I'm Norwegian myself, and I study Norwegian history, and noone is really wondering what the heart of Norway is, because a lot of our history has been about finding that out. And it's one of the things I love about my country and it's people. It's ability to always find a way and stand together, because we all know where we come from. /me gushing about something noone cares about

    I love the whole bank robbery and the fact that Shadow made it snow! I love the idea that thinking about something really hard will make it happen, and I'm glad we get to go with Shadow on this journey 🙂

  29. NopeJustMe says:

    So…Shadow controls snow. Probably a faith thing but…is he a God? I know this is a bit from the left-field, but that's where my mind went. I mean, is he? It would explain why Mr. Wednesday went after him in the first place. Maybe he's one of Odin's sons or something(I don't know any except Thor and Loki) so if humans forget about old Gods, maybe old Gods forget themselves?

    Also: I never thought about the 'heart' of England, or Britain, or whatever. I don't even know where my family came from. It's never interested me. I mean, I'm probably mostly English, with Irish, Welsh and Scottish blood thrown in there. Maybe some French from invaders or something.
    Is that bad? Or am I proving Gaimen correct?
    I just don't understand why it MATTERS.

    • Jenni says:

      Spoiler alert from Monarch of the Glen a short story about Shadow in the book Fragile Things

      Funqbj vf Onyqre, gur fuvavat bar. Ur vf fba bs Bqva jub vf frag gb ury ol uvf oyvaq oebgure Ubqre jvgu n fcevt bs Zvfgyrgbr thvqrq ol gur unaq bs Ybxv

  30. vermillioncity says:

    Oh hey, Mark, I think I found a typo.

    Why do I specifically operate through annoying people? I AM AN ADULT.

    This should clearly read:

    Why do I specifically operate through annoying people? I AM A TROLL.

    Just tryin' to help XD.

  31. fsdjkjh says:

    “So you aren’t American?” asked Shadow.

    “Nobody’s American,” said Wednesday. “Not originally. That’s my point.”

    Is anyone going to comment on how intrinsically wrong and culturally insensitive this is?

    • fsdjkjh says:

      also there was that interview where Gaiman said he didn't want to set the Graveyard Book in the US because graveyards in the US from 200 years ago would only have a bunch of 'dead indians."

    • kristinc says:

      Yep. Pretty tone-deaf assertion to make. Apparently Native Americans just don't exist anymore. They re extinct mythical beasts or something.

    • Korey says:

      I totally agree that it sounds insensitive, especially given the Graveyard Book comment he also made.

      Ba gur bgure unaq, gurer'f gur jubyr frpgvba jvgu gur znzzbgu urnq, juvpu V nyjnlf gbbx gb or crbcyr pebffvat Orevatvn naq pbzvat gb Nzrevpn ng gur irel ortvaavat, naq gurfr jbhyq pyrneyl or gur crbcyr jub orpnzr gur Angvir Nzrevpnaf.

      Fb, juvyr V qb guvax Angvir Nzrevpnaf unir n sne terngre pynvz gb orvat, jryy, ANGVIR Nzrevpnaf, V guvax gung vs lbh vapyhqr gur znzzbgu urnq frpgvba, ur'f zber fnlvat gung rirelbar unq gb haqretb fbzr greevslvat wbhearl gb trg gb Nzrevpn. Gung rira gur Angvir Nzrevpnaf pnzr sebz fbzrjurer ryfr, va n fyvtugyl zber qverpg jnl guna zbfg crbcyrf jnaqrerq naq fcernq bhg bs Nsevpn naq gur Zvqqyr Rnfg.

      • @threeparts says:

        Lrnu, V jnf n yvggyr jbeevrq nobhg crbcyr gnxvat bssrafr ng guvf yvar orpnhfr, juvyr vg qbrf frrz bssrafvir naq vtabenag ng svefg, gur cbvag Jrqarfqnl vf gelvat gb znxr vf gung rira vaqvtrabhf crbcyrf unir gb pbzr sebz fbzrjurer ryfr. Vg'f njxjneq gubhtu, rira jvgu gur fgbel nobhg gur znzzbgu-jbefuvccvat frggyref yngre, fvapr gur fnzr pbhyq or fnvq nobhg Jrqarfqnl'f crbcyr naq rirelbar ryfr va Rhenfvn. Ubj ybat qb lbh unir gb or yvivat va n cynpr sbe n tbq gb pbafvqre vg lbhe ubzr?

        • kristinc says:

          Lrnu, uhznaf unq gb zvtengr gb rirel cbegvba bs gur tybor rkprcg n fznyy nern bs jung vf abj Nsevpn, naq cynprf yvxr Abejnl zhfg unir orra n ybat wbhearl vagb gur haxabja ng fbzr cbvag va uhzna uvfgbel, ohg Jrqarfqnl vfa'g fnlvat "Abobql'f bevtvanyyl sebz Abejnl".

      • notemily says:

        That's how I read it as well.

    • sabra_n says:

      Yeah, I was going to say…by that definition, the only place that has "native" humans is Africa.

  32. Casye says:

    I totally love the road-side attraction, constant roadtrip feeling of this book. That element reminds me of "On the Road" and, to a lesser extent, the first two seasons of Supernatural. If you enjoy that feeling, you should definitely check out that television series.

  33. threerings says:

    I would love to visit The House on the Rock one day. But it is far from me. Reading others stories of similar places, I'm struck by my own experience.

    There's a restaurant called "Frank's Restaurant" that's located off I-10 between Houston and San Antonio. My family went to San Antonio several times a year for vacation weekends, and we ALWAYS stopped at Frank's. They have a restaurant and sell baked goods, and have a section of gifts and such. But there's nothing that special about it. The food is decent country cooking, but it's nothing to write home about. Except the pies. Their pies are AWESOME.

    But the thing is that this place is magic, and not just to me because of nostalgia. It's been there for over 80 years. The decor hasn't changed since I was born. I swear some of waitresses are the same as were there when I was a kid. But the really weird thing is that EVERYONE knows this place. When I mention going anywhere near the area, people recommend Frank's. And then we go off about how great it is. Except there isn't actually an attraction there. I think it's purely the magic of a place that has been there for a long time by American and Texan standards, that hasn't changed, and that over the decades has been tradition for many, many families. It's part and parcel of the experience of driving through that area. Simply these repeated road trips somehow have the power to make places special. And I think it may be a singularly American thing.

  34. Kit says:

    i <3 Mr. Nancy. 🙂

    Anyone who's read the companion piece, qb lbh guvax Ze. Anapl vf ersreevat gb Sng Puneyvr be Fcvqre jura gnyxvat nobhg uvf irel fghcvq fba?

  35. ChronicReader91 says:

    Man, I have to go to the House on the Rock. Reading all these roadside attraction stories makes me sad becuase I’ve never, to the best of my knowledge, been to one before. 🙁 Why is my life so boring?

    Mr. Nancy is awesome. “..a bright checked suit and canary yellow gloves.” Best outfit ever or BEST OUTFIT EVER?

    One HELL of a way to end the chapter!

  36. Abby says:

    Oh god, the Roadside attraction bit of your review made me grin like a nut, because I know exactly what you mean. As a kid, my parents would always stop at every one on trips, and I would always try to hide in the car because I was embarrassed to be around one. In retrospect, the flashy neon and giant plastic statues WERE sort of charming.

    Also so hard not to spoil. Just so you know, Gaiman made a book about Nancy and his sons.

  37. James says:

    MR NANCY, I LOVE YOUUUU. I mean, uh… no, actually, you pretty much covered my feelings on this chapter! Except, I loved the bank scam so much more than I would've because the same basic con was pulled in one of my favourite episodes of Hustle when they needed some quick funds. And someone already explained the "So let us designate this Sybil our Urd" line, so, that's that. I squealed when Mr Nancy showed up, I love himmm. I was a little sad you didn't recognise him, tbh. He's so awesome! And now to read ch.6 because omg moar gods 😀 😀 😀

  38. Shiroikami says:

    "So how does this work? Does it work through Wednesday? Or can Shadow do this on his own?"

    I have a theory about this. Unfortunately it will have to wait until you've basically finished the book as it relates to information given in the late chapters.

  39. TalentedKitty13 says:

    Best line ever: “Not necessarily. As you yourself so wisely pointed out, he’s old, and the killing stroke might merely leave you, well, paralyzed for life, say. A hopeless invalid. So you have much to look forward to, should Mister Czernobog survive the coming difficulties.”

    I now totally want to go driving around the States and look for all these kooky roadside attractions. Being from Canada (Yay!) and only haveing been to the States twice (once for shopping and once for a concert) I have not yet felt the hypnotic lull to a roadside attraction.

    Shadow's fortune is kinda depressing. I wonder what it means…

  40. notemily says:

    I could do without the rape/slut-shaming of Liberty, but I like the idea of her on top of a pile of corpses–that Liberty is only won through death, through war and fighting and violent revolution. Or at least the Liberty that Americans "worship," anyway.

    I like that the Stock Clearance Depot is kind of an ode to forgotten gods in itself: Xena and the Ninja Turtles are hanging out with Bill Clinton.

    I get so excited about them going to Wisconsin. It's my state! And the House on the Rock! I've been there! Twice, I think. Once when I was a kid and once more recently with some friends. Here's a tip: don't buy all three tickets. By the third one you'll be racing through it to get out of there. Just do one and two, and end at the carousel. Which is where they're going, yay!

    The Infinity Room is the best when you're a kid. You can jump up and down and the room moves! You're jutting out over empty space! Logically you know that this place has stood there for decades and hasn't fallen over yet, but your hindbrain is still telling you that it could snap off the rest of the building at any moment. It's good stuff.

    It wasn't until I revisited the HotR recently that I understood why Gaiman had chosen it for this book. It's perfect. It all looks slightly used and dusty. It's a museum, and part of it is a house, but a house nobody could ever live in. There are corridors lined with collections of things nobody else would bother to collect, and a whole room filled with mannequins, and everything is red, the carpeting and the walls alike. You can easily imagine that a collection of used Gods would be sitting right around the corner, slowly gathering dust…

    Wednesday's joke about Frank Lloyd Wrong is right, is what I'm saying.

    YOUR LUCKY COLOR IS DEAD. what.

    The thing about the carousel, and I don't know if they mention it, but none of the animals on the actual carousel are horses. There are horses hung on the walls, but none on the carousel itself. It would be so awesome to ride, but sadly such pleasure is not given to us mere mortals.

  41. Jenni says:

    I may be able to offer an explaination to the let this Sybil be our Urd. A "sybil" is a prophetess or someone who knows the future. from dictionary.com
    sib·yl   /ˈsɪbəl/ Show Spelled[sib-uhl] Show IPAnoun 1.any of certain women of antiquity reputed to possess powers of prophecy or divination.
    2.a female prophet or witch.

    Urd is one of the Norns in Scandinavian mythology. The Norns are commonly atributed to the Fates of Greco-Roman myth. Urd is the eldest, she knows the past Verdanadi is the middle she knows the present and skuld is the youngest Norn she is responsible for settling the debt…

  42. Winona says:

    I love this book and I really love your reviews but I am sorry you skipped over the bank scene in this one. It has always been one of my favourites and has recently gained a lot more significance for me to the point where it is the best scene in the book as far as I am concerned. I do like the review though, just wish it could have had a little more detail put into that bit.

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