Gaiman, Neil (2001). American Gods: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins. 2012. ISBN 9780061792663. Pagine 624. 11,49 $
Neil Gaiman è un autore di culto: o lo si ama, o lo si adora incondizionatamente. American Gods è un romanzo memorabile, che vi invito a leggere, se non l’avete ancora fatto.
Alla base del libro c’è l’idea che gli dei esistano finché e dove esistono uomini che credono in loro. Quindi, da una parte negli Stati Uniti vivono tutti gli dei delle religioni e delle credenze delle popolazioni che vi sono immigrate, dall’Olimpo tedesco-nordico (a me familiare nella vulgata wagneriana) a quello russo, alle divinità caraibiche e dell’Africa occidentale. Dall’altra, gli dei se la passano male, perché nell’immaginario collettivo sono stati sostituiti dalla televisione e dalle nuove forme dell’intrattenimento. E perché no, se vogliamo attualizzare, dall’information deluge e dai social media: ma il romanzo è stato scritto più di 10 anni fa …
Di fronte al rischio dell’estinzione, gli antichi dei devono ritrovare l’unità e correre ai ripari, per evitare un definitivo Götterdämmerung. E se invece …
Di più non voglio dire per non guastarvi la lettura. Buon divertimento.
L’unica lamentela inane è questa: ma perché nessuno mi aveva detto che questo romanzo è un capolavoro (perché, credetemi, lo è). Perché il passaparola mi ha raggiunto soltanto nel 2010? Perché, che io sappia, nessuno dei grandi soloni dell’industria culturale italiana ne ha parlato (non posso escludere che qualche articolo mi sia sfuggito; allora precisiamo: ne abbia parlato abbastanza forte da farsi notare da me, che però non vivo su un’isola deserta e mi considero forse indegnamente un intellettuale di vaste letture). Perché? E, soprattutto, perché?
Qualche citazione però la devo fare. Il riferimento è come di consueto alle posizioni sul Kindle:
“You’re a liar.”
“Of course. And a good one. The best you will ever meet. But, I’m afraid, I’m not lying to you about this.” 
Bob Dylan sang about a hard rain that was going to fall, and Shadow wondered if that rain had fallen yet, or if it was something that was still going to happen. 
“This is a roadside attraction,” said Wednesday. “One of the finest. Which means it is a place of power.”
“It’s perfectly simple,” said Wednesday. “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or … well, you get the idea.” 
“They say this was built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s evil twin,” said Wednesday. “Frank Lloyd Wrong.” He chuckled at his joke. 
All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end. 
“You’re fucked up, Mister. But you’re cool.”
“I believe that’s what they call the human condition,” said Shadow. “Thanks for the company.” 
[…] drinking in the intoxicating jungle female scent of her. 
“Goodbyes are overrated. You’ll see them again, I have no doubt, before this affair is done.” 
Shadow listened with a horrified and amused fascination to the one who thought she was wise in the ways of the world detail the precise mechanics of using Alka-Seltzer tablets to enhance oral sex. 
This was not simply cold: this was science fiction. This was a story set on the dark side of Mercury, back when they thought Mercury had a dark side. 
That is the tale; the rest is detail. 
No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. 
With individual stories, the statistics become people – but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. 
“Are they dangerous?”
“You only get to be my age by assuming the worst.” 
Like the newspapers used to say, if the truth isn’t big enough, you print the legend. 
Listen – I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it. 
“This isn’t about what is,” said Mr. Nancy. “It’s about what people think is. It’s all imaginary anyway. That’s why it’s important. People only fight over imaginary things.” 
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. 
“I think I would rather be a man than a god. We don’t need anyone to believe in us. We just keep going anyhow. It’s what we do.” 
One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map that is the territory. You must remember this.
—from the Notebooks of Mr. Ibis