Chet Reads & Writes*

This is No Land for Gods

Whenever I hear the name Neil Gaiman I instantly think, literary superstar. Primarily all of my Gaiman knowledge extended from friends whom loved anything he had ever penned. First hand, all I had to go on was seeing Coraline. Finally, I’ve read my first Gaiman novel. This decision was heavily influenced by several people whose recommendations I trust, but the winner was American Gods.

American Gods is a book that I had an incredibly difficult time getting in to. I read the first ninety or so pages and was ready to shred it. The main character was dull, nothing seemed to be happening, and it had made me feel so smart because I had already figured out the identities of some of the more secretive characters. (Helpful Hint: They aren’t that secretive at all.) With that, I put the book down for a bit. In the mean time I read Lucky Peach Vol. 2: The Sweet Spot.

After a few friendly chats with the recommenders I resolved to pick up where I left off in American Gods. Which was certainly the correct decision.

At its core American Gods is the tale of the old Gods who have landed in America through years of emigration. Now the old Gods are forced to contend for attention with the new Gods. There is a war coming between the two, and we are along for the recruitment journey, via Shadow.

Shadow is the protagonist in this story. Love him or hate him, he’s who we have. Shadow is released from Prison at the beginning of the story, and meets a stranger as he is travelling home. The stranger, answering to Wednesday, is there to recruit Shadow’s help in his wayward adventure across the American Midwest.

As the story progresses we meet a bevy of other characters and Gods with birthrights from Norse to Egyptian mythology. There are plenty of recognizable faces in the crowd if you have done any religious reading at all, but then there are also some lesser known entities that I found to be highly intriguing.

Eventually the entire scheme begins to fall into place. We’ve seen hardship, and more than one surprising twist along the way. Whenever I finished the book I was very satisfied with the end of it all. There was nothing that happened where I thought, “No, that doesn’t make sense. Why is he motivated to do this?” These are the kind of endings I like. The ones where, and I’m stealing this from a blogger I read for the first time yesterday, you are left with a book hangover. There are ideas implicated with American Gods that can stick in your brain for a while. It’s fun to back this blog up against my Slaughterhouse-Five blog, with all of its fun thoughts and interpretations of fatalism. I hope this book leaves you with that same sense of wonder.

The things I didn’t like about American Gods all happen in those first 90 pages, and I addressed a few of them already. However I wanted to bring up a way that I feel Gaiman was a little sneaky, at least for me. He writes in a simple language. It is easy to understand and usually to the point. His similes and metaphors aren’t lacking, but they aren’t really the greatest I’ve ever read either. This immediately tricked me into thinking that I am smarter than him. As the plot unfolded I learned that this is not the case, well…maybe I know more than him about something or another, but definitely not how to write an intriguing story. Not yet anyway.

Final call is, yes you should definitely read this book. It’s dark, it’s a bit fantastical, and it will stay with you for awhile. Trust me, when you hit that brick wall around page ninety, just hammer through it. You will not regret it.

Tralfamadorian Fatalism

Undeniably, Slaughterhouse Five is one of my all time favorite books. People who know me can attest to this based on my willingness to read it more than once. The list of books which I am happy to read again, or stories I want to wander back through is a very short list. Vonnegut’s tale of Billy Pilgrim’s time stumbling and space adventures is one I will never grow tired of.

Slaughterhouse-Five is acknowledge as not only one of the best science fiction books ever written, but also as one the very best books written full stop. I first picked it up a couple of years ago intrigued by those facts. I like at least trying to read the books that are considered to be the epitome of human genius, and I always love a good sci-fi read. Top it all off with a dose of war fiction, and I am set. Oh! I nearly forgot. It’s also listed on the ALA‘s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1900 – 1999. Who doesn’t read banned books?

The novel is primarily set everywhere, and by everywhere I mean the European front of World War II, Billy’s home after the war, and Tralfamadore. The narrator relates the story to us as Billy was prone to experience his life. This nonlinear style makes for a story that is sometimes inconveniently interrupted, but then again we aren’t unstuck in time as Billy was. Imagine how difficult this was for him to deal with.

Allow me to explain what is meant when it is said that Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time. Generally Billy lives life as we all do. He wakes up in the morning, accomplishes some tasks, then sleeps at night. However, at any point in Billy’s day, he may find himself at any other time in his life. He has no control of his time travel, and no one else seems to notice.

My copy at home is a pocket-sized paperback, and it is one of the few books I’ve ever marked in. Most of my markings are with regard to statements the Narrator makes within the first chapter. After that one I usually consume the rest of the book so quickly I forget to take notes. Here are some of my highlighted pieces:

I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.

There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said— and calendars.

And finally, my favorite.

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.

There is much and more to be said about Slaughterhouse-Five. Themes in the book range from a rather fatalist outlook on life to persistence and existence of wars and glaciers. I had a conversation about another book with a friend recently. I was having a rough time getting through that book despite numerous recommendations. He said to me,

“If you want to read a book, and be able to think about what happened in it long after you’re done, then finish this.”

This is something that should be applied to Slaughterhouse-Five. Taken at face value it is a science fiction novel about an accidental time traveler. If one were to start searching, or thinking more deeply about it you could discover ways to question how you live and experience life on Earth. Give it a try.

Have you read Slaughterhouse-Five? What did you think? Love it or hate it, I want to know.

Attention: Subscribers

Dearest Readers,

If you subscribe to my blog, and enjoy my writings in your favorite RSS reader, I have a special request of you. Please unsubscribe, and then resubscribe. I’ve recently started using a method of tracking my subscription numbers, but if you’re still following me via the old feed URL, then you don’t get counted. Which makes me sad, because there is a big fat goose egg sitting there.

Thanks.

Intentions & Ideas

Those of you who have known me for the better part of the last half-decade are aware of the many different forms my blog has taken. I actually believe that this current theme, and title, hold the record for the longest unchanged stretch. Surely this signifies that I am finally happy with, not only the way my blog looks, but the persona I’ve taken on when writing items to share with you all. Today, however, I’d like to start making some content changes.

You see, I finally settled on the simple title of Chet Reads &amp Writes*, because it is concise and informative. It tells the visitor my name, and what can be found here. Then there is that finicky asterisk following it all. Have you ever noticed it before? Have you ever bothered seeking what it was connected to? If not, take your time, I’ll wait.

Found it? It’s obscure on purpose. I thought it would be a sure fire way to get me to do more than just write about what I’ve read lately. A way out of locking myself into a niche. I’ve been ignoring it.

If I’ve learned anything from my current job it is definitely that there are tons of sincere niche bloggers out there. There are also many, many niche blogs that are soley in existence for SEO purposes. Trust me. They exist as link/content farms, to just a place to garner passive income. There are literally millions of people and websites out there who spend all of their time writing content they feel will serve you. Content that they believe you want. Content that the Google notices. This is why the niche is so important. The more obscure the niche, the less work it takes to be high on the SERPs. This is not what I want my blog to be.

I would like my site to be a place where people purposefull come to read the things I wrote. Here’s some news for you, solely writing about obscure and/or books that I love, all the time isn’t all that I am. There are many things about myself that I have been holding back. Not purposefully, but because I have been limiting myself. I sit down to write and think, “Okay, this is what they’re expecting to see from me, not that.” So you end up with another review to read, about some book you may have already heard me talking about.

It’s time to grow.

From now on I want to share more of my original writing, more books that I am reading, just things I’m doing in general. Hell, maybe a picture or two?

Hold me accountable, if you know me, or if you don’t. If for some wayward reason you make your way here, and read this entirely, please by all means, encourage me to move forward.

Thanks for reading, come back again, and again. You’re all welcome here. Except assholes, I don’t appreciate assholes.

Writing.

I wrote this at work on Wednesday. Thought sharing it wouldn’t hurt.

Writing is an incredibly difficult skill to convince one’s self to practice. The pen moves slowly across the sheet as words and ideas and half truths seep from the brain and eventually through the fingers. A singular cramp in the hand, just north of the topmost knuckles, is enough to make anyone cringe and set the pen down for a respite. The will to continue leaking the story onto the page must be strong enough to withstand most of the chronic discomforts of the world.