Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of American Gods, Shadow begins to work with a group of Egyptian gods in a funeral home before two gods from his recent past come back into his life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.


I don’t think that the plot moves forward much in chapter eight, but Shadow spends time with the Egyptian gods who run a funeral home and it helps us to understand the mechanics of this alternate fictional world. Reading American Gods is like getting a clever Cliff Notes on world theology in a way, so even if Wednesday’s quest to fight the modern gods doesn’t really change, I am enjoying the experience that comes along with it.

First of all, Gaiman’s not operating out of irony here, and I think I’d be annoyed if he was. The fact that Ibis and Jacquel (Thoth and Anubis, respectively) work in a funeral home is not Gaiman giggling and thinking he’s merely being clever. Where is a better place for Ibis to create his stories? Where else could Jacquel continue to perform the duties he was familiar with? Plus, every god we come across doesn’t still survive doing what they used to do. What we’re given here is a large, sprawling, disconnected group of beings spread across the United States. Some still derive joy from being able to things they love, but many are not. (Mad Sweeney is a great example of that in chapter eight itself.)

For now, though, Gaiman drops us into life with Ibis and Jacquel. Shadow joins them with no reluctance on his part, waiting for Mr. Wednesday to return. (As a side thought, I think it’s incredibly weird that this happens and in any other context, I might call busllhit. But Shadow really doesn’t have anything else to do and he’s prone to doing as he is told with this job, so at least that makes sense. But seriously, pretty weird that Mr. Wednesday just disappears for a week, right?) Ibis and Jacquel run a local funeral parlor in Cairo, and more so than any god we’ve seen before, the two have fully and completely integrated themselves into life in this town. Now I’m not even sure my previous theories about how the logistics of life as a god work anymore. While Ibis does bring up the fact that they barely subsist on any belief, they also seem to be getting on just fine with their business. So how do gods “die” then? Mr. Sweeney seems to have died from a combination of a poor decision of falling asleep drunk in the snow and giving away that specific coin to Shadow. They have physical bodies that act as human bodies do. OMG THE GODS ARE CYLONS. Okay, but seriously, I still haven’t figured this out!

I also think that there are versions of the gods. How could the ancient Egyptians bring Thoth, Anubis, and the other gods with them to America thousands of years before and leave them there? Weren’t there still folks in Egypt who believed in them? Do they fracture off in order to follow those who believe them? I understand the notion that America “has been Grand Central Station for ten thousand years or more.” That makes sense. That’s why there are so many scattered gods in America, too. Even if Gaiman meant it in a fictional sense, I also think it’s entirely plausible that many people “discovered” and traveled to the “New World” than what we were told in history books. As Ibis says here, he pities those who discard the impossible, referring to any anomalies in standard thought.

Though I suppose this is all “impossible” anyway, though I must admit the concept of gods living and walking amongst us is pretty awesome. I do adore that Gaiman gives us a portrait of their lives that is everything but supernatural. Jacquel does autopsies for the county medical examiner. Oh, and he feeds on bits of the body:

From the heart, the liver, and from one of the kidneys, he cut an additional slice. These pieces he chewed, slowly, making them last, and ate while he worked.

Somehow it seemed to Shadow a good thing for him to do: respectful, not obscene.

I’m reminded of a certain scene involving Iorek Byrnison in The Amber Spyglass here. Anyway, I was intrigued by Jacquel’s confusion when Shadow makes an offhand comment about the dead coming back to life. Jacquel is slightly bewildered by this; of course, he doesn’t know about about Laura, but Ibis makes it seem like the dead coming back is a fairly difficult and rare thing. SO. SO. How is Laura able to come back? Is she not what we think she is?

From Ibis, we find out about how the Egyptian gods have all spread out. It’s an interesting idea because I imagine it’s been a long time since they were all believed in, so why else would they stay together? Set hasn’t been heard from in OVER A HUNDRED YEARS. That is such a bizarre sentence just to type and I love that. And what happened to Horus? What does he do now? I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

And so Shadow, after being shown all of this, agrees to stay and earn his keep in the funeral parlor. Jacquel and Ibis have more than enough room and certainly have work to give him, too. But after taking a moment to clean himself up, observing the physical evidence of the violence he’s been subjected to on his “coffee-colored skin” (Is Shadow a black man? That seems like a rather dark color), he puts a straight razor to his throat and briefly considers slicing himself from ear to ear and just ending this all. And it’s not even necessarily because he’s depressed. Shadow seems tired. After everything that has happened in the past couple weeks, he knows now he’s in far over his head. It’ll be a long while before he has a “normal” life, and he may never get that at all. However, the strange cat from earlier somehow manages to open the door to the bathroom, interrupting the process. Given what happens later in the story with him, this cat clearly knew he was going to do this and stopped him. Who is this cat? I feel like the answer is just sitting there waiting for me to figure it out, but it hasn’t happened yet. On top of that…why do the clothes laid out for him fit so well? It’s kind of unsettling to me. WHAT IS GOING ON.

Shadow heads out on his first job with Jacquel and Ibis, driving the hearse to pick up an elderly lady from her newly-widowed husband. There’s no real subtext here, no special metaphors, and the plain nature of it is a great way to suggest how “normal” and banal the lives of these gods are. This is what they do now. They are members of American society and their existence as gods means….well, they’re really nothing that special anymore. Unless you’re Jesus, and you’ve stolen Christmas from Mithras. Then, according to Jacquel, you might be a little special.

“So, yeah, Jesus does pretty good here. But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.”

Which makes sense to me. Gods have more power and a better fortune where the belief is stronger. But Jesus can just…travel wherever? So does that destroy my theory that there are versions of various gods? AH, I CAN’T GET THIS. But we do find out the cat in the funeral parlor is actually Bast (or Basthet, the goddess of protection), which explains why she interrupts Shadow’s razor moment, and I think that’s also why she clearly has sex with him later. Does that protect him too? I suppose it does, maybe on an emotional level more than a physical one.

Given the bit of backstory of Shadow that Gaiman gives us here, it seems that Shadow learned at a young age to take care of his physical self. I entertained the same idea as Shadow did, but he made it a reality. There’s still a part of me that would love to be physically massive because I still feel so unassuming in my own body, but I think I’ve found other ways to stand up for myself these days. Given this, does Bast recognize that Shadow needs protection in some other way? That’s the only explanation I can come up with the sex “dream” that Shadow has. Why else would Bast do this and heal all of his wounds and injuries in the process? That’s my guess.

The next day is when he runs into Mad Sweeney. How did the aging leprechaun end up all the way out on the city limits of Cairo? I couldn’t figure out why until it was basically handed to me by Gaiman: the coin that he gave Shadow was going to get Mad Sweeney killed.

“I did it like he said. I did it all like he said, but I gave you the wrong coin. It wasn’t meant to be that coin. That’s for royalty. You see? I shouldn’t even have been able to take it. That’s the coin you’d give to the King of America himself. Not some pissant bastard like you or me. And now I’m in big trouble. Just give me the coin back, man.”

So, in the process of learning why Mad Sweeney is so upset, he confirms his suspicions that Mr. Wednesday set up the fight between him and the giant leprechaun as a test of sorts. But what is so special about that specific coin? What does he know about the “oncoming storm” that all these gods keep referencing?

I admit that Mad Sweeney’s distress is unsettling to me, and before Gaiman even stated that he would die, I got the sense that he knew his end was coming. It seems appropriate to stick that in the chapter that is about death, centered around a funeral parlor. Yet even given this, I was still a bit surprised when Shadow goes out on his first hearse trip alone a few days later to pick up a dead body, and it turns out to be Mad Sweeney. It was sad to see him go, but…well. Well.

The hearse was stopped at a traffic light–the same lights he’d fishtailed at, several nights earlier–when Shadow heard a voice croak, “And it’s a fine wake I’ll be wanting, with the best of everything, and beautiful women shedding tears and their clothes in their distress, and brave men lamenting and telling fine tales of me in my great days.”

“You’re dead, Mad Sweeney,” said Shadow. “You take what you’re given when you’re dead.”

HOW IS THIS HAPPENING. Does Shadow possess some weird power to resurrect those who die near him? Or is this a residual thing for gods? Either way, he orders Shadow to give him a good wake. While he’s dead. And Shadow does this that night, and he and Ibis tell stories of his life. While Sweeney is there. And dead. Mad Sweeney even teaches Shadow how to pull coins from “the hoard.” While dead. And what the fuck is going on in this book?

So Mad Sweeney’s “death” wasn’t all that sad to me because he got to participate in the post-death ceremonies. I was more sad to leave Jacquel and Ibis behind. Mr. Wednesday finally shows up to take Shadow away, and he does so without even giving Shadow a chance to say goodbye to his two new friends. I don’t know what Mr. Wednesday has planned, but I was struck by how accurate the sensation was that Gaiman describes at the end:

Shadow realized it had only been a temporary reprieve, his time in the house of the dead; and already it was beginning to feel like something that happened to somebody else, a long time ago.

And it’s true; this story is moving along rather quickly from where it started. Soon, the week Shadow spent with these two Egyptian gods will be the distant history.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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63 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 8

  1. cait0716 says:

    I love this little bit of time that gets spent with the Egyptian gods. Though the initial scene in the funeral parlor – the pregnant girl who died from bad taste in boyfriends – is really depressing. And Jacquel and Ibis are just so matter of fact about the whole thing. It simultaneously makes it worse but allows the reader a little bit of distance from the situation.

    Mad Sweeney's wake makes me really happy, although the scene in the hearse kind of reminds me of Sin City. His death is sad, but I'm glad that he does get that last night to tell stories of his life. And then his corpse is holding the bottle of whiskey in the morning and it's all a little strange. In fact there's a lot in this book that still doesn't entirely make sense no matter how many times I read it. I think it adds to the overall tone of the book. Even when you know everything, you can slip back into Shadow's position and be confused by this or that.

  2. roguebelle says:

    I'm so with you. I hated leaving Jacquel and Ibis and Bast behind. They're kind of my faves. I would love entire stories just about them. Like, looking back at how they established themselves and what made Set leave and what happened when they last heard from him. So many details left untold!

    • cait0716 says:

      I have my fingers crossed that the HBO series will have room for a whole lot of background information that didn't make it into the book or has been conceived since it was released. I think they could do a lot to expand a chapter like this by delving a bit further into Set's story or Horus's or the whole Coming to America part of it. I'm really excited for the TV series and I hope it's done well.

      • roguebelle says:

        They're definitely going to have to think outside the box with how they structure the show, since TV is generally a more linear form of storytelling — but I have high hopes as well. 🙂

  3. Meenalives says:

    I think Shadow's race is meant to be ambiguous even to the people around him. If you remember, in the first chapter the racist prison guard asks him if he's part black (in a far more racist way), and Sam asks him if he has American Indian blood. I'm guessing he has light brown or dark tan skin and facial features that could conceivably come from anywhere.

    • Zozo says:

      Gaiman has said he imagines Shadow played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose “father is of Black Nova Scotian (Canadian) origin and his mother is of Samoan heritage”, per Wikipedia.

      (Also per Wikipedia, Mr. Johnson has a B.Sc. in criminology and physiology, played briefly for the Calgary Stampeders football team, and appeared on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. So that’s interesting. )

    • Also, I think earlier in the book it mentions that Shadow has grey eyes.

    • jaccairn says:

      don't forget that the colour of coffee can vary widely depending on how much milk/cream is added. Your imagination can base it on whatever your preferred choice of beverage is.

      • notemily says:

        I read a tirade somewhere about how authors need to stop referring to PoC's skin colors in terms of food. I wish I remembered where I read that.

    • anna says:

      I have to ROT13 my reasoning for assuming Shadow is biracial or multiracial, since I haven't reread American Gods in awhile and don't remember if we've hit this chunk of info yet:

      Funqbj'f zbz unq fvpxyr-pryy narzvn, juvpu cevznevyl bpphef va crbcyr bs Nsevpna-qrfprag. V'z cerggl fher, orgjrra gung naq gur "pbssrr-pbyberq" fxva guvat, gung Funqbj vf ovenpvny be zhygvenpvny. Vg'f arire n ovt qrny, ohg vg trgf zragvbarq gvzr gb gvzr.

  4. James says:

    THIS CHAPTER OMG. Okay, so. I love Egyptian mythology and Anubis is my absolute favourite. Has been since I was a kid. You know how kids'll do little art projects sometimes? Well, I once made some canopic jars out of empty pots and plasticine one time. So yeah, this chapter is just. Gah. Is it weird how lovely I find the autopsy scene? I sound like such a morbid freak, but seriously. It's so nice that they get to do this and so right. It's, as you rightly say, like Iorek with Lee.

    AND OMG MITHRAS. MIIIIITHRAAAAAAS! I flailed out of my seat at that point. ANUBIS. TALKING ABOUT MITHRAISM BEING APPROPRIATED BY CHRISTIANITY. ALL OF MY FLAIL. Seriously. We studied Mithraism briefly at A Level and I fucking love Mithras, he's so awesome, you should definitely look him up. And man, the stuff about Jesus is so awesome, I just.

    AND HORUS! I fucking KNEW that hawk that flew at Shadow last chapter was Horus! I adore the thing of them becoming more like the animal part of themselves as time goes on and they struggle to be remembered. Not really a spoiler, but just in case I'll rot13 it: if you read Sandman gurer'f fbzr ybiryl fghss qbar jvgu Onfg, be Onfgrg nf fur'f pnyyrq va vg.

    And then there was the mention of the Reader's Digest serial "I am Joe's (body part)" that you may recognise from Fight Club and again, I died of flail because FIGHT CLUB. (If you've never read any Chuck Palahniuk, Mark, you need to remedy that as soon as possible.)

    My theory that Neil Gaiman has something of a praise-boner for Bast was pretty much validated by that sex scene. Awesome. Fun fact: I have a bust of Bast that I got in the British Museum. I like to think she gets a little strength from that. I love her being here with Anubis, given that she's often seen as his wife (her being, among other things, godess of the ointment jar and him of enbalming). I just love the comfort and release she gives him here, it's so gorgeously done. And fits in with the ointment/healing part of her aspects.

    And oh, Mad Sweeney! I forgot to mention, but I *love* that Gaiman has leprechauns be tall! And he mentions the Tuatha Dé Danann! Not by name, but they're the mound-dwellers that are mentioned. I love that he manages to form these characters from all different versions and aspects of their myths. It's like how he includes Odin's origins as something of a trickster with the hustling. SO AWESOME. I have so many geekgasms reading this book, it's ridiculous. Sweeney and the ifrit's musings on the old days in their homelands are so poignant. All of the Irish stuff at the wake is so wonderful to see *chinhands*

    And this: "The sun's treasure. It's there in those moments when the world makes a rainbow. It's there in the moment of eclipse and the moment of the storm." God, how fucking beautiful a spin on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow bit is that? UGH, GAIMAN, I LOVE YOU.

  5. Viridescence says:

    …ok, you said "oncoming storm" and my mind jumped straight to the Doctor. XD

    BUT ANYWAY. I adored the time spent with the Egyptian gods! I've always loved ancient Egyptian mythology, and so having them show up was just all sorts of crazy awesome. :3

    I can't believe I'm actually reading this with you! I'm so excited!

  6. pennylane27 says:

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    I read this last night and for some reason I felt exhausted when I finished. Not much happened, but the effort of trying to make sense of what is happening drained me. I mean, for a second I thought that Shadow was actually having sex with Laura and I was like do NOT want, but then I realised that didn't make sense so I read it again and then I got it.

    And Sweeney, I feel sorry for him, and when I read that Shadow wouldn't see him alive again I wasn't expecting to find out what happened to him in the same chapter. I assumed we would have to wait for his story to come up again. But no, let's just have him take part in his own wake and drink Jameson whisky. And I want to know whose hoard it is he took the wrong coin from.

    Oh, and then Wednesday comes and I'm kind of pissed of at him. The man took a beating because he's working for him, and his dead wife had to come to his rescue, and he's all "yeah yeah, let's go, goodbyes are overrated". Maybe he did allow Shadow to have some peace and quiet while he stayed there, but still. And Shadow doesn't even question anything! After his outburst with the raven he's back with his old attitude of don't ask questions. Which is all I feel like doing at some points. I want answers. But I'm still enjoying the mental exercise this book is making me do.

    Also Mark, I thought of Iorek too! I knew you would mention it. 🙂

    • monkeybutter says:

      I love that Shadow having sex with a cat goddess is the sensible interpretation. Oh, this book.

    • cait0716 says:

      I think Shadow's lack of questions makes sense. Every time he's asked Wednesday anything before, he's been told not to ask questions. So he asked the raven, but he still didn't get any answers. Now he's just along for the ride, and I get the feeling that he almost doesn't care where he ends up, as long as it isn't jail.

      • pennylane27 says:

        Totally. In fact, a couple of reviews ago I said that that was my attitude too, I'm going along with it, but there are moments when I just can't stop myself from asking a whole lot of questions! 😉

  7. FlameRaven says:

    Mr. Sweeney seems to have died from a combination of a poor decision of falling asleep drunk in the snow and giving away that specific coin to Shadow.

    I don't think this was a bad decision or a mistake on Sweeney's part, I think him falling asleep in the snow was calculated suicide. I mean, he asked Shadow for the money, he knew exactly what he was going to do. He needed to die before he landed in whatever trouble he was going to get for giving Shadow the coin.

    I don't want to say too much more because I just know I'll get called out for spoilers no matter what I do, but I'll say this: much like Odin's identity, all the answers are already there if you're paying attention.

  8. Elexus Calcearius says:

    I go for 'Ambiguously Brown', the type where you look at a person and you're not quite sure on their nationality. Personally, I think half-white, half-black (or African American, although I don't usually use that term, since none of the black people I know are American.)

    I really like the scenes in the funeral parlor. It just feels like a…reprieve, of sorts. Quiet and content, which is a weird thing to associate with a funeral home. One of the things I think I especially like is that it doesn't present the god of Death as evil. That so often happens, that they get re-imagined as the devil or whatever, when in the original myths they were just guys doing their job.

  9. clodia_risa says:

    I had always assumed that the suit had fit Shadow so well because they’d been in the mortuary business for ages, and, as the old joke goes, could eyeball a man’s measurements.

    Also, I love that Gaiman doesn’t completely ignore the Judeo-Christian tradition in his book about gods. It’s so easy to do since one doesn’t want to upset that group, but why shouldn’t that faith be subjected to the same potentially blasphemous ideas as every other? I think he did well to pair the story of Christmas taking over Mithras’s birthday (TREES AND WINTER SOLSTICE AND LIGHT AND LOGS, oh my!) with the story of him being utterly ignored while hitchhiking.

    I had such a love of mythology as a kid, and I was obsessed with cats, so Bast was the one I got fastest (after Anansi, but he was spelled out quick).

    • cait0716 says:

      I always assumed it was a magical drawer. The first night he finds the suit. Then he comes back and there are pajamas. And in the morning it has jeans and a sweater. Your explanation makes a lot more sense, but I kind of like to think that there's just this magical drawer that provides exactly the clothes you need.

      • …I dunno. Maybe the magical drawer makes more sense? I mean he's only just got there so there probably wouldn't have been enough time to get a suit altered for Shadow.

        Unless Wednesday is good at that sort of thing and called ahead.

  10. arctic_hare says:

    If I had to pick a favorite chapter in this book, odds are it'd be this one. As I gushed in rot13 yesterday, ancient Egypt was my THING as a kid, a huge obsession for me. So seeing Anubis and Thoth running a funeral home was just the most perfect and amazing thing ever for me. I always found Egyptian myth to be so fascinating and fun to read, and these two were a couple of my favorites. I mean, naturally, Thoth is a scribe, how can I not be a fan? I love how Gaiman writes them, too, it's such a treat.

    "while Mr. Ibis picked and pecked at a slice of coffee cake.


    And Bast! <3 I love her too, I figure yeah, that's why she had sex with him. Plus she's so cute in kitty form. I always liked her, I wish we could've seen more of her in this chapter. I also really dug the house the funeral parlor is in, I could see it perfectly in my mind from Gaiman's descriptions. It feels real. I want to see some Horus too, AHHHH I JUST LOVE THE EGYPTIAN GODS IN GENERAL, OKAY? I had a major geek-out over this chapter when I first read it and I still love the hell out of it.

    More rot13:

    "Lbh'yy frr gurz ntnva, V unir ab qbhog, orsber guvf nssnve vf qbar."


    • Dent D says:

      V qvqa'g znxr gung pbaarpgvba ba jung Jrqarfqnl fnvq gb Funqbj. Ohg abj V'z jbaqrevat vs vg ernyyl vf qryvorengr ba Jrqarfqnl'f cneg. Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl, Gubgu, Wnpxny, Onfg naq gur zvqavtug Mbeln (bar bs gurz naljnl) gryy Funqbj gurl ner gurer va uvf qrngu orpnhfr ur oryvrirq va gurz, be znlor vg jnf gur bgure jnl nebhaq. Rvgure jnl, ubj pbhyq Jrqarfqnl unir xabja gung Funqbj jbhyq unir znqr fhpu n pbaarpgvba jvgu gurfr thlf?

  11. Mauve_Avenger says:

    I seem to remember reading somewhere (maybe the About the Author page for an earlier edition, since I don't follow Neil Gaiman news?) that the house Jacquel, Ibis, and Bast live in is sort of modeled after Neil Gaiman's own house here in the States. Perhaps it just seems this way in contrast to the places Shadow has been before, but it really seems like this place has more emotional heft than you'd think it would considering how short a time Shadow spends there, and I'm thinking that maybe that's the reason why.

    I think I may have spotted a small continuity error in this chapter. In the scene where Shadow finds Sweeney's body, it's said that the police officers "kept the empty bottle," but then after the wake when Shadow goes back down to the body, Sweeney still has an empty Jameson bottle in his hand. Though maybe it means that the officers took the original bottle and now Sweeney has the bottle from last night in his hands?

    I think we're getting to the part I have the least memory of. V erzrzore Funqbj tbvat gb yvir fbzrjurer jvgubhg Jrqarfqnl, naq frrvat Fnz ntnva, naq uvf qrngu naq gur jrvtuvat bs uvf urneg (zl zrzbel nvqrq ol gur sberfunqbjvat va guvf puncgre, ab qbhog),naq V inthryl erzrzore n zheqre jvgu n xbobyq, ohg V qba'g ernyyl erzrzore ubj nal bs gurfr npgvbaf pbzr nobhg be jung beqre gurl'er va jvguva gur aneengvir. Rira gur onggyr frpgvba vf n ovg shmml gb zr. V qba'g xabj jul, ohg V ernyyl pna'g frrz gb erzrzore jung yrnqf gb jung naq jung pnhfrf jung, naq vg'f ernyyl obgurevat zr. Ybbxf yvxr V'yy unir gb qb fbzr znwbe erernqvat gb chg rirelguvat va vgf pbeerpg pbagrkg.

    • knut_knut says:

      I didn’t know Jacquel, Ibis, and Bast’s house was modeled after Gaiman’s house! Then again, I always confuse Stephen King’s house and Neil Gaiman’s (in my mind maybe they live together?).

      I noticed the bottle thing too. I think it’s in the Anniversary edition, so if it was a continuity error I don’t understand why it wasn’t edited out the second time around. Maybe Dead!Sweeney is running around stealing whiskey bottles?

      Spoilers if you want them 🙂 Va gur arkg puncgre, Jrqarfqnl naq Funqbj fgbc ng n erfgnhenag jurer Jrqarfqnl cvpxf hc fbzr fvkgrra lrne byq tvey be fbzrguvat. Ng gung gvzr Jrqarfqnl gryyf Funqbj ur unf na ncnegzrag jnvgvat sbe uvz ng Ynxrfvqr (?) juvpu vf jurer Fnz’f eryngvir (gur bar jub ybfg ure xvq) yvirf. V guvax Funqbj jnvgf sbe Jrqarfqnl gurer naq va gur zrnagvzr fbyirf gur xbobyq zlfgrel. Zl zrzbel vf cerggl shmml gbb orpnhfr V gubhtug ng fbzr cbvag Funqbj tbrf nyy gur jnl qbja gb Sybevqn, ohg V’z fgnegvat gb guvax V znqr gung hc…

      • cait0716 says:

        It's not a continuity error. Sweeney kills himself on a fairly cheap, $20 bottle of whiskey (this is about as cheap as Jameson gets). Shadow bought gold label Jameson, the most expensive bottle the store offered. It's the gold-label bottle he finds in Sweeney's hand in the morning, implying that Sweeney really was hanging out at his wake and finished off the whiskey himself before going back to death.

        V nyjnlf unir n uneq gvzr jvgu gur gvzryvar va guvf obbx. V fjrne vg punatrf ba er-ernqf. Funqbj qbrfa'g xvyy gur xbobyq hagvy gur rcvybthr, gubhtu, nsgre ur unatf bhg va Sybevqn jvgu Ze. Anapl.

        • knut_knut says:

          EVVVVVVVVVTUG!! V’z ernyyl tynq gung V qvqa’g vzntvar gur Sybevqn cneg, gubhtu! V gubhtug V jnf whfg enaqbzyl guebjvat ybpngvbaf vagb gur fgbel.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Now that you mention it, I can totally see Gaiman living in Maine.

      • Kit says:

        Did you ever read Nice Hair? it's completely ridiculous, but that's what your comment about Neil Gaiman and Stephen King living together reminded me of…

    • monkeybutter says:

      Yeah, I thought the bottle was a sign that Sweeney really had been up drinking with them at the wake.

      V erzrzore Funqbj yvivat fbzrjurer ernyyl pbyq va gur hccre Zvqjrfg, gur xbobyq, naq jung unccraf ba gur zbhagnva, ohg rirelguvat ryfr vf n oyhe, naq V'z cerggl fher gurl qb zber geniryyvat va orgjrra. Ohg V thrff gung'f jul vg'f sha gb erernq nybat fvqr Znex!

    • notemily says:

      I have the same experience with memories of this book. I remember certain plot points, but I only have the fuzziest idea of what happens to get us to the next plot point. Maybe Gaiman works for the Silence or that god that everyone forgets.

  12. pica_scribit says:

    I think Shadow's race could best be described as "indeterminate", which I think is really fitting for this book. America is made up of more or less all the races of the world, and so is Shadow.

  13. Saphling says:

    I first read this book when I was thirteen or so. Since then, (though I didn't realize I'd been doing it until a few years ago) I've been haphazardly collecting figures of gods and goddesses. I never did it consciously, really, but friends would bring them back for me.

    I have a small alabaster statue of Bast a friend brought back from Cairo, Egypt, a marble figurine of Athena a boyfriend brought back from Athens, Greece, a statue of the Kamakura Buddha (not technically a god, but still) that I brought back from Kamakura, Japan. A carved wooden piece in the form of Raven from a Native American tradition in the Pacific Northwest, and a painted stone figure of Vishnu that a friend brought back from India. They have a little collective shrine in my room.

  14. kristinc says:

    ""Gung’f gur pbva lbh’q tvir gb gur Xvat bs Nzrevpn uvzfrys."

    Lbh qba'g fnl. Ununununnnnn.

  15. ChronicReader91 says:

    “The fact that Ibis and Jacquel (Thoth and Anubis, respectively) work in a funeral home is not Gaiman giggling and thinking he’s merely being clever.”

    That’s why Neil Gaiman is a better writer than I’ll ever be. I wouldn’t have been able to resist cramming in references to mummification and embalming, or comparing gravestones to pyramids or something like that. Sometimes subtlety does the trick just fine.

    Poor Sweeney. At least he got a wake, even though it might not have been exactly the way he wanted it. I have to wonder how Ibis is aware of the stories of all these different Gods and people he writes about. I hope we’ll see more of his accounts in later chapters, because I'm going to miss him.I wish we had more time to spend on ALL these characters, even though I know it has to move at this pace to fit in so many.

    I feel like I’m a broken record saying “OMG this is a reference to Myth X, I LOVE THAT MYTH” in all my comments, but I loved the references to Brigid and all the Celtic deities, and the passing mentions of Mithra and JESUS. (I wonder if Gaiman caught any flak for not making any distinction between him and the other Gods.)

    Well, I was right about Bastet, it seems. Though I’m not sure why she’s apparently trapped in cat form except in Shadow’s dream, when Jacquel can change between being a dog or a human. (OMG, Jacquel is Sirius Black! :o)

    • @threeparts says:

      I saw it less as Bast being trapped than that she's a cat goddess (among other things), and if a cat could choose between turning into a human and participating in human activities, or staying a cat and sleeping all day, I know which my cats would choose.

  16. t09yavorsaur says:

    Whenever I think of Bast my thoughts go straight to The Alchemyst: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel but I can't even remember what part of the series she is in, even if she is in it at all. [SotINF is a bit like American Gods as mythical figures drop in from time to time. I would recommend it for a future read but I am generous when it comes to liking books so I'd say a second opinion is warranted.]

    With all these gods around I am really hoping for some Greeks to show up. But I can't really think of examples of any Hellenisticly religious in America so I'm not sure they will. Plus they would probably clash with the Norse gods. :-/

  17. Dent D says:

    Oh my goodness, this chapter. It's one of my favorites because Shadow gets some much needed emotional reprieve. Sweeney's end is horrible but I loved his wake.

    I "re-read" American Gods a few years ago by listening to the audiobook. My husband got into the book since I had the MP3s playing all the time in the car when we were on road trips. I remember how awkward it was when this chapter played and the narrator was going through the sex scene between Shadow and Bast. He kept giggling and I really couldn't feel upset at him for it. Sometimes things come across better on print than in sound.

  18. dktragonizer says:

    I know it's a good chapter and all, but I just have to say that the sex dream made me highly uncomfortable. Part of it's because I'm a bit of a prude, I guess, and I really hate it when those types of dreams pop up in books. I don't like reading about that stuff.

    But mostly, it's because Bast is a cat. I mean, I know she's really a god who has just been using a cat's form, but the only thing I could think of during that scene was: "She's a cat. Shadow's having sex with a cat. A CAT."

    Yeah. Ew.

  19. @GalFawkes says:

    Anyone else's thoughts go to the Kane Chronicles during this chapter? (Written by Rick Riordan, same author of the Percy Jackson and Camp Half-Blood series, but instead of Greek and Roman mythology, the Kane Chronicles do Egyptian mythology.)

  20. Spencer says:

    I'm pretty sure the gods have regional "aspects." Kali (Mama-Ji) pretty much states in outright in the divine pow-wow at Valaskjalf.
    Also, Gaiman tends to avoid Greek mythological figures in American Gods. To quote Wednesday: "F**king Albanians. Like anyone cares."

  21. Shiroikami says:

    "What does he know about the “oncoming storm” that all these gods keep referencing?"

    The Doctor is coming. And he is angry. 😀

  22. bookling says:

    Shadow's race is meant to be pretty ambiguous. He's literally the everyman. He blends in everywhere and is forgettable. That's why there's never really any description of his physical features. So he's probably light enough to pass as white, dark enough to pass as black. I hope you read Anansi Boys after this – it's set in the same world as American Gods, but isn't a sequel, and I think you'll find the way Gaiman depicts race in that book really interesting.

  23. Kit says:

    I remember really liking this chapter the first time I read it… I forgot how long it is! But I love how quietly comforting Ibis and Jacquel and their house are.

  24. Daemon8666 says:

    Given that you've moved on and probably already know this, I'll just drop a quick explanation – Mad Sweeney is able to participate in his wake because that's the reason for the empty seat at an Irish wake – the BELIEF that the dead person is there, listening to you all get drunk and remember him in stories about his life, and sharing in the good cheer of the food and drink set at that place before they move on. It's not so much a case of deity special powers as it is the power of his people's belief allowing him a few more moments to share this world with the people commemorating his existence in it.

  25. Meghan (dumbleadore) says:

    So, okay, I skimmed through the comments. I'm reading this the first time through with you (and a bit behind you, obviously). I think your comment after the Jesus thing about how the gods can "travel" is kinda half right? I get the impression that when people travel their beliefs go with them, but it's possible for there to be essentially local incarnations of gods everywhere their followers have gone. Which is how there's a Jesus in America that does really well and a Jesus in Afghanistan that isn't doing so hot. Same god, different incarnation based on location. That's my take so far, anyway.

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