~Spoilers Follow; You've Been Warned~It was a beast of a book to read. And I'm still not entirely sure why. Yes, it's 600-some pages long, but I've read longer. Yes, it deals with a lot of mythology, but hello, Tolkien nerd here. If I had to try to verbalize (in bullet-point fashion, of course), why getting through this book sometimes seemed onerous, I'd say:
- Non-linear timelines
- Non-tangential tangents/storylines
- A lot of dusty, back road travelling
- Some tough visualizations (mostly with the coin tricks, but I eventually had to accept that my spatial recognition is sub-part at best and just move on)
Some of those may seem odd (especially the travelling bit), so let me explain. American Gods the novel is very interior; it is almost entirely Shadow's story with a lot of important pieces taking place entirely in Shadow's memory and/or subconscious. American Gods the novel is also a literal journey (not just the figurative hero's quest, which it also is); Gaiman does a good job conveying the sense of wandering and sometimes isolation/desolation when traveling the dirt roads of the Midwest and other places. For someone who doesn't enjoy that sensation (one too many road trips in Midwest growing up), that can be a bit headache-inducing.
There were some points that left me hanging and some things that I just didn't "get." Many of the "non-tangential tangents" are simply there to show how the old gods came to America. And that's it. They are part of a larger tapestry, but on their own, they're sometimes just loose threads.
But I finished it nonetheless and wasn't entirely dissatisfied with the process. And then my Unit and I started to watch the first season of the television adaptation via Starz. And damn.
Shit just got real, as they say.
I could write an entire paper on the opening credit sequence alone. The visualization and symbols used are amazing and intense and I have yet to get tired of watching it. It's even been nominated for an Emmy (did you know there's a category for opening credits? I didn't.).
I had read on Twitter from Gaiman himself that:
- Season 1 ends at House on the Rock
- Some things happen out of order
I remembered getting to House on the Rock in the book, and I thought Wow, it takes an entire season to get there?
And then shit got even real-ER. As in there is a veritable shit-ton of stuff happening in this series that simply does not exist in the book. A friend said, "Oh, so they're expanding the shit out of it?" but I'm still not convinced "expand" is even the right word. More like "created mythologies to go along with the other mythologies [that Gaiman invented to go with existing mythologies]." Are you confused yet? Good.
First and foremost, Gillian Anderson is a goddess. Watching her as Media in these different representations is a fucking master class on acting. She's amazing. She's never quite doing an "impression" of the famous person/character, but she is unmistakably them and also herself as Media. And here's where we differ from the books. Media talks to Shadow as Lucy ("Hey, you wanna see Lucy's tits?") from I Love Lucy, that's there (and awesome). But then, THEN, THEN Media shows up as:
- David Bowie (in his blue "Life on Mars" suit)
- Marilyn Monroe (white dress from Seven Year Itch, complete with wind effects;skirt-blowing)
- Judy Garland (in her final costume from Easter Parade, complete with a dancing Fred Astaire, of sorts)
It's brilliant and makes me think, Why didn't Gaiman do that? In fact, I find myself asking that a lot whilst watching. But more on that later. Watching Anderson in American Gods is worth the price admission, period. Any other faults, supposed or real, are washed away.
Another major difference is the treatment of Laura (a.k.a. "dead wife"), as in, she actually gets one. There's little background to Laura in the book, and I was fine with that. In fact, I am strongly disliking this extra treatment of her in the series. I'm not sure if it's the actress or the character, but I am so over her. Shadow could do so much better than her. Her initial boredom with life, her treatment of him -- she has few redeeming qualities. I think I'd rather know nothing about her than know that she really is a horrible human being (dead or alive). The book offers a small bit of redemption for her, and that was all we needed. I also appreciated the fact that in the novel she only sporadically showed up to Shadow; we have way too much Laura in this visual version. It also doesn't help that they cast an actress whose nude body looks like a 12-year-old child, therefore making all of her nude work and sexual interactions really, really uncomfortable. Eww.
On the positive side, in this incarnation, more Laura means more Mad Sweeney! Yay! I am really enjoying Pablo Schreiber's performance; you could have fooled me that he's not actually Irish. And his IMDb.com headshot makes him look like a psychopath; I think I prefer his Mad Sweeney look. But I often wondered about Mad Sweeney and the coin (with regards to the book); maybe I just wanted things spelled out for me more. At any rate, him saying, "She's a lepre-cunt" made me LOL.
More thoughts, Leonard's patented (not really) bullet-point style:
- Ricky Whittle is a STUNNING man and does very solid work as Shadow Moon
- Ian McShane does some darn good work as Mr. Wednesday, too. Not quite the casting coup as Gillian Anderson, in my opinion, but a close runner-up.
- Hey look, it's Cloris Leachman!
- "Vulcan." I see what you did there. (That entire episode is not in the book, nor are any swords, but I enjoy Corbin Bernsen, so I'll let it slide. Plus the gun commentary is timely, appropriate, and terrifying. P.S. Did you know a Psych movie is coming??)
I can see a bit why Hendricks may have scared them off; she plays a lot of strong characters. They would have missed the adorable "cuteness" of Chenoweth's candy-colored extravaganza. They would have missed the (cheap?) joke of her getting upset at her own swearing. I know Hendricks can play sweet and girlie because I've seen Firefly, but I can see that thought process against using her. Nonetheless, her body type (not to mention her acting chops!) is what Easter requires.
Other changes (really without commentary):
- Laura interacting with Audrey post-death
- Ibis and Jacquel sewing Laura back up
- Mr. Nancy sewing Easter suits for Shadow and Wednesday
- More of Salim (who is still looking for his Ifrit-lover).
- Bilquis' back story.
- Bilquis interacting with Technology Boy
- Wednesday and Shadow getting caught, arrested, and then an entire police station of workers murdered.
- Easter joining "the fight."
- Taking back the Spring.
Continually comparing the show to the book is not necessarily an exercise in futility but not always helpful either. Sometimes it is just comparison for comparison's sake with no real purpose (English teacher habits die hard). Having read the book helps point me in the right direction, but (and my English teacher self cringes typing this) I don't think it's all that necessary in order to watch and enjoy the television adaptation.
I've read this far; where the fuck are the pics, Leonard?
I couldn't possibly do them justice, friends. Do yourself a favor and go read TLo's breakdown and costume analyses of each episode (which is what I'm going to do in a hot second). They go episode by episode and are therefore much more in-depth than Leonard is here.