Have you been watching American Gods, the Starz adaptation of the book by Neil Gaiman? Shadow Moon is released from prison only to learn that his wife has just died in a car crash. Mr. Wednesday is an aging con-man who happens to be an incarnation of the Norse god, Odin. The mysterious Mr. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as bodyguard and driver, traveling across the country to convince the old gods to join forces against the new gods of the modern world (Media, Technology, etc.).
Shadow is tall and strong with an interest in coin tricks. He learned to read in prison but hides his intelligence in order to protect himself. Shadow struggles with who he is without his wife or the life he dreamed of and the loss of who he was before three years in prison. One of the most memorable scenes is when Shadow plays checkers with Czernobog (an Eastern European god) and manages to trick him into joining Wednesday’s quest. Shadow is a mythic hero and his quest shares many of the elements of this classic form. American Gods is really about Shadow’s quest to find a new purpose in his life, a reason to live. When the truth about the impending war and his place in it are revealed, Shadow comes to an understanding of what the place of the gods in America is.
Gaiman is no stranger to epic storytelling; from the Sandman graphic novels to Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he takes myths and legends and gives them his quirky and dark Gaiman twist. The text is rich with references to folklore, both old and new, as well as ruminations on the American landscape: multicultural and mythic in scale. Gaiman grew up in England but now lives here, giving a unique perspective from which to tell this story. He wanted to create a portrait of America examining the curious mix of old world culture and the new world created from our consumer culture.
Here are a few items you might find on Shadow’s bookshelf:
This blog post is one in a series highlighting the diverse collection of materials through the imagined reading lists for fictional characters and authors. Search the From the Protagonist's Bookshelf for more reading lists.