This Folio Life: American Gods
American Gods – considered by many to be Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece – is one of Folio’s most anticipated publications. It comes just ahead of the long-awaited TV adaptation, but the novel, first published in 2001, has already had several incarnations.
When he wrote the book Gaiman envisaged something ‘big and odd and meandering’, but, following his editor’s recommendation, he trimmed a substantial part of the novel before it was published. Some years later, Gaiman revisited his original draft when American Gods was released as a limited edition by Hill House, working with the publisher to untangle the web of editorial discrepancies between the final unedited version, the final edited version and the final printed version of the book to create ‘the author’s preferred text’ – which is about twelve thousand words longer than the first edition. It would have been a mammoth task, as ‘big and odd and meandering’ as the book itself.
When it came time to prepare our edition for press, the ‘preferred text’ was put through the same rigorous editorial process as every book we publish, and a number of inconsistencies emerged. It may come as a surprise to some of our readers, but such variations are not uncommon, and a certain amount of sleuthing is usually required to determine whether they are authorial, or genuine errors that have somehow slipped through multiple editions. Luckily, in this instance we had a willing author to answer our questions. In this latest incarnation of American Gods, the last of the discrepancies have been ironed out, and we’re left with Gaiman’s astonishing novel, ‘big and odd and meandering’.
And Sheri Gee, Art Director at The Folio Society was sure she knew the right illustrator for the commission. ‘When I was an illustration student, Dave McKean was nothing short of a hero of ours. I remember he once came to deliver a lecture. He was embracing old and new technologies in a new way – collaging drawing, painting and photography with using emerging digital technology – pushing illustration and visual story telling in new directions. It was exciting. So it was something of a thrill to commission him for American Gods.
‘Knowing that Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean had collaborated on many projects, visual and narrative style perfectly complimenting each other, we were especially keen to bring Dave on board with this project. I think he was the perfect illustrator to represent the otherworldliness of American Gods, and brought a unique vision to the commission.’