The Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel American Gods has been all anyone can talk about this year, but we shouldn't let our excitement over Ricky Whittle's new role get in the way of fantastic literature. I've got 11 American Gods book quotes to make you think and feel so many things, and maybe even give you that final push toward re-reading Gaiman's instant classic.
The Hugo- and Nebula-winning novel centers on Shadow Moon, who is released from prison, only to find out that his wife, Laura, has died a few days previous. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, who takes him on as a bodyguard for his cross-country trip to gather forces for the coming war between the Old Gods — the Queen of Sheba, Czernobog, Easter, and others — and the New Gods — such as the Internet and Television.
American Gods is not an easy book. Yes, Gaiman's storytelling sweeps you along so smoothly that the story is over before you know it — not a bad thing, but certainly one that leaves readers clamoring for more mystery and mayhem — but the novel deals with a lot of difficult subject matter, including lots of non-gratuitous sex and violence.
At the forefront, there's Gaiman's concept of a wide pantheon of gods — including mainstays from every continent — that exist in our world, but only so long as there are folks who believe in them. There are living, breathing deities and ones who have already passed away into nothingness, both of which the Starz series is sure to cover in depth.
There are no spoilers here, so feel free to read the American Gods book quotes below with abandon, even if you haven't read Gaiman's most famous novel. Check out the passages I've selected below, and be sure to share your favorites with me on Twitter!
1“That is the eternal folly of man. To be chasing after the sweet flesh, without realising that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones. Worm food. At night, you're rubbing against worm food. No offense meant.”
— Mr. Wednesday
2“He was alone in the darkness once more, but the darkness became brighter and brighter until it was burning like the sun.”
3“There was only one guy in the whole Bible Jesus ever personally promised a place with him in Paradise. Not Peter, not Paul, not any of those guys. He was a convicted thief, being executed. So don't knock the guys on death row. Maybe they know something you don't.”
— Shadow Moon
4“Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you—even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition. Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world. So none of this is happening. Such things could not occur. Never a word of it is literally true.”
5“You’re walking on gallows ground, and there’s a rope around your neck and a raven-bird on each shoulder waiting for your eyes, and the gallows tree has deep roots, for it stretches from heaven to hell, and our world is only the branch from which the rope is swinging.”
— Mad Sweeney
6“People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.”
7“Have you thought about what it means to be a god? ... It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people's minds, like the tune of a nursery rhyme. It means that everyone gets to re-create you in their own minds. You barely have your own identity any more. Instead, you're a thousand aspects of what people need you to be. And everyone wants something different from you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable.”
8“If Hell is other people, thought Shadow, then Purgatory is airports.”
9“It's all imaginary anyway. That's why it's important. People only fight over imaginary things.”
— Mr. Nancy
10“Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.”