I'm now about 200 pages into Neil Gaiman's 600+ page fun-time novel American Gods. It's a modernized imagining of the age-old tale of a battle between old and new gods for supremacy. The difference is that in this conception, the new gods exist in malls, TVs, electronics, computers, etc - all the "commercial"and "convenience" products and places to which we literally sacrifice much of our lives. (Don't worry, Gaiman's moral, if he has one, is not nearly as heavy-handed as my summary makes it sound.) So far I'm really enjoying it, but it's nothing like what I would call literature - it's just a good read. There is a certain irony in the fact that all of last night the phone at the place I'm staying in Kingston was out of order - the god of the phone deserted me for the evening I guess.
R. asked me to give some indication of how I've come across the writers I'm discussing here. As I recall, I was introduced to Gaiman by a Children's Lit. professor at Queen's. She suggested I check out Gaiman's Coraline, which is for kids but is actually quite terrifying at points. American Gods, while for adults, is much less dark than Coraline or his graphic novels in the Sandman series. Gaiman's works are a guaranteed nice, light snack for the mind - and with all the marking I've got on my plate right now, that's exactly what I need.
As for how I've come across the other authors thus far mentioned:
- Su Tong: I was shopping at the Coles bookstore on Spring Garden Rd. in Halifax the week before it closed forever and I saw a book called Rice. I bought it because it was written by the author of Raise the Red Lantern, which I had heard of but not read. Rice was $2 or something so it seemed worth the financial risk. Rice is actually still my favourite by Su Tong.
- Janet Frame: I read another novel by her in an undergraduate course I took at Dal called Commonwealth Lit.
- Michael Chabon: My friend Melinda gave me Kavalier and Clay when she was done with it; she's also recommended his Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which I'll get around to one of these days.
- Junichiro Tanizaki: Another book by Tanizaki, The Key, was recommended to me by the crusty and well-read owner of The Last Word, a good used book store on Windsor St. in Halifax.