Monday, 4 August 2014

From The Archive: Neil Gaiman's American Gods

Treasures of the Cerebus Archive -- AMERICAN GODS first printing, personalized by Neil Gaiman:
For Dave Sim, - who has probably been wondering what I've been doing with myself -- and who still sends me Cerebus, month after month, and amuses, amazes, delights and infuriates me in equal measure -- a small book, that might have been improved with pictures, about gods (but not about God) -- in the hopes that you'll find something to enjoy in these pages
Neil Gaiman
30 May 2001
Neil had originally declined my offer of a comp subscription because he felt that picking up CEREBUS in his local comic store was a big part of the CEREBUS experience. His local store started missing getting issues for his subscription file and (stop me if you've heard this one before) weren't able to get them for him. So he decided that a comp subscription was now necessary.

What I don't get -- or even "get" -- to this day is how a piece of writing can "infuriate" anyone. There are things that I read that I agree with and there are things that I read that I don't agree with but I can't think of anything that I've read that has infuriated me.

May 2001. Seems significant to me that the flyleaf synopsis begins "The storm was coming…"


Anonymous said...

Mm. Perhaps writing might infuriate someone when the author assumes it's profound, but it contains multiple errors of fact and reasoning, and yet it's taken seriously and used as a basis for action by some people.

Any other guesses?

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pbk

Tony Dunlop said...

You're describing Ayn Rand, of course…?

Anonymous said...

Ha! Yeah, good example. Steven Bach wrote, "Rand's writing is as appealing to the adolescent mind as it is hard for the adult mind to take seriously."

-- Damian T. Lloyd, blt

David Birdsong said...

"Touching the Almighty, we cannot find Him out: he excellent in power, and in judgement, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict." Job 37:23

This is a very difficult theology to actually believe and have faith in and yet I think it is as close to irrefutable as theology gets. "We cannot find Him out". Period. He's God. Our brains are not large enough or intricate enough to come close to comprehension of Him.

Beyond "excellent", considering the scope of His nature, the only real hope any of us have is that He is perfect in power and in judgement and that, beyond "plenty" of justice, God is Justice itself. "He will not afflict" is, likewise, difficult to believe as theology, particularly when we are certain that we are looking at affliction and looking at the afflicted or when we feel ourselves to be afflicted in some way.

Affliction is an illusion for the God-fearing. We are not afflicted. We afflict ourselves both individually and collectively and we follow in sequence generation upon generation upon generation that have likewise afflicted themselves -- and us -- individually and collectively. That's the price of free will. We get to choose but we also have to suffer the consequences of those choices.

The consequences don't go away. They can only be channeled into our own future and the future of others, inherited, ameliorated mostly through God's undeserved kindness of which none of us are worthy, repented of, atoned for and, ultimately, lifted off of us by God if He determines us to be worthy of His undeserved kindness (an inherent contradiction demonstrating God's mercy: His kindness is always undeserved so none of us are worthy of it).

Since God is Justice in and of Himself there is no Court of Appeal. We inhabit His perfect clockwork mechanism intended for us. If the clock isn't working, that's because we've chosen to be sand in its gears instead of keeping the mechanism smoothly oiled.

Even violent, to us inexplicable and painful death is just another form of atonement, I think: endure this now and it's like getting thousands of years of time off for good behaviour. We see death as an end however much our theology tells us that it is actually just the beginning. If we were able to see death and pain accurately, I think, we would have a much better understanding of both and be less inclined to inaccurately accuse God of afflicting us. God always means the best possible for us, but often that means backing Him into a corner where only an inexplicable, violent and painful death can offer us hope for the next world. Which we can't come near to understanding until we actually get there and see what the genuine structure of Reality -- as opposed to our "reality" -- is.

Dave Sim, March 2, 2014

From a letter written by Dave Sim and I hope he will forgive me for shoving private correspondence into the face of a critic.

Damian could you please explain to me what part of this is in error or at all unreasonable? Let's hear what ya got, cause pointing fingers don't count.

M Southall said...

On the other hand, God says, "Come, let us reason together." And scripture is full of engagement, where God changes His own decisions after entreaties by believers, up to and including Moses.

The idea of the remote, unknowable Allah, versus the very personal "God With Us" who we can know as well as be known by, is one of the main, and fatalistic differences of Islam from Christianity.

Although Sim's religion is highly syncretistic - and can be credibly argued, idiosyncratic - it does come down on the side of this aspect of Islam.