And Who Are Our Gods Now, America?

 

That’s the official trailer for Starz’s American Gods. It’s amazing. I went straight to Facebook to share it but realized I had more to say about it.

I remember when American Gods came out. I was there.

Not just in the sense that I remember when it was published. No, in the sense that, while double-checking for accuracy, I found Neil’s post on the publication at his journal, so many years ago, and it was a memory-lane trip.

I first shook Neil’s hand at those Magnetic Fields shows. My best buddy and I had tickets we made sure were front row. The show was divided into two sets, between which the audience was different, as well, so we had to leave our seats and mill about. As did the Magnetic Fields. As did Neil.

And I remember being there at the Bottom Line and passing by Neil and wanting to tell him what a huge fan I was and how much I’d loved Neverwhere (which I’d read because I’d heard it had been optioned by Jim Henson Company) and Stardust, but I went into utter fanboy catatonia. I went into that state where you want to say so much and all that really happens is your mouth moves and you vaguely, detachedly remember to be grateful you’re not actually making any noise, because who knows what it would be.

I told Claudia Gonson how much I’d enjoyed the performance of “Born on a Train,” and she whisked me, along with another fan, over to Neil, and requested that he guess which of us was a fan of Neil’s and which was a fan of the Fields. Neil’s response was a comment on how unfair a question it was, but it gave me the chance to put out my hand and say, “Neil. I’m Will–”

And before I said another word Neil lit up. “Oh, you’re Will! From the Well!” (The Well was an online forum, think a pre-pre-pre-Facebook, back in the day. There were several groups dedicated to Neil and his work, and I posted fairly often.)

It was awesome.

That was over the weekend. That Tuesday, Neil had a signing on the official publication day of American Gods at the Borders World Trade Center. My buddy, my sister, and her then guy all got on a train at like 10 am and arrived at the Borders before noon — and proceeded to sit there for several hours until the actual signing, which started at 6 pm.

I was first in that line. If you read that above post from Neil, he’d already signed myriad books for HarperCollins, but still I like to think that my copy of American Gods, made out to me, was the first one signed on that tour.

(It’s a better story, after all.)

Less than three months after that above post was posted, the Borders World Trade Center was no more. The World Trade Center was no more.

In a very real way, at least for me, the world was no more. Six weeks after the World Trade Center fell, I moved away from Manhattan. I returned, nearly a decade later, but it no longer felt like the Manhattan I’d once known and loved.

And maybe that’s not unusual. Maybe Manhattan is like real love, like a marriage — something you choose, every day, something you can’t help, every day, always, so you grow with it, together. And if that changes, it’s like an ex — somebody you used to know. Someone you once loved, and have fond memories of, but whom you encounter one day and can’t help noticing how different you both are.

Watching that trailer reminded me how big and awesome American Gods was. I remember reading it the first time and thinking it was okay, but being somewhat disappointed. Like I’d wanted something I’d never defined and then hadn’t gotten it.

And then I re-read it, and then, some years later, re-read it again, and each time I do realize how big and awesome I realized it was only in retrospect. That it was bigger and more awesome than I could at first appreciate.

I’m getting a similar sense from that trailer. That it’s going to be huge and weird and in ways not like the book but in the end exactly what it needs to be.

It was a novel about an identity crisis of faith that came just a few months before America’s crisis of faith.

It doesn’t feel like the show is far off, and some days lately it doesn’t feel like America is far off. It feels like we’re right now living in the midst of a war between old gods and new ones —

And I’ll not spoil the novel. But suffice to say I can’t wait to see how the show turns out.

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