Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 10

In the tenth chapter of American Gods, Shadow settles into life in Lakeside, and then Mr. Wednesday decides a bizarre trip to Las Vegas is totally necessary. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.

CHAPTER TEN

You know, it’s a good thing that the writing in this book is so entrancing to me, because we are halfway through American Gods and not a whole lot has happened. So this is my compliment to Gaiman: I don’t even know what the goddamn war really is, and I am pretty stoked on this book so far. He makes a lot of thematic and diction choices in chapter ten that inject the words, characters, and settings with a vibrant life of their own.

Before we get to that, I think I totally missed a reference to Shadow’s past in the chapters previous to this. We open chapter ten with an italicized dream of his. Now I recall that Shadow said he had come to America at one point with his mother. Right? I think I also remember that this was in his childhood, but now I’m not totally sure of this. So while Shadow’s dreams regularly deal with the world of the gods more than anything else, I have a feeling that this might not be one of those moments, though I am also willing to admit that I could be utterly wrong about this. The entire part at the end with the rope, the bonfires, and the “blade” doesn’t fit in with what I know about Shadow, but perhaps Gaiman’s been hiding part of Shadow on purpose. Which…that’s actually kind of fascinating. We are halfway through a novel and Gaiman’s given us no significant backstory on his main character. MY BRAIN GEARS ARE TURNING.

All right, let’s spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the cold. I am a whiny Californian and, despite having lived in Boise, Idaho for seven years, I am that guy when it gets super cold out. Even saying that, I have to qualify it. What’s super cold to me is par for the course for many people, and living in the United States, we run nearly the full gamut of weather variations in our fifty states, from tropical to desert to FUCKING TUNDRA-ESQUE TERROR. But for nineteen years of my life, I lived in Southern California. Riverside got so hot it was criminal outside. We’d suffer from bouts of thick, heavy, and oppressive heat. It wasn’t as humid as–for example–central Florida in the middle of July. (Seriously, I don’t know how any of you are still alive at this point. My god.) Summers in the Inland Empire are dry, with winds that scorch as they blow over your face. We do get humidity from time to time, but the climate is generally to dry for that. When I lived in Long Beach, I discovered the joy of an ocean breeze; it’s one of the big reasons I decided to finally leave Los Angeles. I needed that expansive air flowing over me again. While I’ve had to adapt to the cooler temperatures and the constant wind of San Francisco, as well as many more rainy days than I’m used to, I still live in California. Our weather really isn’t that bad. The Bay Area sinks to just above freezing during the winter, and most of the time hangs out many degrees above that. Our summers are warm, but San Francisco itself sits under a near-constant state of wind.

You know what that means? I’m an asshole pretty much everywhere else.

The truth is that I love cold weather, so my whiny voice only comes out in more extreme examples. In March of this year, I spent time in New York City and Toronto. (OH GOD I WANT TO GO BACK SO BADLY.) On my very first night in NYC, I got to experience thundersnow for the first time. It’s a real thing, y’all! And I did not wine for a second, surprisingly. I do have fond memories of snowy winters from my time in Idaho, and I came prepared with layers of clothing. As thunder cracked across the sky and rain, snow, and hail all plunged from the angry clouds that formed over the city, I was overjoyed by the experience. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, and it made the city look absolutely gorgeous. I stomped in the inches of snow that quickly piled up in the street. I was happy to feel the wind against my face, to see my breath, to look up at the sky and see the lights from the cities give the thick charcoal a surreal nebula glow.

I saw all of this because I spent two days in Toronto. And it was FUCKING COLD. It was well below freezing and I heard other Canadians complaining about the cold. I THINK IT’S FAIR ENOUGH TO SAY THAT IT IS COLD WHEN PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN TORONTO SAY IT IS COLD. If I wasn’t hanging out with some amazing friends, eating spectacular vegan food throughout the city, and basically discovering how fantastic Toronto was, I’m pretty sure I would have just given up and froze to death. HOW. HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE IN THAT. I bring this up because…okay, you know Shadow’s trek to town? And how he knows in about four minutes what a goddamn fool he is? And how he feels like his bones are freezing. THERE YOU GO. That is what I felt like. It seemed like nothing could make me feel warm. I must have drank fifteen cups of coffee while in Toronto in order to offset the frost that was settling in my blood. At one point, I’m pretty sure I yelled at my friend, “WHAT IS YOUR SECRET. WHAT SORCERY DID YOU USE TO LIVE HERE.” I was a complete and total asshole about it! I mean…holy god, I have been in cold weather plenty of times, but this was a whole new experience. It was below zero! And MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE DONE IT BEFORE. This is what happens to you when you grow up in California. omg WEATHERPRESSION.

I am then reminded after all of this that American Gods was written by someone who had just moved here. And my head explodes. Look, I know that there’s this stereotype that small-town America is full of fools and bigots and racists and the worst simpletons alive. And while non-metropolitan cities might have a tendency towards intolerance, I always feel strange about that stereotype. There’s generally a layer of gross lower-class attached to it, that a person would rather be anything other than a poor person in a small town where they don’t have television or nice cars or BLAH BLAH BLAH YOU ARE BORING ME WITH YOUR CLASSISM. Depending on where you are in the United States, YES. Yes, there are incredibly bigoted people who live there. (Hey, guess what? They’re also in Los Angeles and New York City and Chicago, too! the world is shocked by this stunning revelation.)

What Gaiman nails down with a frightening accuracy is the kindness and homely nature of small towns. (Also, he used the term, “yoopie.” OH MY GOD HOW DID HE KNOW THAT TERM!!!!!) I have friends who live in towns where doors are not locked ever. I have relatives in Arizona and Hawaii who are the pinnacle of humility and kindness, and none of them live in a metropolitan city. I am just happy ~and so full of feelings~ to see this concept portrayed in a positive light instead of falling into the familiar trope that small towns are full of secret serial killers. (To be fair, being brown, tattooed, and pretty obviously queer, I have met some of the most bigoted, horrific people in small towns. oh god oklahoma and kansas YOU HAVE SCARRED ME FOREVER.)

On top of this, Gaiman does this thing with his narration of Missy Gunther that took me a second to understand, but once I did, I was on board. Just through her narration, I already have an image of her sitting in my head. He does not quote her dialogue at all, unlike what he did with Chad Mulligan or Mabel. Instead, her words become a stream-of-conscious form of diction. One word rolls off another, phrases and bits strewn together with commas and brief pauses. Missy Gunther talks and her voice is a constant stream of noise for nearly every second that she is with Shadow. It never comes across as rude or presumptive, though, and Shadow never expresses irritation. This is just who she is and how she talks. It’s how she relates information to people around her. I mean, seriously, she gives him a fake passport to Lakeside. God, she probably has macrame cats and owls on the wall and a cookie jar that yells when you open it and I JUST WANT TO BE HER BEST FRIEND FOREVER.

I know that I am personally drawn to large cities. It’s where I am at this point in my life. I want to live in New York City by the time I’m thirty-five, maybe spend a year or two in Chicago as well. I’d spent so much time in Southern California that the idea of leaving that place was horrifying to me, but ever since moving to the Bay last year, I now feel like I can just uproot whenever I want. And I think I want to live in a town like Lakeside, where everyone knows each other, where people make small talk that never seems encroaching or forced, where people actually know who their neighbors are, even if they don’t like them. It’s something different, and I crave that sensation, too.

For Shadow, it’s a totally new experience as well. It feels a bit strange saying this, but when he goes to meet Marguerite Olsen next door to him, I suddenly got this picture in my head of him babysitting and getting along with kids really well. Which is weird! I don’t even know Shadow that well! But he seems like he would have a blast with children. But the thought is fleeting because Mr. Wednesday soon arrives, ready to steal Shadow away to Las Vegas.

Ugh. Las Vegas. Nevada is not my favorite state in the U.S. because Reno is in it and there is maybe one other city in the United States that I dislike more than Reno (TULSA, OKLAHOMA, WHY ARE YOU REAL). Let me just start by saying this: Neil Gaiman captures the Las Vegas strip with an eerie sense of perfection. That is what Las Vegas is like, and add in the fact that I’m both vegan and straight edge, and Las Vegas has virtually nothing to offer me. I grew up poor, so the concept of gambling is basically the most ridiculous thing in the world to me. To be fair, I’ll play slots that have game bonuses attached to them because at the very least, I am somewhat entertained, but that’s about as far as I’ll go. I am not a fan of flushing money away.

Las Vegas is, simply put, one of the most garish and American things on the face of the planet. And I’ll go there if I have friends to make the experience awesome, but otherwise….no.

I don’t know why this section is in italics, and I don’t know who the man in the charcoal suit is, but I put two-and-two together and realized that whoever he is, people can’t seem to remember him at all. OMG IT’S THE SILENCE. Right? He’s in the room with the men counting money, but they don’t acknowledge him. Shadow can’t even remember his name just after it is spoken. Gaiman also doesn’t give us a word of his dialogue, and I think that’s remarkably significant. Why do we get the waitresses words, but not his? I understand that he’s a god that Wednesday is trying to recruit, but, again, that’s about as much as I do understand at this point.

When Mr. Wednesday heads outside after managing to convince this other god to join him, Shadow actually gets some of his questions answered. Mr. Wednesday had offered up Soma to this god, and he actually explains what it is:

“To take the analogy further, it’s honey wine. Mead.” He chuckled. “It’s a drink. Concentrated prayer and belief, distilled into a potent liqueur.”

I like that it took Gaiman spelling it out for me to fully get this. But it takes a great deal of belief to sustain a god, so I imagine for the “forgotten” gods, Soma is a rare commodity for them. But does Soma work for any god? Or does each one have a specific Soma that works for them?

I admit how fascinated I am with the way that Gaiman brings about the world of the gods into the story, even if I haven’t figured any of this out on my own just quite yet. (Well, I may have, BUT I DON’T KNOW.) There’s an entire underground society to it, and Gaiman also takes existing mythology to flesh out these characters lives. We get the eighteen charms that Odin possesses, which sadly do not include bringing a person back to life. Shadow puts forth the idea that the coin that Mad Sweeney gave him was what raised Laura from the dead. (Wow, that seems so obvious now in hindsight.) All of these details–things that are utterly impossible in our world–make up the fabric of this universe. It’s all quite fantastical, but then there are moments like this to ground it all:

Shadow wanted, wanted very much, to reach out and put his hand over Wednesday’s gray hand. He wanted to tell him that everything would be okay–something that Shadow did not feel, but that he knew had to be said. There were men in black trains out there. There was a fat kid in a stretch limo and there were people in the television who did not mean them well.

He did not touch Wednesday. He did not say anything.

Later, he wondered if he could have changed things, if that gesture would have done any good, if it could have averted any of the harm that was to come. He told himself it wouldn’t. He knew it wouldn’t. But still, afterward, he wished that, just for a moment on the slow flight home, he had touched Wednesday’s hand.

Oh. Oh, no, I’m totally fine. Just coughing a bit from an itch in the back of my throat. No, no, I’m okay.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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75 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 10

  1. cait0716 says:

    This book is really slow, which is one of the problems I think a lot of people have with it. Here we are, halfway through, and it does feel like nothing has happened. But I don't care, because I just love this world so much. If I could live anywhere in the world, I'd probably choose a town like Lakeside. It just seems so perfect to me.

    I'm one of those rare people who prefers winter to summer. I hit a point, usually around late June, where it is just too hot, and I'm sick of sweating all the time, and I want to peel off my skin in an effort to cool down. But winter is perfect. There's no limit to the amount of blankets you can add to a stack and snow is downright magical. I even kind of love that cold that Shadow describes. Well, maybe not quite that cold, but that moment when you take a breath and it chills your lungs and you feel it down in your bones and you know, really and truly, that you're alive. Sigh, I'm weird, I know.

    Fb V qvqa'g svther bhg hagvy erpragyl gung gur xvq va gur qernz jnf Uvamryznaa. Gubhtu abj vg frrzf pbzcyrgryl boivbhf, rfcrpvnyyl jvgu jurer gung cnffntr trgf cynprq va gur obbx. Gura ntnva, guvf obbx frrzf gb erfgehpgher vgfrys rirel gvzr V ernq vg, fb znlor gung cnffntr jnfa'g gurer orsber. V guvax vg'f shaal gung Znex guvaxf vg jnf n qernz nobhg Funqbj'f puvyqubbq. V jbaqre vs ur'yy pbaarpg gur qbgf gb vg orvat Uvamryznaa yngre.

    And we get more of Hinzelmann's stories and meet all the people of the town who are just wonderful and there's another gay couple (off-page, anyway) and I just love everything about Lakeside. Especially Shadow's "stoner purple" car.

    • clodia_risa says:

      Vs ur qbrfa’g svther vg bhg, jr’er whfg tbvat gb unir gb cbvag vg bhg. Uvf zvaq vf tbvat gb or fb oybja.

      V nyfb svaq fbzrguvat arj rirel gvzr V ernq guvf.

      Lbh xabj, qrfcvgr rirelguvat ur unf qbar naq jvyy qb, V fgvyy yvxr Uvamryznaa.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Even though I hate the short hours of winter, I'll take the cold over heat any day. I can throw on a sweater to stay warm during winter, but summer is unavoidably disgusting unless you spend the entire time inside. The air is thick and humid, and I'm tired of sweating by the time July rolls around. It helps that I live in a place that generally doesn't get eyeball-freezing cold, but winter > summer. Fall's my favorite season, though. I love the crisp air.

      Guvf vf zl svefg gvzr erernqvat, naq V ernyvmrq "bu, vg'f Uvamryznaa!" Naq gura V zneiryrq ng vgf cynprzrag orpnhfr vg'f fb cresrpg va ergebfcrpg. Uvf fgbevrf, gur zragvbaf bs gur xvqf tbvat zvffvat, gur xyhaxre — gurl frrz yvxr sbyxfl gnyrf naq abg uvagf ng fnpevsvpvat xvqf.

      • barnswallowkate says:

        Ugh yes winter >>>> summer. I wonder if it's a coincidence that you and Caito716 and I are all near DC and all hate the summer? We have the absolute grossest summers here. I actually loved the cold rain last weekend because I'm weird.

        • cait0716 says:

          That rain was heavenly. I'm so glad that summer finally seems to be over

        • monkeybutter says:

          Yeah, I know there are parts of the country with worse summers (Houston, NO, anywhere in the Deep South, really), but dammit summer is so gross around here.

          I loved it, too. We've probably had too many rainy days in the past month, but I don't care. It's a nice way to transition from summer to fall.

        • nanceoir says:

          Add me to the list of people in the mid-Atlantic who hate summer. I live around Richmond (though I spent the spring in Rappahannock County), and good grief, the summers here are awful. Give me wintery weather any day.

          Besides, cold weather means lovely things like cardigans and scarves and socks and tea.

          • Danja says:

            Chesapeake, here, and right next to THAT DAMN SWAMP that was on fire for a month and razing my sinuses with smoke and ash till Hurricane Irene blew through. And I agree with all of you–summers around here are MISERABLE. I'm originally from Alabama, right above the Florida line, and the heat and humidity there for 3/4 of the year make me want to destroy all the things ever. I'd hoped that moving fifteen hours north would alleviate some of that–but no. The only difference is that VA is unbearable 50% of the year rather than 75%. :/ Next time I move, I'm hoping to shoot for the rainy Pacific Northwest! And if that's still not enough, I'm going to Alaska, which is where my partner is from anyways, so it's not like we'd be going in blind.

            • t09yavorsaur says:

              Even though I dont "hate" the summer, you can add me to the list as well (East coast all my life!) Humidity is the most evil thing in the universe. The only reasons I can't use the word hate is because my birthday is in summer, and there is nothing better then laying sprawled out with air blowing on you and doing absolutely nothing when the heat gets too opressive.

              Autumn and Rain are my favorites, though not always together.

              One problem I am having this winter is I have lost some weight and all blubber is gone so I get colder than I used to. 🙁 Best excuse ever for not exercising, cold.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Autumn is pretty much the perfect season. O season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! (Love that Keats poem.) <3

      • clodia_risa says:

        See, I love summer because I can wear sleeveless clothes and dresses and flowy things. In the winter, I feel cramped and pressed and confined by all of the clothing I have to wear to keep warm. I am grateful I have a warm, lightweight, ugly coat now. Even in my house, I feel cold and miserable.

        • arctic_hare says:

          Haha, I'm the opposite, I feel all cozy and happy in winter clothing, and in the summer I feel oppressed and miserable and under attack, almost, by the hot sun beating down on me. Grey skies make me feel serene and safe and protected, though.

          • affableevil says:

            I actually agree with both of you! Sometimes I love summer, sometimes I hate it, and same for winter. I waffle on which I prefer.

            TBH the only time of year I really don't like is early spring. It's cold, but not enough to snow, just enough to be annoying, and it's always slushyrainymuddywindy, and it's different from late fall because I was looking forward to winter and cold but by the end of winter I am really done with cold, and it's not time for the flowers to start blooming so everything is just blah and man I just hate early spring.

            • episkey825 says:

              I'm with you there! Early spring is my least favorite time of the year. I hate March and April.

        • knut_knut says:

          Awww, that’s so sad! 🙁 My eczema acts up in the summer and I get caught in a vicious eczema-producing cycle. When I sweat, I break out and start to claw at my skin which makes me look like I’ve been mauled by a bear. I then try to cover my limbs which makes me sweat even more. The one thing I hate about winter, though, is that I have to wear pants. I’m very particular about fabric touching my legs and for some reason tights are ok, but pants are not. Unfortunately, it isn’t socially acceptable to wear sweatpants or pjs in public, so I try to wear my skirts and dresses as long as possible before I have to give up and put on real pants.

        • I don't have a summer or winter wardrobe. I really only have summer/spring clothes and in autumn and winter I wear more of them all at once, with some concessions towards woolly jumpers.

          Which is kind of odd because I'm very much not a summer person.

          • monkeybutter says:

            Heh, that's pretty much how I dress during the cooler months. The ability to dress in layers is just another reason why winter > summer (unless you work at a place where they keep the a/c subzero and you have to wear a sweater inside in July before going outside into an oven, which is just wrong.)

      • Yesterday was disgustingly hot (as were the few days before that) and WRONG for England in October. Today though? TODAY WAS GLORIOUS, with white skies and coolness and the slightest threat of rain. We have been promised snow for the end of the week (in some places at least) and with the incredible change from yesterday to today, it could so happen.

        I <3 talking about the weather. It's something my Malaysian relatives just…don't get.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      V qba'g ernyyl erzrzore gur qernz. V qba'g unir gur obbx, naq nz bcrengvat ba zrzbel.

      Jnf guvf gur bar nobhg gur rneyl, rneyl gevor jub gbbx gung xvq naq xvyyrq uvz naq znqr uvz gurve tbq? Naq gura qvrq bhg, fb ur jnf sbetbggra?

      • cait0716 says:

        Lrf, gubhtu gur bayl cneg jr unir bs gur fgbel fb sne vf gur xvq gung trgf envfrq va vfbyngvba naq gura xvyyrq va sebag bs gur gevor. V guvax gur erfg bs vg trgf svyyrq va yngre.

    • knut_knut says:

      V PBZCYRGRYL sbetbg nobhg guvf qernz hagvy V erernq vg lrfgreqnl. V ybir Uvamryznaa naq V qba'g jnag gb frr Ynxrfvqr pehzoyr njnl ohg lbh pna'g whfg tb fnpevsvpvat xvqf, Uvamryznaa!!! LBH WHFG QBA'G QB GUNG!

    • arctic_hare says:

      I'm right there with you, I DESPISE summer. It fucks me up in so many ways. 😡 Autumn and winter are so much better. AND I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN ABOUT THE COLD AIR MAKING YOU FEEL ALIVE. You are not alone! I wilt under the heat and sunlight, and then start to come back to life when the days get shorter and the air cools and the skies get grey AND RAIN. <3 It's the most wonderful time of the year.

      • cait0716 says:

        RIGHT! The heat and humidity just put me to sleep. I get so lazy in the summer. But as the weather gets colder I just get more and more accomplished (well, part of that might be the stress of the holidays). The grey, rainy days are the best for a bowl of soup, a cup of cocoa, and a good book.

        • arctic_hare says:

          Yeah, I just can't focus on anything properly in summer, my attention span gets shot to hell and I lose interest in doing even the things I really really enjoy normally. I get so much more tired too, and depressed, and have trouble sleeping. But when skies turn grey and the air cools down? I get all full of excitement and creativity and find so many things to interest me that I want to do and just generally feel happier and sleep better.

        • Saphling says:

          It's the exact opposite for me! The hotter it is, the more awake I am. Cold just makes me sleepy, wanting to curl up in a blanket and sleep.

    • This book is really slow, which is one of the problems I think a lot of people have with it. Here we are, halfway through, and it does feel like nothing has happened.

      I suspect that this is why, when I first got this book, I sat down and read it straight through in one 3/4 hour sitting.

    • notemily says:

      There's no limit to the amount of blankets you can add to a stack and snow is downright magical.

      Yeah, I would love winter if I got to stay inside under a bunch of blankets and watch the snow. But life has to go on in winter, even when every cell in my body is screaming at me to hibernate. That's what I hate about it.

      that moment when you take a breath and it chills your lungs and you feel it down in your bones and you know, really and truly, that you're alive.

      See, what I know, really and truly, in that moment, is that the outside world wants me dead.

      Qhqr, vg JNF? Jgs? V thrff vg svgf jvgu gur lbhgu naq fnpevsvprf guvat. V ZHFG ERNQ ZBER PYBFRYL.

  2. FuTeffla says:

    I hate the cold. I am thoroughly insufferable in the winter. What's worse is that I live in the southwest of Britain where we don't even get proper cold! But that doesn't stop me whining and wailing and shuffling around in every piece of clothing I own because I am cold and my bones hurt and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY SUFFERING. A couple of years ago I slipped on some ice and broke my elbow and that just reinforced my belief that winter hates me and wants me to die.
    Then again, I don't like it when it's too hot, either. You know that cool, rainy weather in autumn where the air is crisp and makes your lungs tingle? That. Let's have that all year round.

    • But would we appreciate it as much if we had it all the time?

      It's like how soft-boiled eggs and soldiers are a treat for me, because for the longest time we didn't eat soft-boiled eggs in our house because of salmonella (salmonella poisoning was NOT nice :() and then… because we didn't have soft-boiled eggs for so long, I'm actually rubbish at cooking them – so it's a bit hit and miss as to whether I get what I wanted. SO, to summarise, because like the perfect crisp autumn weather, my ability to cook a soft-boiled egg is a relatively rare occurrence…we appreciate it more. Or something.

    • Kiryn says:

      I hate the cold as well, because I'm disabled and have a bone disease that causes me pain, and the stiffness that comes with being cold does NOT help me at all. :/

  3. Ryan Lohner says:

    I love the way Shadow's thoughts get more surreal as he starts feeling like he's freezing to death. I've had a couple experiences like this (thank you, Boy Scouts (for the record, I quit before that whole "we don't want teh gayz" thing)), and my head went into exactly that kind of dream space.

    Also, Missy Gunther and the writing technique describing her constant babbling was beautiful. I've stayed at a bed and breakfast with an owner just like her. Who also made the best cookies ever.

    By now it's clear that this book really isn't about the plot. We're halfway through its 20 chapters and little has actually happened, yet at the same time Gaiman's writing brings so many places to life, to the level that you actually want to visit them. And clearly this has happened to a lot of fans, as the 10th anniversary edition starts with a warning that not everything is real. And it works so well that I'm fine with it.

    • cait0716 says:

      People like Missy tire me out. But Gaiman did an excellent job of capturing her personality and gave a nice little bit of exposition on the town in the process. I really liked that scene.

      Gaiman really gets America, and he really gets all of it. His descriptions of small towns are as spot on as his description of Vegas. His insight is amazing. I almost wonder if you have to be looking in from the outside to get such a good handle on everything this country has to offer.

  4. saphling says:

    I hear you about the cold. I am a thin-blooded Southerner for whom two winters in Indiana with -12 degree wind chill and three feet of snow waiting for a bus that never comes was absolute hell. I prefer mild winters and blazing summers (and will take the 98% humidity that comes with them).

    I also hear you about small towns. The great part is? Everyone knows everyone, and no one is a stranger. The bad part is? Everyone knows EVERYTHING YOU DO. Growing up in a small town can either be a nurturing environment in which to grow, or a suffocating one in which growth is prevented. Or, as is often the case, both at once.

    • Derek says:

      In the winter my town is small-town. (In the summer we're 4 times bigger. Tourists.) Anyway, I once found some note-stationary on the floor at the grocery store. It said: The great thing about living in a small town is that even if you have no clue what you're doing, somebody else does."

  5. clodia_risa says:

    I grew up in Alabama and went to school in Georgia. My first winter in Michigan was traumatic. I didn’t feel like my bones thawed until I went back to Alabama again in August and laid out in the 100 degree sun.

    Also, although I too prefer cities to towns, the sheer ass-hattery of most people looking down their nose at small towns drives me up the wall. It is, as you say, pure stupid classism.

    Bu Znex, ubj pna lbh or fb jebat lrg fb evtug nobhg Funqbj’f onpxfgbel?

  6. BklynBruzer says:

    I've got family in the north woods of Wisconsin and I spend a lot of my summers there, and Jesus CHRIST did Gaiman hit the nail on the head. Reading this chapter and his descriptions… Feels like I'm right back there, especially since he mentions towns I've visited/driven through. Pitch-perfect.

    Also he mentioned Hodags, holy SHIT what if they're real in this 'verse?!

  7. Elexus Calcearius says:

    I don't get any interest in going to Las Vegas, either. My parents suggested it once, a couple months ago. I was like;
    "Awesome! We can go see the canyon."
    "…that's all?"
    "Well, I guess we could see some shows. Beatles Love is supposed to be awesome."

    What, I like cultural and historical stuff, and drinking and gambling have zero interest. Thankfully, my parents were joking, since we were currently on a trip to China's gambling centre, Macau, which is smaller but as cheesy as Vegas in the Casinos, but has lots of temples and historical buildings.

    I'm also that person in the cold. I was raised in Toronto when I was a kid. I know I must have been fine with it once. I must have. But then I moved to the tropics for half of my life. My summers were so hot that I don't think most of my Canadian friends could comprehend it, since they shut down in something I consider balmy. But in winters? I just shut down.

    And I'm on the West Coat, guys. I haven't dared go father East, and regard the North with a vague sense of apprehension.

    Also, I really like that god no one can remember, even though I don't know his name. If anyone does, feel free to tell me, in Rot13 if you must.

    • cait0716 says:

      Tnvzna npghnyyl jba’g nafjre gur dhrfgvba bs jub gur sbetbggra tbq vf. Sebz uvf SND:

      Jub’f gur sbetbggra Tbq?

      V ernyyl jnf cynaavat gb nafjre vg, ohg gura jr tbg….

      Bxnl, fb guvf vfa’g fb zhpu n dhrfgvba nf n erdhrfg sbe lbh gb abg nafjre n dhrfgvba gung bgure crbcyr ner cebonoyl tbvat gb nfx.
      Cyrnfr qba’g erirny gur vqragvgl bs gur tbq/sbyxybevp ragvgl gung crbcyr nyjnlf sbetrg, jvgubhg tvtnagvp arba synfuvat fcbvyre fvtaf.
      V guvax V’z ernyyl pybfr gb vqragvslvat uvz; fb V’z yvivat jvgu gur qnvyl greebe, nf V ernq gur wbheany, bs gur png orvat yrg bhg bs gur ont…
      Lbh’er n avpr nhgube, fb V’z fher lbh haqrefgnaq. Znlor n fcbvyre frpgvba pbhyq or frg hc frcnengryl vs lbh qb vagraq gb nafjre guvf xvaq bs guvat? Gunax-lbh!

      Juvpu V guvax, nf urnegsryg cyrnf tb, vf cerggl urnegsryg. Naq rssrpgvir.

      Juvpu whfg tbrf gb fubj gung rira Anvy Tnvzna erfcrpgf Znex’f fcbvyre cbyvpl. Ohg gung’f abg gb fnl gurer nera’g gurbevrf. Gur orfg qvfphffvba V’ir sbhaq bs vg vf urer.

      Crefbanyyl, V guvax vg’f Unqrf/Cyhgb

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        Unqrf/Cyhgb, uhu? Vagrerfgvat. V qvqa'g trg gung ivor, crefbanyyl. Unqrf qvq unir n Uryz bs Qnexarff, gubhtu, naq univat vg znxr crbcyr sbetrg/ abg abgvpr uvz, jbhyq or engure rssrpgvir. V pbhyq haqrefgnaq gur yvivat fvzcyl orvat hanoyr gb pbzceruraq uvz.

        Nyfb, vs ur vf, vg'f avpr gb frr uvz trggvat n cbfvgvir cerfragngvba.

  8. quenstalof says:

    "…vafgrnq bs snyyvat vagb gur snzvyvne gebcr gung fznyy gbjaf ner shyy bs frperg frevny xvyyref. "
    Huz, bbcf?

    Nyfb guvf vf zl svefg erernq naq guvf gvzr nebhaq V abgvprq gung Uvamryzra tbg xvaq bs fxrgpul jura gnyxvat nobhg Ynxrfvqr naq cbiregl. Nygubhtu gung pbhyq or bayl orpnhfr V xabj jung xvaq bs "uneq jbex" ur qbrf gb xrrc gur gbja cebfcrebhf.

    I found the casino as a place of worship section a little uncomfortably apt. But uncomfortable in the thinky kind of way.

    I don't remember the last time I read just a single chapter of a book that I was reading for fun, and I don't know if I've ever read a whole book one chapter at a time. Basically what I'm saying is I don't know how you do this Mark, it's soo hard and I've read this book before!

  9. Dent D says:

    When I first read the passage of Shadow embarking out of his new apartment, I cringed in sympathy. I have been in those "Oh SHIT" cold weather moments before as a child (my parents were blameless in those instances). I have had minor frostbite on a couple of my toes before. The cold that occurs in the upper midwest is a thing of amazement to me every time winter rolls around. I constantly have to marvel at how human life has adapted to such varied environments with relatively little changes from when we first came from Africa.

    So many of my peers have moved away from North Dakota, and it kind of saddens me! Many of them hate the cold and the weather, but personally I love it. I always look forward to snow days where the entire town shuts down and the entire world is covered in a clean blanket of white. Of course, that's only fun when you get to be inside, warm and insulated from the cold and biting wind.

    Sorry, I love being proud of my state's weather. We may have blizzards, floods and the occasional tornado, but we don't have earthquakes or hurricanes which are far scarier to me.

    Anyway, Vegas! Three years ago my husband and I were celebrating our honeymoon in Las Vegas, which was a blast. I had already read American Gods a couple of times and I found myself trying to "feel" that web of money flowing through the casinos as we wandered on the strip. Not that it did us any good! We only gambled at slot machines and never for more than $40 a day (which we considered part of our entertainment fixed budget). Next time I will try looking for a man in a charcoal suit and bring a marker with so I can hash tick my arm whenever I see him! 😀

  10. Robin says:

    "I THINK IT’S FAIR ENOUGH TO SAY THAT IT IS COLD WHEN PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN TORONTO SAY IT IS COLD."

    Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

    No.

    Torontonians are renowned across Canada for overreacting to cold and the snow. (And I say that as someone who mostly grew up there, but who's also lived in Northern Ontario and the prairies.)

    • Domini says:

      Thank you! I knew there had to be another Canadian around here somewhere. As I was reading that all I could think was "Oh Mark. You poor, sheltered child". The one advantage of living in Winnipeg all your life is getting to laugh at everyone else when they think it's cold outside.

  11. knut_knut says:

    Even though I’ve lived my entire life in the NE, I HAAAATED winter (and summer) until I went to school in central NY where winter was a serious affair. Ever since then I’ve loved winter even though I’m almost always freezing (still hate summer, though). The coldest it ever got at school was -11F, which isn’t THAT bad, but I weirdly enjoyed it when it was so cold out you could barely breath. It meant wearing tons of layers and drinking lots of warm tea/cider/hot chocolate and eating really hearty food (omg I want a Mabel pasty now!).

    Although I’ve never lived in a small town where everyone knows each other, I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with the idea of living in a town like that. I grew up in a very competitive and generally ridiculous town and any kind of information about you was used to judge you against other kids or other families. Even though I know there is a BIG difference between small Midwestern town and where I grew up, the thought of my neighbors knowing all my business makes me uncomfortable. But, Lakeside actually sounds really nice! Maybe I would enjoy living there!

  12. barnswallowkate says:

    I went to Vegas a few years ago. I was trying not to spend a lot of money, I was with coworkers so I didn't want to drink, I never got around to gambling even a little bit, it was hot as hell, everything was smoky (and I cough if I see smoke on TV), and I was spoken to rudely pretty frequently because I had the audacity to be a female out in public where mens could see me! It was one of the worst places I've ever been in my life. Every aspect of that city seemed disingenuous, all sparkly from far away but really gross up close. A full on Monet, if you will.

  13. arctic_hare says:

    Winter. <3 I love winter. I love autumn. Grey skies and chill winds, crisp air, icy-cold rain, shorter days, SNOW… I've lived on the East Coast and I miss snow. Summers in the Inland Empire FUCKING SUCK. But then, I hate heat and bright blinding sunlight and summer in general. Spring is a pile of do not want too, because it's the weather warming up after winter and summer is on the way, so I get sad. Legit sad. I don't really start feeling alive and happy again till October. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a flawless month. Weather cooling down, less sunlight, autumn produce starting to show up, MOTHERFUCKING HALLOWEEN. B) Hell yeah.

    Small towns would not be my thing, I have to say. I'm too private a person for that, I wouldn't want all my neighbors knowing my business. I tend to keep to myself and am not a terribly social person IRL. Yes, I'm one of THOSE PEOPLE who is not only perfectly content to spend a Friday/Saturday night in, but prefers it that way. :p Vegas would also not be my thing, I'm thinking; never been there, not terribly interested. Don't care for gambling, and while I do drink, my tolerance is absolute crap and the idea of spending the night hugging a toilet doesn't appeal to me at all.

    And trust me, I also was making jokes about that god being the Silence. xD

  14. You know, it’s a good thing that the writing in this book is so entrancing to me, because we are halfway through American Gods and not a whole lot has happened. So this is my compliment to Gaiman: I don’t even know what the goddamn war really is, and I am pretty stoked on this book so far.
    Yes! It really is a marvel that nothing really happens and yet you're still so engaged. Naq gura gur ynfg gjb uhaqerq cntrf znxr gur svefg sbhe uhaqerq cntrf ergebnpgviryl zber njrfbzr. ORPNHFR GUVATF JRER UNCCRAVAT LBH WHFG QVQA'G XABJ BU FANC.

  15. monkeybutter says:

    I never want to live in a place where olive oil solidifies during a car trip. Just…no. And Mark, I was reminded of your trek through the snow in Boston when I read about Shadow's terrible, horrible mistake. I'm surprised both of you still have all of your toes.

    The italics during the Vegas section really work for me, because my eyes tend to slip over long italicized passages, sort of like the way Shadow's mind glosses over the man in the charcoal suit.

    V ybir gung jvgubhg xabjvat gur ragver fgbel, lbh'q guvax gung gur rcvtencu nccyvrf gb Jrqarfqnl, ohg nsgre ernqvat, vg'f nccyvpnoyr gb Uvamryznaa.

    • My Ah-ma made this magic oil, that she was given the recipe for by a Buddhist monk, and when we brought a bottle from Malaysia to the UK, it solidified.

      Any time we wanted to use any, we had to put the bottle in a bowl of warm/hot water to melt it. Which we never quite understood because we knew the base was cooking oil (though my grandma made a promise to never pass on the recipe or to use it for profit, so we don't know the rest of the ingredients).

    • notemily says:

      I remembered Mark's walk in Boston too! Poor Mark and Shadow 🙂

  16. @bonez565 says:

    Am i the only one who thinks Mark Reads needs a new banner to reflect the current book?

    • arctic_hare says:

      There will be for The Hobbit!

    • flootzavut says:

      I agree very muchly!

      I am just catching up – this last week has been insane, this guy I know's youtube video has gone viral (like, he's closing in on four million views 😮 if you have seen the "wow, this guy is Freddie Mercury reincarnated" video, then yeah, I know him… and if you haven't seen it yet, GO AND WATCH IT because Marc is awesome and deserves ALL THE VIEWS… is it something to do with the name Marc/k??) so everything else has kinda taken a backseat, but I was surprised on my return that we haven't yet got a pretty new banner. I wish I had the skills and knowhow to make one myself but sadly… not even close 🙁

      Re: Gaiman background – that's a very Gaiman thing IME (and something pTerry does too) – deep research and getting things on the nail. Or at least NG's books give that impression – he may just be a genius at guessing! (And of course Pratchett is the master of researching, then twisting that research in a knot so that taking anything in his books at face value is dangerous 😉 but even when what he's telling you is NOT in fact the case, you can practically guarantee that he knows he is telling porkies!)

  17. Liz says:

    Mark,
    I love this. I love what you do, and you're an amazing writer. But I have to point this out, because I'm completely anal that way.
    "Presumptive" means "giving grounds for the inference of fact; probable, conjectural."
    "Presumptuous" means "failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate".

    Mr. Wednesday isn't a presumptive anything, but he is one hell of a presumptuous motherfucker.

  18. pennylane27 says:

    Oh god I've just finished the chapter, I fell asleep yesterday before I could read it! Terrible.

    Anyway, I'm going to join the winter-haters here. I can't deal with cold temperatures, even when I know that our winters are quite mild and we never get below zero temperatures (either Celsius or Fahrenheit). Today there were 10°C, which is like 50°F and everyone was whining about it, me included. It's like the weather was teasing us last week with nice, warm sunny days, only to go "lol nope, just kidding!"

    Which is why, even though I absolutely fell in love with Lakeside, I could never live there. Far too cold for me to handle.

    I feel like I should know who the man in the charcoal suit is. He's got to be the same one that Shadow was driving back in the House on the Rock, right? Argh, frustration.

    I also felt really apprehensive as Wednesday recited the charms he knows. I knew he was going to end up saying that he couldn't do that, but still.

    And the end was sad. DO NOT WANT SAD.

  19. ChronicReader91 says:

    For a minute I thought I’d figured out who the man in the charcoal suit is… but then I forgot.

    I hate the heat much more than the cold, personally. Where I live, though it doesn’t usually get above 100 degrees (except for this past summer, ugh FU CLIMATE CHANGE), it’s ridiculously humid, and so Winters, while they’ve been pretty extreme and snowy these past couple of years (but seriously, climate change is JUST A MYTH Y’ALL), they’re my preference. My favorite season is definitely autumn, though. I’ve never been to Toronto or anywhere that far north, so extreme cold like that described in the chapter is really unimaginable to me.

    ” I am just happy ~and so full of feelings~ to see this concept portrayed in a positive light instead of falling into the familiar trope that small towns are full of secret serial killers.”

    THIS. This so hard. I’ve lived in a rural, small town area for my whole life, and while there are definitely some things I’m not enamored with about living here, and I’m most certainly ready to move on to “the big city” (which is to say, the moderately sized city/suburban area where my future college is located), there are some things I will miss about this place, not the least being the people. While there are, of course, some individuals who are bigoted jerks, and it wouldn’t be completely untrue to say that that there is some resistance to new ideas or dissenting opinions, people are hardly the bumbling, racist, homophobic idiots they’re often made out to be. It astounds me that Gaiman had only lived here for a short time, and yet completely captures the real feel of a small town, without a stereotype in sight.

  20. Jessica says:

    If you ever *have* to come to Vegas again, (come in October or April for god's sake, they're the only months where the weather isn't ridiculous), look me up and I'll give you the local's tour. I've lived here for almost six years, moved here from the midwest for work, and I am still struck from time to time at the complete surreality of living here. I had just visited the city for the first time when I first read American Gods, and I was amazed by his description of the Strip. Like his description of the House on the Rock, it is absolutely perfect. He was the keynote speaker at the Las Vegas Book Fair a couple years ago and said that he actually spent part of the time writing the book staying in a hotel that was about to close here in Vegas and spoke about how incredibly strange the whole thing was. Which suits him, really, and begs the question; do weird things find him, or does he find the weird in all situations?

  21. Christi says:

    I totally relate to your sentiments about the cold. (I've lived in South Florida most of my life) The most terrifying thing anyone ever related to me about winter was a friend who used to live iiiiinnn I want to say northern Ontario. It was a small town that had absolutely wretched winters. She told me that during the entire cold season, every family member would bundle up by the door before going out, and they had to hold their breath for the duration of walking five feet out to get in the car… otherwise, they ran the risk of having their lungs freeze. 🙁

  22. sabra_n says:

    Ha – I've been watching Due South for the first time these past few weeks and I cannot even contemplate how the main character got along so cheerfully living in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon for the first thirty-something years of his life. The temperature can go below zero a couple of times a winter where I live, but all the time? For weeks on end? In the dark? HOW CAN YOU LIVE LIKE THIS.

    Of course, I'm sure some people would be just as freaked out by where I live, so. Heh. Here's to human adaptability and diversity, I guess. 🙂

  23. dasmondschaf says:

    When I lived in Texas and Kansas, I liked autumn the best; now that I live in the Bay Area I like summer the most! I just want to be dry and pleasantly warm! And I mock all my native Californian friends when they start complaining about heat when the temperature hits 80, hahahaha. Also, I really really miss thunderstorms; the things that pass for thunder and lightning in this area are shameful! I'm used to sitting out on the porch in 90 degree weather and watching the sky light up and hearing the windows rattle, with the radio on to monitor any possible tornado activity.

    I love the way Gaiman nails small-town living. I'm a tad more of a city person, but my stock line when I'm explaining myself is that I love rural towns, and I love cities, and I loathe anything in-between. Ew, suburbs; I will never live in you as long as I live. I need my neighbors to be either right on top of me or to be cows.

    Also, even as a pretty leftist liberal and a queer, I've had good experiences in small towns. It's true that I pass as both white and straight, which has a lot to do with it, I know; but I love the small Kansas town that my mother's family is from. My mom and her siblings grew up as some of the only brown people in town, and also as some of the poorest people in town, but are now very highly regarded by the community. All my relatives on that side are also very very liberal, both socially AND economically, and I've never witnessed anyone give them anything but respect for those opinions. Honestly, it's that very blue collar pro-labor anti-capitalist outlook that widely informed my current political views.

    TL;DR–I love small town America, but not quite as much as I love my big diverse cities.

  24. Caravelle says:

    I saw/heard an interview of Neil Gaiman recently (can't remember where, sorry) where he talked about moving from the UK to Wisconsin and how… unprepared he'd been for the winters there.

    So yeah, I'm guessing everything he writes about Lakeside is based on extensive personal experience…
    (well, I hope not EVERYTHING…)

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