Mark Reads ‘American Gods': Chapter 7

In the seventh chapter of American Gods, Shadow meets a hitchhiker on his way to Egypt (sort of), and a lonely man finds comfort and intimacy in a god he believed to be long forgotten. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.

CHAPTER SEVEN

This is easily my favorite chapter so far, and you can see just how talented Gaiman is as a writer. He is a clever man and that shows through the way he plays on words and tropes, but he’s not too clever. It doesn’t distract me from how very human Shadow and Sam are, or from how heartbreakingly beautiful the story of Salim is. (AND OMG YES YES YES QUEER DUDES OF COLOR already a win in my book.)

I’ve brought it up numerous times on both Mark Reads and Mark Watches (more on MW, for the record), but one of the few things I find increasingly irritating in fiction is how characters can face confusing or nonsensical situations and don’t take five seconds to ask a question. I don’t like plots driven entirely by miscommunication or a lack of it unless that’s the point of such a thing, and it’s one of the few complaints I had about watching LOST. (CHRIST, IF Y’ALL HAD TAKEN JUST A MOMENT TO ASK EACH OTHER WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON, MAYBE IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A DISASTER.)

Shadow actually hasn’t been asking many questions, but that’s partially because of his stoic nature and because he vowed to do his job without being so inquisitive. But his dead wife just rescued him from a group of violent kidnappers who were part of some group of gods. I’d forgotten how desperate he was to stay out of jail, and Gaiman reminds us of this fear pretty quickly into chapter seven.

Could he be walking in circles? Maybe he would just walk and walk and walk until the warmers and the candy bars ran out and then sit down and never get up again.

Christ. Shadow isn’t a terribly emotionally person, but he becomes a depressing sort of numb after what he’s experienced at this point, and giving up on life is entirely sensical to him now. He doesn’t have Wednesday guiding him anymore and he’s stranded out in the middle of nowhere in the snow with no car, no help, little food, and the bruises and cuts of a night of essentially being tortured. In short, shit is not going well for Shadow.

He reached a large stream, of the kind the locals called a creek and pronounced crick, and decided to follow it. Streams led to rivers, rivers all led to the Mississippi, and if he kept walking, or stole a boat or built a raft, eventually he’d get to New Orleans, where it was warm, an idea which seemed both comforting and unlikely.

Yeah, why is this so depressing to me? Perhaps it’s a familiar sensation to me, especially since my brain does the same thing when I get a bout of depression. The most outlandish ideas suddenly seem to be the only answer and I start putting all my emotional weight into them. For Shadow, a swirl of conflicting and overwhelming emotions press down on his heart and all of this suddenly seems impossible to him.

And then he comes upon the raven.

I actually had to re-read the sentence a couple times to make sure I’d comprehended it properly:

The black bird cocked its head onto one side, and then said, in a voice like stones being struck, “You shadow man.”

I suppose I’m at a point in this book where virtually anything could talk to Shadow and I’m starting to realize just how expansive the concept of gods are. There’s a talking raven. Oh, and Shadow needs to go to Cairo. Well, Kayro, actually, and find Jackal. Who is probably the egyptian god. And you can get to Cairo by following the Mississippi River. It’s here that Shadow wins my heart for doing something most characters don’t: demanding answers.

“Look,” said Shadow, “I don’t want to seem like I’m…Jesus, look…” He paused. Regrouped. He was cold, standing in a wood, talking to a big black word who was currently brunching on Bambi. “Okay. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t want mysteries.”

“Mysteries,” agreed the bird, helpfully.

“What I want is explanations. Jackal in Kay-ro. This does not help me. It’s a line from a bad spy thriller.”

“Jackal. Friend. Tok. Kay-ro.”

“So you said. I’d like a little more information than that.”

THANK YOU. THANK YOU, SHADOW. I know that authors want to control the flow of information to the reader to allow for surprises, but I AM SO GLAD SOMEONE IS SAYING SOMETHING. There is a fine line an author must draw between the two, but I think Gaiman does a good job of making Shadow’s questioning very natural and positions him against…well, a talking crow. Who doesn’t say much at all. And when he thinks the crow wants him to follow it, we get two of my favorite bits of dialogue in the chapter:

“You want me to follow you?” asked Shadow. “Or has Timmy fallen down another well?”

HASD;LFHJAS DFKLAJFSASDF; AS;LKFDJ ASD;LKDFS LOL

“Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”

The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.

“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.

“Fuck you,” said the raven.

I WOULD TOTALLY DO THIS, BY THE WAY. How could you resist?

Gaiman’s charm continues on in this chapter as he pretty much pins down American culture in just a few thousand words. It is absolutely bizarre to me how frighteningly accurate his depiction is of what America is like in the backroads of its states. I know what Culver’s Frozen Custard ButterBurgers looks like. I have never been to one and I am sure they do not exist. I know what those side-of-the-road diners in the Middle of Nowhere look like, I know their clientele, and I know their menus. I know the car lot owners who possess cars you can buy for four hundred and fifty dollars with a full tank of gas included in the purchase. I know the cities named after international locations. York. Paris. Athens. Exeter. London. Dublin. Antioch. Venice. There are more than I could ever name or remember. I don’t know why we do this, and I don’t know why these cities generally have nothing to do with their foreign locales. (Though, to be fair, there are “canals” in Venice, but they are nothing like their namesake.) Is it nostalgia? A way to build a piece of home here in the United States? A chance to capture the glory of a far away place? I don’t have the slightest idea why this happens so often, but there must be a hundred cities in the United States named this way.

I also grew up with a friend who had a Chevy Nova and goddamn if that isn’t a stereotypically American car if I’ve ever seen one, then I don’t know what is. Shadow begins his trip towards Kayro/Cairo, Illinois in his beat-up car. It is on this trip that he meets Sam, perhaps one of the most memorable side characters I’ve come across in literature. Her time in chapter seven is brief; it’s maybe fifteen pages at best, but I was intrigued by her presence and the way her and Shadow were able to talk to one another on a level that skipped right past the superficial, even if they didn’t truly understand what one another was actually talking about. He meets Sam when she wakes him up on the side of a country road; he’d pulled over to get some sleep after nearly causing an accident in the middle of the night. Strangely enough, she interrupts another dream with the buffalo-head god where Shadow actually outright asks the mysterious creature if “these people” are really gods.

My first assumption was that Sam herself was a representation of a god. She still might be, but I think she was truly just a traveler trying to get from one location to another. I found it humorous that she was heading to another city named after a place much larger than it seemed (El Paso, Illinois), which is just beyond Peru, Illinois. She’s both presumptive and charming, and it’s through this that she pretty much decides for Shadow that he’s going to take her to where she needs to go. Still, even if she is this forward, I like that she still demands some sort of reassurance that Shadow isn’t an axe murderer.

“Just tell me you’re not an escaped convict or a mass murderer or something.”

He thought for a moment. “You know, I’m really not.”

“You had to think about it though, didn’t you?”

“Done my time. Never killed anybody.”

“Oh.”

Just, “Oh.” At least Shadow is being honest with Sam, and I’m sure she’s met a lot of strange people while hitchhiking down to El Paso. But her and Shadow have this strange chemistry with one another. I think this is the largest bit of dialogue in the book so far, and I was impressed by how easy it was for the both of them to communicate with one another so easily. I liked that Sam immediately asked to see the coin Shadow was going to use to toss to see who would buy food. Sam must have gained a healthy sense of suspicion at this point in her life. I can’t explain how Shadow was able to so accurately guess what Sam does. Second nature of his? Perhaps he’s just good at reading people. I had a friend in college who could do that. And even this small talk, of coin tosses and bronzing, leads way to some intensely personal revelations about the death of Laura and the disappearance of Sam’s half sister’s child, things that strangers don’t really talk about within an hour of meeting one another. Shadow even begins to bring up Herodotus’s Histories, that book he read in prison, suddenly realizing that he thinks it’s possible that way back then, “people used to run into the gods from time to time.”

Shadow is clearly putting the pieces together after what he’s witnessed, and what was once a theory no longer seems to be one anymore. It doesn’t help that Sam suddenly begins to tell a very loose translation of Odin’s story and how Odin was “taken” to America, though I don’t think Sam knows how coincidental this all is. The only reason I think that is because I sort of expected Sam to be along for a much larger part of the ride, but she soon is let off in El Paso, IL. She makes no attempt to ask to come along with Shadow, as I anticipated, but instead disappears into some house near the edge of town. She merely bids Shadow goodby:

She patted him on the arm. “You’re fucked up, mister. But you’re cool.”

“I believe that’s what they call the human condition,” said Shadow. “Thanks for the company.”

“No problem,” she said. “If you see any gods on the road to Cairo, you make sure and say hi to them from me.”

See? She’s charming. And she’s gone, just like that. I wish there was more to her, but she’s just part of the journey, I suppose. That journey takes Shadow to Middleton, a tiny city in the state, where he rents a motel room for the night and…well, things are so goddamn weird in this book. I didn’t regularly watch The Dick Van Dyke Show, but my mother had a nostalgia for a lot of those older television shows. I did watch a whole lot of I Love Lucy, so…yeah, you can imagine how awkward this was.

The picture dissolved into phosphor-dot fuzz. When it came back, The Dick Van Dyke Show had, inexplicably, become I Love Lucy. Lucy was trying to persuade Ricky to let her replace their old icebox with a new refrigerator. When he left, however, she walked over to the couch and sat down, crossing her ankles, resting her hands in her lap, and staring out patiently in black and white across the years.

“Shadow?” she said. “We need to talk.”

American Gods continues to embrace the surreal, and I have no problem embracing that right back. We are introduced to a new god: the god of television. And the god of television, ever so sorry that Shadow has been roughed up twice know, is real certain that she has a perfect job for Shadow, that she can offer more and pay more than Wednesday is offering him.

“Look at it like this, Shadow: we are the coming thing. We’re shopping malls–your friends are crappy roadside attractions. Hell, we’re online malls, while your friends are sitting by the side of the highway selling homegrown produce from a garden cart. No–they aren’t even fruit sellers. Buggy-whip vendors. Whalebone-corset repairers. We are now and tomorrow. Your friends aren’t even yesterday anymore.”

Okay, I get that, but…WHY DO YOU CARE? They’re not taking anything away from you. You can still be exactly who you are now and continue to grow. Is this an issue of arrogance? Control? Supremacy? Shadow, despite being offered so much more than he has now, refuses, and Lucy disappears. (Well, first she offers to flash him and holy awkward NO. For Shadow, though, this is a much more simple issue:

It occurred to him that the reason he liked Wednesday and Mr. Nancy and the rest of them better than their opposition was pretty straightforward: they might be dirty, and cheap, and their food might taste like shit, but at least didn’t speak in clichés.

And he would take a roadside attraction, no matter how cheap, how crooked, or how sad, over a shopping mall, any day.

Amen to that, Shadow. And that’s coming from someone who is rather dependent on technology. If I had to choose, I’d choose the roadside attraction as well.

Shadow finally makes it to Cairo and…god, I love this scene. I love that a road sign points to Thebes. In southern Illinois. When he makes his way to an embankment of the Mississippi, the gods assemble. A long-nosed black dog. A cat. A “crane-like man with gold-rimmed spectacles.” Shadow has done as the raven said and gone down to Cairo to find Jackal.

Shadow dropped the coin and the folded bill back into his pocket. “Okay,” he said. “Which one of you is Jackal?”

“Use your eyes,” said the black dog with the long snout.

Jackal is feisty, I see. The dog leads them to the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor. So we’ve got the gods Ibis and Jackal. Who is the cat?

Somewhere in America

I cannot begin to properly convey how much Salim’s bit in this chapter just absolutely floored me. The big reveal about his homosexuality shocked me for just a few seconds before I realized that it was all spelled out for me along the way. His story is inherently about loneliness and how the United States can dig a hole of vacancy in people who don’t fit in, who weren’t born here, or in those who come here believing in the “American Dream,” only to find that that Dream comes with a whole lot of Rules and Regulations, exceptions to that promise. I have never lived in New York City, but I’ve visited it six times now. Even as someone who was born in the U.S., and despite adoring the place so much, I do admit how alienating the city is. So much of it operates on knowing the right people, being in the right place, and having the right job, and Salim’s story has bits and pieces that are innately familiar to me.

Gaiman tells his story as one that begins out with promise and excitement. Salim tips everyone. He believes he is days away from making it big. But the subways confuse him, the people take advantage of him, and the cost is overwhelming. His social anxiety not only grows due to the fact that he is originally from Oman, but he fears that nearly anything he does will upset someone, even if this is not the case. He is nice to a fault. He is patient to a fault. And he is rapidly disappointing his brother-in-law back home with his poor sales.

But there is no one part of his story that exemplifies the unique terror of being a foreign person of color in American than Salim waiting in the office of Panglobal Imports on Nineteenth and Broadway in New York City. It represents the hope he has, but the last one. It’s an absurdist situation: Salim arrives early for his 11:00am appointment with a Mister Blanding. As the minutes tick by and they turn into a half hour, then an hour, and then a few hours, Salim continues to wait. “With the eyes of a hurt puppy,” Gaiman describes. The very man Salim is waiting for leaves to go on lunch right in front of him, and when he asks the secretary about this, she unfortunately informs him that Mr. Blanding is busy. With appointments. None of which are with him.

And it’s in this moment that Salim, patient and willing as ever, knows his place. He gives a smile (“a salesman, Fuad had told him many times before he left Muscat, is naked in America without his smile”) and leaves. And THIS IS SO FUCKING DEPRESSING TO ME. He is forgettable and disposable and he is nothing to these people. He is alone in this bizarre country that makes no sense to him.

Salim gets in a cab to meet the man who takes this away from him. I think people might have been shocked by the sudden and graphic nature of what happens here, but I see so much of a precedent for Salim’s act here. He is cosmically lonely, unable to find a single human being to connect to in anyway, and he has found someone from the same country as him. Why else do you think he touched the driver’s shoulder in the way he did? (The first time, though I also think he touches the driver the second time for the same reason, too.)

This is when he finds out that the driver is an ifrit, a supernatural being in Arabic/Islamic mythology. What’s immensely important about this real is this:

“People know nothing about my people here,” says the driver. “They think we grant wishes. If I could grant wishes, do you think I would be driving a cab?”

This is important because as the ifrit eventually finds his way into Salim’s room and the two have sex and Salim cries from joy and sadness, this is our only clue to what happens afterwards. I can only begin to scrape the surface of what Salim feels here, as I’ve only had a periphery experience like this when I finally got to sleep with a man after wanting it for more than half of my life. But it is nothing like this. Salim has found the only amount of hope in American that might be out there.

When he wakes the next morning, the ifrit is gone. So is everything he owns: the knickknacks and his wallet and suitcase and passport and his ticket back home. Instead, the ifrit left behind everything that was his. The ifrit do not grant wishes. Instead, the ifrit gave Salim the opportunity to start over, to escape the terror of his life as a salesman, and to start over as a taxi driver.

No wish granted, but it might even be better.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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97 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods': Chapter 7

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    I had a big smile when I got to the reveal about Salim being gay, knowing how much you'd connect to reading about a gay, overweight person of color with a depressingl ife. And it was a shock at first, particularly with their sex described so graphically, but then I was really able to appreciate that subtle hint earlier when Salim ponders how his parents are ashamed of him, and all his female daliances have been brief by necessity (at first, I thought this meant he had to go to prostitutes to get any sex).

    I really hope we see Sam again; she comes off like she could be the hero of her own story, if not necessesarily one by Gaiman.

    • cait0716 says:

      See I read his previous romantic encounters as being with other males, but because of his culture he could never pursue anything more than a one-night stand. I think the description of them as anonymous (and my knowledge from previous reads) led me to this conclusion. But I can see a few failed relationships with women thrown in there, as well. Poor, lonely Salim.

      • pennylane27 says:

        Yeah, as soon as he said anonymous and by necessity I thought he was gay. And then I thought this should be interesting.

        • notemily says:

          I didn't get that he was gay until he gave the jinn his room number. I was like "why would he give… oh!"

        • enchantedsleeper says:

          I made that connection too, but silly me, I had no idea what the room number was for until I read them holding hands in the lift and was like "Oh. Oh." XD

  2. cait0716 says:

    Man this chapter is long. It's almost an interlude chapter; Shadow travels south but there aren't any major plot points with the gods. He just needs to get to his next location: Egypt, America.

    I really like the small hints we get to Shadow's basic goodness and generosity. He rigs a coin toss so he can pay for Sam's dinner and then has plans to transform a quarter in $5 for a little girl he meets. I like that he unobtrusively does what he can to help these people he doesn't even know.

    Salim's story absolutely breaks my heart. It actually kind of reminds me of a short story Gaiman wrote called Troll Bridge; ur hfrf gur fnzr gurzr/cybg bs n zlgubybtvpny perngher genqvat cynprf jvgu n uhzna jub'f qbja ba uvf yhpx. It's been said that Gaiman is better at short stories than novels, which I've found to be more or less true. As much as I love the novels he's written, some of his short stories straight up haunt me. I pretty much see the Coming to/Somewhere in America sections as short stories connected by a common theme. They're my favorite parts of this book

  3. @threeparts says:

    I really like Sam; she's confident, brave, funny, thoughtful, and open. She's not afraid of the dangers of hitchhiking, but she doesn't come across as naive either. The way she talks about her background with her father shows to me that regardless of what he might think of her (and probably anyone else), she is going to carry on, taking from life what she wants out of it.

    V jnagrq fb onqyl sbe ure naq Funqbj gb trg gbtrgure ng Ynxrfvqr, ohg gura Nhqerl unq gb pbzr nybat naq ehva rirelguvat, nhtu!

    I love the detailing on things like the signs as he enters towns, the Big Muddy River, and the bulldozer graveyard. They're not really all that special or strange, but I know on long roadtrips I can find just about anything fascinating just to break up the monotony of field, field, field, trees, roadkill, field, hill, field, trees in a field, COWS!, field.

    I love the whole section with Salim. I feel so sorry for him, and I share his nervousness and uncertainty of what rules apply, what manners are polite, what's wrong and what's right in a strange place. I hope things turn out all right for him – he seemed happier without the fear of disappointing Fuad hanging over him at the end.

    • cait0716 says:

      V srry yvxr Fnz naq Funqbj jbhyq unir orra n qvfnfgre. V'z ernyyl unccl jvgu gur raqvat fur tbg

      All the little details are great. I think I've driven over the Big Muddy River (or at least something similar) and had the same reaction

  4. knut_knut says:

    Yay!!! Finally, more Sassy Shadow!! <3 I especially love this bit:
    "Shadow looked at the corpse of the baby deer. He decided that if he were a real woodsman, he would slice off a steak and grill it over a wood fire. Instead, he sat on a fallen tree and ate a Snickers bar and knew that he really wasn't a real woodsman."
    Awww *pat pat* You’re no Ron Swanson but it’s ok, neither am I.
    Also, what the hell is a butterburger? It sounds like something from a Paula Deen nightmare

    Salim’s story just breaks my heart :( I initially read it as the Ifrit taking the chance to return home while stranding Salim in a foreign country with no hope at all. However, the next time I read it, I saw the ending as a chance for Salim to start over, which makes more sense. Already he sounds more confident now that he doesn’t have to worry about disappointing Fuad! I hope it all worked out…

  5. pennylane27 says:

    I absolutely loved this chapter. The dialogue between Shadow and the raven was so good. And hilarious. Say 'Nevermore'. AWESOME.

    I wish we could see more of Sam. I really liked her, from the moment she said she can't pee if there's someone in the next stall. Major shy bladder syndrome. Yep, that's me. Every time. And now I've just told the internet how I can't pee in public toilets. Oh well.

    I'm loving Shadow more and more. He cheats on the coin toss to pay dinner for a girl he's just met, does a coin trick to give money to another, and he prefers the old gods because they're like roadside attractions instead of malls and they don't speak in clichés. Yes Shadow, I do believe I love you.

    And Salim. I could feel his loneliness, his insecurities, his fear of his brother in law. And the scenes with the ifrit were so heartbreaking. Ugh, it's just so good.

  6. cait0716 says:

    I know what Culver’s Frozen Custard ButterBurgers looks like. I have never been to one and I am sure they do not exist.

    You gotta stop assuming these things aren't real, Mark: http://www.culvers.com/menu/butterburgers.aspx

  7. I think people might have been shocked by the sudden and graphic nature of what happens here
    *raises hand* The ifrit scene is one of the scenes that stands out in my mind when I think of this book. I think it was the first gay sex scene I'd ever read/seen.

    In contrast, I don't remember that Sam scene at all.

    • Casye says:

      The first time I read this book, my super-conservative dad looked over my shoulder right as I was reading the sex scene.

      Awk-ward.

  8. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Its funny. I hadn't even remembered Salim was homosexual. I remembered his story, and I remembered how sad it was, but the homosexual part of it had become no more important than if one of them had been female. Its a bit of joy when you realise that something that was once noteworthy is becoming common place.

    I really, really love Sam. She's quirky, and funny, and absolutely enjoyable. She might just be a kid, but she takes nothing from this weird scary guy she finds on the road who admits to having been in prison.

    The Raven, oh, god. You know, if I had a Raven, I would totally name him Quoth. Rira gubhtu Greel Cengpurgg znqr sha bs gung gebcr. Npghnyyl, guvf vf nabgure cynpr Cengpurgg naq Tnvzna frrz gb unir n ybg va pbzzba; Tnvzna nyfb hfrq gung wbxr, be bar fvzvyne, va Fnaqzna, naq Cengpurgg va gur Qrngu/Fhfna obbxf. V'z abg pbzcynvavat. Vgf fgvyy shaal.

    Do you not know Egyptian gods? I'm only vaguely familiar with them, but I recognised them all instantly.

  9. monkeybutter says:

    I see hopping on a boat and hoping it’ll take you down the Mississippi and far away from your problems is more terrifying than depressing, because you just know Robert Mitchum is gonna be right on your ass, singing hymns. And you know, teevee god is sort of the unsettling homicidal preacher to Shadow’s adorable wide-eyed moppets. He just can’t get away from those guys.

    But on a serious note, I get what you’re saying, and it’s always more depressing when you realize that your notions are silly or impractical. Which feeds into my next point that I really, really want to take a roadtrip around the US in a heap like Shadow’s Nova. Admittedly, not the best idea, but there’s something irresistibly romantic about doing it that way. Also, was having the Nova as the only car on the lot that looked like it would make it 500 miles a joke about the urban legend? Because well done.

    I was hoping you’d like Salim’s part. I felt frustrated for him, but the end gives me the warm-fuzzies. I like that he’s given a new start, and he doesn’t seem terribly anxious about life in NY anymore.

    • cait0716 says:

      Someday I want to drive Route 66 from Chicago all the way to Santa Monica. Maybe not in a Nova, though. I think it would be the best vacation ever.

      What's the urban legend you're referencing? I don't think I know it

      • monkeybutter says:

        http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp

        I figure Gaiman is poking fun at the people who believe it.

        • cait0716 says:

          Oh wow. I remember my high school spanish teacher telling us about that (thinking it was real). It was some sort of cautionary tale. I hadn't thought about it in years.

          • pennylane27 says:

            Oh dear god that is hilarious and… kind of insulting? I mean, I'm laughing because hello, No va = doesn't go hehehe, but seriously. In theory it's a great cautionary tale about doing your research right, but it's a pretty stupid reason not to buy a car so… I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.

      • Pixie says:

        You should! I live in a tiny town on Rt. 66, and everyone I see passing through town on that road trip always tells me how much fun they are having. :)

  10. clodia_risa says:

    http://www.culvers.com/

    Isn’t this the second thing in the Mid-West that you’ve assumed didn’t exist and actually does? Maybe your next road-trip should be through the Mid-West.

  11. kasiopeia says:

    Sam is one of my favourite characters in this book, and the conversation she and Shadow has is great. I think Shadow needed to meet someone outside of this whole 'God-world' that he could make sense of. And they are such a good fit. :)

  12. elusivebreath says:

    Hey, I live in Antioch (the California version, which is only like an hour or so away from you Mark, I KNOW YOU WANT TO COME VISIT)! Also, my mom had a Chevy Nova and the passenger side door was broken so when she dropped us off at school she had to get out and we all had to slide out the driver's side lol. I used to make her drop me off around the corner because it was so ~embarassing~ lol.

    I liked Sam a lot too (not the least of which because that is my daughter's name) and I wish she had followed along with Shadow too. I think he needs another "regular" person to share his adventures with lol.

  13. roguebelle says:

    "I don’t have the slightest idea why this happens so often, but there must be a hundred cities in the United States named this way."

    Way more. There are at least a hundred just here in Virginia, if you include county names as well as city names. Richmond, Suffolk, Norfolk, Sussex, Essex, Surrey, York, Northumberland, Lancaster, Stafford, Southhampton, Northhampton… it goes on and on. English places (or English monarchs), for the most part. I don't know if our early settlers were homesick or just really not at all creative. I'm honestly astonished we didn't name the James River the Thames.

    • Maya says:

      Haha, my hometown is Vienna, VA. In VA, if it's not named after a founding father, it's probably named after something British/European.

      • roguebelle says:

        Someday, someone needs to count how many townships, schools, roads, and public buildings in Virginia alone are named after Thomas Jefferson. I think that would be hilarious. ;)

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      My town is called Sparta, and the icon of our high school football team is actually a Spartan helmet. Yeah, it's been hell ever since 300 came out.

    • arctic_hare says:

      There's a street near me named Galway.

      • Maya says:

        I lived at the corner of Corsica and Vale. Someone was a little too hopeful about my hometown's vacation prospects.

    • chrisjpardo says:

      I totally just geeked out for the mention of Stafford, as I sit in the real (:D) version here in the UK, typing this.

  14. arctic_hare says:

    "'Fuck you,' said the raven" is one of my all time favorite quotes from a book. Truth.

    Sam is awesome. Adore her.

    Also, I'm going to squee a bit in rot13.

    RRRRR VOVF NAQ WNPDHRY. V XABJ JUB LBH NER. V unq n znwbe, fvyyl trrxbhg bire gurz gur svefg gvzr V ernq guvf obbx, orpnhfr V jnf nofbyhgryl bofrffrq jvgu napvrag Rtlcg nf n xvq naq V fgvyy erzrzore n tbbq nzbhag, naq fb guvf jnf n znwbe abfgnytvp gerng sbe zr. Nahovf' fanex znxrf zl qnl. Naq url, ybbx, gurer'f Onfg bire gurer gbb. <3 Ybir ure.

    • roguebelle says:

      Bu zna, V ybir gurz nyy, naq Onfg whfg trgf orggre naq orggre guebhtubhg gur obbx. :DDD

    • knut_knut says:

      Zr gbb!! V unq n ohapu bs Rtlcgvna Zlgubybtl sbe Xvqf glcr bs obbxf naq jurarire jr jrag gb gur Zrg va ALP jr UNQ gb frr gur zhzzvrf. V’ir fgvyy arire orra gb gur Zrg naq abg frra gur Rtlcgvna neg frpgvba <3

    • clodia_risa says:

      Vg nyjnlf znxrf zr fnq jura ur unf gb yrnir! V pna arire erzrzore rknpgyl jul ur unf gb tb, naq gura V erpnyy: uvf qvpx sngure fubjf hc naq ehvaf rirelguvat.

      Jbhyq gung abg or na njrfbzr yvsr?

  15. chichichimaera says:

    I'm envisioning Mr Ibis as rather looking like Shaun Toub (who plays Yinsen in Iron Man).

    Also the first time around I too interpreted the ifrit as have 'stolen' his life, but on reflection, Salim probably did get the better end of that deal.

  16. Andrew says:

    Salim's story was the part of the book I went from "enjoying a great deal" to "completely broken apart unable to formulate coherent thought". That mini-story is just SO poignant and I related to it in ways I'd never even have imagined possible. Reading it became more than just an emotional response, it affected me in ways no other bit of media has before or since, and the rest of the book carried along that way. I still can't really talk about the book very coherently three and a half years later.

    The chapter itself is great too – I agree about Sam and their conversation, and yes, the 'nevermore' comment is still hilarious.

  17. Dent D says:

    When Shadow decided to follow the creek to find a river I had to laugh. I feel like his internal dialogue is a little bit self deprecating and sarcastic, so I shouldn't take his ideas about finding the Mississippi river too seriously. But I couldn't help but think of the Red River up here along the ND and MN border, which runs north. What if Shadow had come across a tributary that fed into a north flowing river? I suppose that's why the raven showed up.

    Vg'f uneq gb gnxr nal cnegvphyne frpgvba bs NT naq fnl vg vf zl snibevgr, ohg V nofbyhgryl ybir gur gvzr Funqbj fcraqf jvgu Wnpxny, Vovf naq Onfg. V pnaabg jnvg sbe gbzbeebj!

  18. HMC says:

    Apparently, the US's odd naming system is a common headscratcher in England, because Michael Palin once wrote [during his 80 Days travelogue]:

    "In England we so seldom have to make up new names. Apart from a few Skelmersdales and Telfords our cities, towns and villages have had their names for centuries. America has no such inheritance, and yet a much greater demand. No wonder they run out of inspiration and have to pinch other people's names. Most of the cities I've passed through in the last sixty-nine days have been replicated somewhere in the U.S. There's Bombay, New York; Madras, Oregon; Tokio, Texas; as well as four Venices, seven Cairos, and no less than seventeen Cantons."

  19. James says:

    Oh man, this is my favourite chapter so far, too! I just. I LOVE this. I get so immeasurably sad when any pantheon is talked about in the past tense, like they don't matter any more, so I have such heartfelt joy seeing them written about so lovingly and so respectfully in this book (and other things of Gaiman's, because he is the best). I adored Sam, she's fantastic and I hope she comes back. When they were talking about Herodotus all I could think about was this Hark! A Vagrant comic:

    The conversation with the Raven, btw, might be the best thing ever XD

    Ahhhh, Egyptian gods omg all of my flails! I knew this was going to be epic as soon as he was told to go to Jackal. ANUBIS, MY FAVOURITE OF EVER, COME HERE SO I CAN LOVE YOUR SNARKY FACE OMG (working in a funeral parlour? BESSSSST.) And Thoth! Mr Ibis is THOTH. OF COURSE, HE IS. And I'm guessing that makes the cat Bast :D :D :D

    Salim's story is just so beautiful. Neil Gaiman is so brilliant at queer characters, it's one of the reasons I love him so much. I especially appreciate it when he writes trans characters and does it well. <3GNEIL<3 FAVOURITE CHAPTER YET.

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    Good god, about 20 million things happen in this chapter.

    1. Shadow talks to a raven! “Say ‘Nevermore.’” “Fuck you.” Ahahahaha I haven’t laughed this hard at a book in a long time.

    2. And picks up an awesome hitchhiker! Sam is amazing. I hope we’ll see more of her, but I don’t think we will unless she turns out to be a god, and judging by their conversations, I think she’s just a smart, slightly quirky person (although it did seem strange that the story she told Shadow happened to be about Odin.)

    3. And… his TV talks to him. At that point I would have run screaming from the hotel room, because when does someone on TV interacting with someone watching it EVER END WELL? Anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie knows that! And it’s freaking LUCY. Is nothing sacred, Gaiman?

    4. And now we’re meeting the Egyptian gods OMG YES PLEASE. <3 I want to believe that cat was Bastet. I doubt it will be confirmed, but unless it’s explicitly denied I’m making it part of my personal canon.

    5.Side plot of awesomeness. I love how real and rounded Salim is even though he only occupies, what, a few pages? And I have to admit I didn’t know what an Ifrit was, but once he called himself a Jinn I was on firmer ground. I like how he handled the sex scene- it didn’t feel like it was being made out to be something unusual, not LOOK AT ME VERY SPECIAL GAY SEX SCENE LOOK HOW PROGRESSIVE I AM or anything like that. I had to read the end several times to figure out what had happened (at first I thought the Ifrit had TRADED BODIES with Salim), but that’s actually a pretty good outcome for him, considering how despondent he was.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Well, if not Bast/Bastet, who else would it be? It's not like there are a ton of cat goddesses in general, and I think she's the only one in the Egyptian pantheon. (Which is a shame, cats are awesome, they should have lots of gods.)

    • Kiryn says:

      Oh Lord above, I'd have been right there with you, running and screaming out of the motel room if my TV started talking to me. I mean, ever since Wednesday talked about it, I knew there was a TV god, so when Shadow was thinking about turning on the TV, I started freaking out, and was like, "OMG, NO SHADOW, DON'T DO IT, THIS IS ONLY INVITING DISASTER, YOU DUMBFUCK!" And then the TV god DID show up, and to me it is just so so so so so crrrrreeeeeeeeppppppyyyyy until the end of time, and now I'm slightly afraid of turning my TV on ever again. Thank you so much, Gaiman. I haven't read this book before, so omg, please do not let there be a chapter where Shadow turns on a computer, and the Internet god starts talking to him through it. I don't want to become afraid of my computer, too. :/

  21. Pixie says:

    Custer’s totally exists. It’s a franchise, at least here in Illinois where I live, and I work right up the road from one. Cairo, IL is also really pronounced “Kay- by locals. The bursts of recognition as an Illinois native are what’s making this so interesting for me to read. :)

  22. Spencer says:

    Sam has perhaps less influence on the plot than any other character in the book. She is, without a doubt, my favorite character in American Gods, and one of my favorite characters in the fantasy genre. Of course, from a certain perspective–depending on how much impact you believe she has on Shadow–she could be considered to have an extremely major role in the story. Just indirectly. remains
    Shadow's conversation with Lucy remains, to me, one of the most disturbing sequences in American Gods. There's something about it that's just…twisted. Very fittingly so; Lucy represents a very twisted aspect of American culture.

  23. Shay_Guy says:

    I don’t like plots driven entirely by miscommunication or a lack of it unless that’s the point of such a thing

    I'd call this another argument in favor of Mark Watches Rinatryvba.

    (CHRIST, IF Y’ALL HAD TAKEN JUST A MOMENT TO ASK EACH OTHER WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON, MAYBE IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A DISASTER.)

    This makes me think of the recent indie game No Time To Explain, which seems to have a plot (involving time travel and otherwise mostly nonsensical), but the people who know what's going on don't explain because… well, see title. (Original Flash version here.)

  24. @NJAtom says:

    When I first read the Salim story I thought it was indeed heartbreaking and beautiful, that these two broken men would find each other serendipituously and that the Jinn, in a loving gesture, would give Salim an escape route by 'stealing' his life and giving him an opportunity to start over in America.
    That's the first thing I understood and I thought it was beautiful.

    When I read the story a second time, I was in a gloomier place and I got an entirely different vibe from that story, in which the Jinn was actually a malevolent entity, as they usually are in arab myths. Jinns are tricksters and evil-doers, why should this one be any different ? In most Jinn stories, people who wish things usually have their wishes turn against themselves.
    Salim is desperatly looking for a way out of his shitty job, he's just had a really bad day, so he's particularly vulnerable when he encounters the Jinn. After confiding in him, the Jinn sees him as someone he can manipulate and convinces him most myths about Jinns are untrue, they do not grant wishes.
    I'm going to assume if the Jinn could just do magic and trade bodies with someone, he would've already, but his status as a taxi driver shows that he can't and that he actually has to make the person *wish* for them to trade places. With a shitty job like that, how could he make anyone wish that they had his life ?
    Then he senses or realizes Salim is actually gay and sees that as another opportunity. He gets him all horny and Salim says "I wish you could see what I see". That seals the deal. Salim has actually just wished that the Jinn could see through his eyes, ie. be in his body. The Jinn grants Salim's wish, without his knowing and steals his identity and therefore finds the opportunity to start fresh in his homeland, Oman or the Lost city of (I can't remember the name).

    Now after re-reading the story several times, I'm convinced that this second theory is more plausible to me, although I do love the first interpretation as well, as it makes for a beautiful love story, and both interpretations are just as valid, given the elements that we have.

    That and the slave siblings chapter are my two favorite pieces of literature, ever. Mr. Gaiman is such an incredible storyteller.

  25. monkeybutter says:

    Nunun, abj V'z n yvggyr fnq gung gurer vfa'g na nfvqr jurer Funqbj vf ebbgvat nebhaq haqre gur frngf naq gbffrf n Dhrra gncr nfvqr.

    I'm not Jewish, but L'Shanah Tovah! I hope you're having a great day, and that you have a happy and sweet year!

  26. James says:

    there was meant to be a link there *facepalm*: http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=30

  27. kristinc says:

    Did you mean to embed the comic in your post? Because I can't see it and I love Hark! A Vagrant so I am sad now.

  28. kristinc says:

    Oh, or I could hit refresh like a functional human being. Duh.

  29. episkey825 says:

    Hello follow Illinoisan! I think Shadow practically drove through my hometown on his way to Cairo. I'm from Morris, near Joliet. We do have a Culvers and we call creeks cricks. This chapter made me feel nostalgic!

  30. Kiryn says:

    I recognized all three of the Egyptian gods too. This might be because my younger sister was obsessed with them, but yeah Mark, I'm surprised you don't know them.

  31. ChronicReader91 says:

    Well, I really don't know any of the shows you mentioned, (guess there's more of a cultural divide between the US and the UK than I'd reallzed) so I don't know how it would measure up to them. In a nutshell: it was a show that aired here in the 1950's, starring an actress named Lucille Ball, and her character was also named Lucy. Her husband in real life, Desi Arnez, played her husband on the show- interestingly, he happened to be hispanic, so they were one of the first, if not the first, inter-racial marriage on TV. Basically it was just a 30-minute comedy, centered around Lucy, who was indeed a housewife, though a few of the epsiodes centered around her getting temporary jobs. It's definitely dated in some respects nowadays. There's a certain sentimental value in it for me having watched a lot of the reruns when I was younger, largely because my parents thought that most modern TV shows weren't wholesome enough for my tender young mind. :p So yeah, it was abit of a shock reading about the television god talking through her.

  32. t09yavorsaur says:

    I group I Love Lucy with shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie (if you know either of those) because I used to watch all 3 on Nick-at-Night when I was a kid. If you are interested I recommend looking up an episode just to check it out. If you don't mind it being older it is really fun. Lucy has probably had as many jobs as Barbie and each one has led to shenanigans.

    <img src="http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p150/Falcon823/tumblr_ls1v64YSGE1r0a18uo1_250.gif"&gt;

  33. notemily says:

    Stephen Colbert does a bit about Cantons. Several bits actually.

    Here in Wisconsin we have New Berlin, pronounced with the emphasis on the "Ber" rather than the "Lin," Cuba City, New Lisbon, New London, Sparta, Verona, Waterloo, New Denmark, Norway, Oregon, and no less than two Parises…

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