Say nevermore

I’m strangely attracted to Neil Gaiman’s man’s man literary fluency. Typically, when I discern macho undertones to either an author or protagonist, I lose interest completely. Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Cormac McCarthy just don’t hold any sway over me. I can’t help but get the impression that they just don’t give a shit about me–not me as a person specifically, but me as a female reader. A lot of people get upset when I tell them this, but a lot of these people who get upset can’t name five female authors they enjoy, or even five female authors they’ve read who they didn’t originally encounter on an English syllabus. I recognize that a significant impetus behind reading is to expose yourself to different perspectives and viewpoints and the fact that Hemingway and Kerouac and McCarthy don’t seem to have any use for women–beyond as disposable sexual partners–shouldn’t dissuade me from reading them. But frankly, we live in a world in which women are marginalized and I don’t find anything charming, new, or alternative to their perspectives. It’s just more of the same ol’ same ol’. I don’t write this in the hopes of deterring other people from reading their work. Read what grabs you by the guts and refuses to let go.

I’m just a little shocked that what’s grabbed me by the guts is a protagonist named Shadow with a hyper-masculine exterior, at least. I mean, we’re talking about an ex-con who taunts one of Odin’s ravens to say “nevermore.” (To which, even more brilliantly, the raven replies, “Fuck you.”) That’s the exact moment it happened for me.

I don’t always remember the moment I fall in love with people. Usually it just seems to evolve so organically that I couldn’t pinpoint the sudden blaze of passion even if I tried. And I couldn’t tell you the moment it dies, or B&Nwhether or how it ever really does completely. But I usually remember the exact moment I fall in love with a book. And I live for those moments. Because you can’t force it. I wanted to love American Gods. I wanted to love Neil Gaiman. But wanting to love is no guarantee of anything; if anything, I think looking for or expecting it can work against you. It’s better when it comes upon you unexpectedly, an incredible boon that makes the world burn a little bit brighter and sharpens your intellect. And you wouldn’t think that a book would work that way. You would think imbibing someone else’s genius would just minimize your own intellect by compare, but no! Somehow, the reader walks way with something indescribable, something between an intellectual and spiritual growth. And unlike everything else in this world, what the writer imparts upon the reader in no way diminishes the writer’s own store of wisdom and humor.

For example, if you give away a banana, sorry buddy, but you’re out one banana. Unless you have some kind of improbable machine that multiplies bananas, in which case you should probably run because there’s a pretty good chance Dole’s gonna put a hit out on you. But the feeling I get reading American Gods—the brick that gets added to the literary foundation in my head—doesn’t sap Gaiman of his own mental prowess. In fact, I think it’s safe to say he is entirely ignorant of the effect his novel has had upon me. Even as I moon and gush and chortle and ponder–all the absurd behaviors that attend falling in love–Gaiman is likely in the deep throes of creating another universe. Perhaps one that will overcome my indifference to or dislike of a particular genre or way of writing or type of protagonist. Because I love it when books prove me wrong. Only books, mind you. When people attempt to prove me wrong, I usually reach for the nearest weapon–typically a verbal barb. But books are always at liberty to make me do anything, I think because they give so much while asking so little in return.

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