American Gods

BAYLOR

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I am curious. It might be very very good, if they try to stay true to the story. I think straying will potentially detract greatly, and annoy those what enjoyed in book form.
Some things do get changed or omitted when they do a film of tv adaptations . Hopefully , they keep the essentials.
 

TWErvin2

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Some things do get changed or omitted when they do a film of tv adaptations . Hopefully , they keep the essentials.
True, but a solid mini series length could cover the main areas easily. They did it with Lonesome Dove, for example (I know, different genre), but it was a much longer book. Same with Centennial years ago.
 

Brian G Turner

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Neil Gaiman just doesn't consider Shadow an important character. That's why he has no depth, no emotional conflict, and the story happens at him.

Personally, that just didn't satisfy myself as a reader. If it's laying claim to being post-modernist literature I'm not convinced it delivered.
My reply here has bugged me for some time, as I struggled to get my head around the structure Gaiman uses.

On the one hand, American Gods isn't a typical genre novel. In a many genre novels, the protagonist is expected to develop and grow and move through the story.

But in American Gods (and other novels, such as The Graveyard Book and Anansi Boys) the protagonist is static and the story literally revolves around them. The protagonist really isn't important in Gaiman's writing, hence why the one in American Gods is called Shadow - he's a shadow of a human being. For a while I wasn't sure if this was a flaw or a unique way of structuring a story.

After I read Murakami, though, I realised that what Neil Gailman was trying to do was not to structure in the manner of a genre novel, but instead as a literary novel - where the protagonist is not necessarily important as anything but a way for the reader to experience the environment of the story. Ultimately, the protagonist serves as an observer to the story, rather than an active driver of it.

The reason I was so confused is because I hadn't read any literary fiction for a long time, and certainly not while learning about the tools of the genre writer, not least when it came to structuring. Having read a couple of literary works since, I feel I've a better idea of what Gaiman was trying to achieve.

IMO it still makes for a less fulfilling novel having an underdeveloped protagonist - but Gaiman's worlds are always very richly populated, so it's a case of give and take in different areas.

Just thought I'd mention that. :)
 

HareBrain

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After I read Murakami, though, I realised that what Neil Gailman was trying to do was not to structure in the manner of a genre novel, but instead as a literary novel - where the protagonist is not necessarily important as anything but a way for the reader to experience the environment of the story. Ultimately, the protagonist serves as an observer to the story, rather than an active driver of it.

This set off several thoughts. It's an interesting argument, though it's a bit speculative unless Gaiman has said or suggested at some point that this is what he's trying to do. I think you might be right about this being a difference between much literary fiction and genre fiction, though -- when I think of the former, the example that springs to mind is John Fowles's The Magus, in which the protagonist has no developmental arc at all (which in a way is the point of the story).

It also made me wonder if the reason we don't tend to notice this lack of protagonist arc in lit-fic is that it tends to be written in first person, so our focus is kept on the characters the protagonist encounters, i.e. the ones written in third. I read once that third-person protagonists are more likely to provoke reader sympathy than first-person ones, and I believe that to be true, but have never worked out why. I wonder now if it's because first-person protagonists sort of fade away: we look through their eyes but don't register them as strongly as what those eyes are looking at.

It now occurs to me -- though I might be able to think of exceptions later -- that the characters I've loved in first-person fiction have tended to be the ones the progagonists interact with, not the protagonists themselves.
 

Stuart Suffel

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This set off several thoughts. It's an interesting argument, though it's a bit speculative unless Gaiman has said or suggested at some point that this is what he's trying to do. I think you might be right about this being a difference between much literary fiction and genre fiction, though -- when I think of the former, the example that springs to mind is John Fowles's The Magus, in which the protagonist has no developmental arc at all (which in a way is the point of the story).

It also made me wonder if the reason we don't tend to notice this lack of protagonist arc in lit-fic is that it tends to be written in first person, so our focus is kept on the characters the protagonist encounters, i.e. the ones written in third. I read once that third-person protagonists are more likely to provoke reader sympathy than first-person ones, and I believe that to be true, but have never worked out why. I wonder now if it's because first-person protagonists sort of fade away: we look through their eyes but don't register them as strongly as what those eyes are looking at.

It now occurs to me -- though I might be able to think of exceptions later -- that the characters I've loved in first-person fiction have tended to be the ones the progagonists interact with, not the protagonists themselves.
Well just thinking about it now, this occurred to me...
People quite often are more critical of themselves, than they are sympathetic.
So a reader reading first person POV can identify or immerse themselves fully into the character. They 'become' the character.
As such, they are less forgiving, less sympathetic to the character's struggle, less tolerant of excuses ( they, i.e., me, the reader, should have known better/ being more resilient, mor proactive etc etc).

But strangers we are more sympathetic towards. These strangers are fiction's third person characters.

Just a thought.
 

TWErvin2

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I think that Shadow worked effectively as a vehicle for the reader to travel through the novel. I had no problem with that. I though it the novel was a little on the weaker side than I expected because the novel's story just seemed to meander a bit too much on occasion.
 

Randy M.

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On the one hand, American Gods isn't a typical genre novel. In a many genre novels, the protagonist is expected to develop and grow and move through the story.

But in American Gods (and other novels, such as The Graveyard Book and Anansi Boys) the protagonist is static and the story literally revolves around them. The protagonist really isn't important in Gaiman's writing, hence why the one in American Gods is called Shadow - he's a shadow of a human being.
And of another character, Odin. Odin's plot couldn't proceed without Shadow, but Shadow isn't really like Thor, a god, so he's not so much his father's son as his father's shadow.

For a while I wasn't sure if this was a flaw or a unique way of structuring a story.

After I read Murakami, though, I realised that what Neil Gailman was trying to do was not to structure in the manner of a genre novel, but instead as a literary novel - where the protagonist is not necessarily important as anything but a way for the reader to experience the environment of the story. Ultimately, the protagonist serves as an observer to the story, rather than an active driver of it.

The reason I was so confused is because I hadn't read any literary fiction for a long time, and certainly not while learning about the tools of the genre writer, not least when it came to structuring. Having read a couple of literary works since, I feel I've a better idea of what Gaiman was trying to achieve.

IMO it still makes for a less fulfilling novel having an underdeveloped protagonist - but Gaiman's worlds are always very richly populated, so it's a case of give and take in different areas.

Just thought I'd mention that. :)
This strikes me as pretty apt, Brian. But I think you can extend it, too: Shadow is the product of the prison environment where "go along to get along" may be self-preservation. But also, Shadow's emotional attachment to Laura is so strong her loss debilitates him; add to that her apparent betrayal and he may be experiencing a kind of PTSD.

At least, that's how I rationalized his behavior after reading the novel.


Randy M.
 

Brian G Turner

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I've just finished The Books of Magic - a four-part comic Neil Gaiman did for DC in 1990 - and it's the same situation.

The protagonist - Timothy Hunter - is nothing more than a vehicle for the reader. The story even turns on the fact that Timothy only makes a single decision - and that's at the start.

And yet this is an intelligent and engaging story, with some truly insightful commentary on magick and folklore. The worlds of the story are rich, the characters memorable (even though many are DC b-list ones) and it's a clever and accomplished series.

Neil Gaiman's writings really are proof that you can write successful genre fiction with passive protagonists - so long as the world they inhabit is rich enough to compensate for that.

2c.
 

Brian G Turner

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Actually, I'm going a little off-topic here, but it just occurred to me that JK Rowling may have done something similar with Harry Potter - certainly in the earlier books.

Rowling made us feel great sympathy for Harry and his situation - but Harry doesn't really drive the story, nor does he actually do much, in the first few books at least - except have everyone else help him achieve things and experience a few useful deus ex machinis.

And yet, it's an incredibly rich world, filled with wonder and exquisite detail in everything from the places, the events, and the people. Perhaps it's Harry's initial passiveness that helps the reader embrace and enjoy that world all the more.

In which case, along with the Gaiman comments above, then really this all harks back to the advantages and disadvantages when choosing a close POV - and how not developing a protagonist too deeply can help readers settle into them easier. And that developing a single protagonist really well could be detrimental to accessibility if they are too different to their readership. It's the old arguments about POV choices in action, perhaps.
 

Judderman

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The protagonist is passive because the reader is meant to feel like they are/identify with the protagonist. Just along for the ride of the story that goes on around them/the reader. Or maybe that is nonsense.
 
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