All right. Have finished American Gods. Don't quite know what to think of the epilogue in Reykjavik and all yet, but okay--sign of a good read, that you keep thinking about it. Highly recommended.
Here's how dumb I am: Vladimir sends me this copy from Zagreb late last year, as previously mentioned, and I get to Neil's autograph--as you will recall, Vladimir is Neil's Croatian translator--and I go, "Huh. Cat eyes. Random. Okay." Yeah. So I'm taking a break from reading to eat dinner (yes, I try to read books in as few sittings as possible; it's just a compulsion I have), and I'm talking to Vladimir on IM, and he says, "What'd Neil draw in your book again? I think I remember..."
"Uh... cat eyes?"
"No, it wasn't cat eyes. Go check again."
"Well, I'm pretty sure it was eyes, but whatever, and one of them is OH MY GOD."
And seriously, it is a great book. It's the kind of book that--well, put it this way: I read Lolita and I love Lolita, but I read it when I was about eighteen and it seriously messed up my writing style--for a while I was obsessed with crafting little Fabergé egg sentences instead of actually telling a damn story. Nabokov can do that to you--I think the way Vladimir put it was that his style is "overbearing," in terms of being an influence. Gaiman is the kind of writer who makes you want to put the book down and lock yourself in front of the keyboard for a few hours. He makes you see all kinds of things that are possible to do as a writer, and makes you want to try and see if you can do them. It's not a style he has that you want to copy--it's a complexity of character and story that you want to live up to. It made me want to sit back down and hammer away at Black Ribbon, where Nabokov just made me want to write what was, in my hands, nothing but exquisitely phrased whining (bless). I had the same reaction to Gaiman's Stardust, too--his writing makes you feel brave enough to try your own things out. Can't quite explain it any more clearly than that. And really, I think that's the kind of writer I'd want to be. Not necessarily the writer who sells the most or the writer with Harold Bloom's seal of approval (and never the twain shall meet on that one, trust me), but the writer who makes people want to read, and makes people want to write.