Monday, June 6, 2016

The View from the Cheap Seats

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
HarperCollins: 5/31/16
advanced readers copy; 544 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062262264

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman is a very highly recommended collection of various nonfiction speeches, essays, and introductions.

Gaiman organizes the various sixty nonfiction pieces into ten categories including: Some Things I Believe; Some People I Have Known; Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction; Films and Movies and Me; On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them; Introductions and Contradictions; Music and the People Who Make It; On Stardust and Fairy Tales: Make Good Art; The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things. 

For anyone who has never read any of Gaiman's nonfiction pieces before this, you are in for a real treat should you pick up The View from the Cheap Seats. Gaiman shines here on many far reaching subjects and the plethora of material in these selected pieces should cover the interests of and appeal to a wide variety of people. There are some recurring themes that will resonate especially with readers, artists of all types, and those interested in literacy and the arts.

Most people already know Gaiman is an incredible writer. This collection expands that well deserved adoration to his nonfiction pieces. I predict readers will find themselves checking back and rereading some of these pieces over the years, which is a recommendation in itself.

I especially love several pieces included in this collection. The 2013 Reading Agency Lecture had several paragraphs I flagged on children, the importance of reading and how well meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading:
"You don't discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing." If you are at all involved with libraries, or education you're going to love the first section on some things Gaiman believes. He is a champion of voracious readers everywhere, of every age.

I don't personally read comics or graphic novels, but I have nothing against them. Obviously Gaiman is a huge fan and that section is quite interesting for someone like me. I loved just a little but essential piece of advice found in a speech given at PROCON in 1997:
"It took me longer to learn that you can say no. And it's an easy thing to say. It helps you define your boundaries." Yes! But difficult.

Then in a piece titled "Confessions: On Astro City and Kurt Busiek":
"This is the magic trick upon which all good fiction depends: it's the angled mirror in the box behind which the doves are hidden, the hidden compartment beneath the table.
It's this:
There is room for things to mean more than they literally mean."
Wow! What a concept that people need to embrace. A story may mean one thing on the surface, but underneath there are layers that will surface for the right reader.

From the 2004 Harvey Awards Speech, which is a variation on his "Make Good Art "speech, I liked this advice:
"Make Mistakes. Make great mistakes, make wonderful mistakes, make glorious mistakes. Better to make a hundred mistakes than to stare at a blank piece of paper too scared to do anything wrong, too scared to do anything."

Gaiman's Make Good Art commencement speech from the University of the Arts in 2012 is glorious and should be viewed by anyone who is involved in any of the arts. Millions have viewed the video.
"Make good art.
I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art."

Get this collection. You will never regret it.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes. 


1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Gaiman's writing style is so unique - I love reading his words, no matter what the topic.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!