26/11/2003

God and Queen @ 10:02 pm

Well its been a slow day, but I’ve managed to finish American Gods by Neil Gaiman which Ricky gave me last week.

Shadow (the main character) gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations. For instance, Shadow’s dead wife Laura keeps showing up, and not just as a ghost – the difficulty of their continuing relationship is by turns grim and tries to be funny … just like the rest of the book.

Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. Shadow’s road story is the heart of the novel, and it’s here that Gaiman offers up the details that make this such a cinematic book–the distinctly American foods and diversions, the bizarre roadside attractions, the decrepit gods reduced to shell games and prostitution. “This is a bad land for Gods,” says Shadow.

Sadly its a good concept that starts really well but somewhere near the middle it goes way way off track ruining itself in the way only an author trying too hard can do. Everythings sub text and image, but shallow and unreal – the context is that its talking about gods so you can be in the middle of nowhere then the next line reaching into a fridge to pull out a beer – this proves to be too confusing for my poor little brain….:-( and all Gaiman manages to do is to lose credibility in the characters and in the end we lose the ability to actually empathise with them…and I can’t enjoy a book whose charcters I don’t give a damn about.

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The Queens speech today outlined the governments plans for the coming year. Top of the list was university tuition fees.

Responding to the Queens Speech, Phil Willis MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, said:

Labour makes access to higher education dependent on the ability to pay, not on the ability to learn.

This Bill will widen the social divide and makes it less likely that students from poorer backgrounds will access Britain?s top universities.

The Government seeks to burden students with mortgage style debts of up to £33,000, which many students will still be paying back when they retire. It transfers the cost from the state to the student moving us nearer to the USA model but without the corporate or alumni giving that is the norm in America.

This Bill fails to meet the financial needs of our universities and does little to reverse two decades of underfunding by successive Governments.

I would incourage anyone interested to read an article I posted here a few months back prompted by comments made by the Professor Crewe, Vice Chancellor of Essex University Education for a couple of beers

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