This is NOT a book review. It is a description, or rather a story, of my journey through Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
It all started out rather innocently. As most things are wont to do.
It started on Wednesday evening. I had a Philosophy essay due the next day and I had not started on it. A 2,000 words essay debating about cultural relativism.
But I felt lazy. I didn’t feel like doing my essay at all. I didn’t feel like plowing through the text on cultural relativism, didn’t feel like picking apart the author’s debate. In fact, I didn’t feel like doing anything at all.
I felt tired, sick of essays. I just finished a 2,700 words essay on the philosophy and history of Surrealism, examining artworks by the painter Max Ernst, dissecting his paintings and arguing and analysing the claims of Surrealism through his paintings.
I had enough of arguments and critical analysis.
I laid on my bed, staring at the ceiling, wiling the time away. As I turned to lay on my side, my eyes fell upon the books neatly stacked on the bedside table.
One particular book caught my eye.
I picked up the thick, black book and stared at the cover. I got it from Borders in Singapore. It was on sale, “Buy 2 get 1 free!”. So I bought two Malcolm Gladwell books and one Neil Gaiman book. I got a Malcolm Gladwell book free.
I finished off both Malcolm Gladwell’s books the moment I returned to Sydney. 2 short, non-fiction, pop-science books within a month. Easy.
But somehow, Neil Gaiman’s book intimated me. It was thick book. Which means it was a long story. I haven’t read a long, meandering story in more than a year and that was Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth. But I made a promise to myself, a promise to read more this year. So I picked up the book and started reading.
I didn’t read much on Wednesday night. Just a few pages to get past the introduction, to get to know the characters and to get a feel of the story and where it might lead to wherever the author wanted to take me.
Just a few pages to finish the first chapter.
I woke up on Thursday morning and found the book resting on my chest. It was around 11am when I woke up. I missed my Art History tutorial. The longer I stayed in bed, the less I felt like going to school.
“Fuck it,” I thought, “I’m staying home.”
I went to get a can of coke before going back to bed. After adjusting myself comfortably, I took up the book and started reading.
I read and read.
I skipped breakfast and lunch. The only fuel that drove me on was three small cans of coke. The caffeine and sugar gave me the energy to push on.I toyed with the idea of going out to get dinner but decided to hunker down in my bed and continue reading, following the journey and the tale of the protagonist.
It was around 11pm when a friend called me down for a cigarette break. So I changed into something more acceptable and joined her for a smoke.
Since I was out of my room, I decided to head to a nearby kebab shop to get some dinner. After the smoke break, I headed back up to my room, wolfed down dinner and went back to reading American Gods.
I read till the early hours of morning when I fell asleep.
I woke up in the early afternoon, sometime after 12. I had no classes on Friday. My philosophy essay remained ignored. I got myself a drink of cold water (there was no more coke) before going back to bed and continuing reading.
It was worse on Friday. Hunger didn’t registered at all. If it did, I ignored it. I ignored my hunger the same way I ignore my essay. When the dull pain reverberated from my empty stomach up to the back of my throat, I ignored it and swallowed down the pangs of hunger.
I did try to find food, but I didn’t do any grocery shopping for more than a week and the only things left in my fridge were some overripe kiwi fruits, a tub of chocolate chip ice cream and three bottles of water.
When hunger got too great, I went to the lounge where the snack machine was and got some chips and chocolate.
Lunch, dinner and supper were just chips and chocolate. Lunch: a packet of M&Ms and ice cream, Dinner: a packet of chips and Snickers, Supper: a packet of pretzels and M&Ms.
Not the healthiest meals, but it was enough to tide me over for the day. At least I drank four cups of water. Half my daily intake.
And I plowed on. Plowed through the story, the story of gods, of road-trips, of myths and legends, of beliefs, of America and of Shadow.
I read till the early hours of the morning before I falling asleep.
I woke up, tired and exhausted, my back cramped from the awkward position I slept in. It was 10 in the morning.
It is Saturday now.
I got a drink of cold water. Just to kick-start my day.
I continued reading.
Then I was finished.
Just like that.
I finished the book.
It was nearly 1 in the afternoon when I finished.
But I finished it.
I did it.
I felt slightly sad, slightly at loss, I felt the feeling you get when you say goodbye to a good friend before going on a long trip. I invested a lot of my time, nearly half my week, to the story. I immersed myself so deeply into the story that when I finished it, I was left confused, unsure as to which reality I belong to. It was as if I woke up from a long, long dream, a state between wakefulness and sleepiness.
I felt a sense of loss, but yet I felt a sense of completion. I walked through the story with Shadow, shared his many tribulations, his many trials, his many sufferings and his minor triumphs. I felt alive through the story of gods, of Shadow and of myths and legends.
I felt nourished, spiritually, mentally and in someway, creatively.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way. It’s been a long time since I devoted so much time to a great novel. It was great to capture that feeling again.
It was a good, long read.
Okay, the whole gist of the story is that American Gods is a fucking, awesome, mind-blowing, orgasmic novel and that I spend half my week on it.
Obviously with all my previous ranting, I have slightly lost my mind. That’s because I haven’t seen sunlight for the past three days and have been cooped up in my room the whole time. Doing that can make you go slightly crazy. Doing that and reading can make you crazier.
But it was a great feeling. It’s been a long time since I stayed in bed and just read and read. A long, long time.
Okay, I’m starving and I could eat my hand now.
I need a hot, long shower.
And a hot, proper meal.
Then it’s back to the philosophy essay.