Neil Gaiman is best known for a great many things. He wrote the comic book, Sandman in addition to the novels American Gods, Coraline, and Stardust. His style is whimsical and otherworldly. One might wonder how such an author could come to write non-fiction.
The View From The Cheap Seats is a collection of essays, speeches, and articles that Neil Gaiman has written over the years. In it was stories from his childhood; a young boy practically raised by librarians as he read anything and everything he could get his hands on, (including a book confiscated from him by a teacher for having a risque cover). There is a section about his favorite authors, some that he is friends with, others not so much. He writes about music, and stories, and the power of libraries. Lastly, he writes about family and those closest to him, such as his wife Amanda Palmer, and his late friend Terry Pratchett.
If I were to write a review section by section, the results would be mixed. At times, such as in the section about fellow authors, the book drones on a little. Without the context of the authors work, there is nothing to hold the reader to what is being said. If you are better reader than myself, then perhaps you will not come across this problem. For authors I was familiar with, the text was interesting and insightful. I don’t think, overall, this was Gaiman’s fault. After all, it is a eclectic memoir of sorts, not a literary education.
The best parts in my humble opinion were those that got closest to Gaiman’s heart. The sections that spoke of his family, close friends, and things he believes in. The story about Tori Amos reads more like a dizzy daydream, which honestly fits how he describes her. When he writes of Amanda Palmer and Terry Pratchett, there is something raw and real in those pages in two different ways.
My absolute favorite part of the book was his Make Good Art speech, (it was his commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, 2012). Do I ever wish this was the speech at my university graduation! At it’s core, the speech says that no matter your personal crises, simply make good art. It is a call to keep moving towards your goal, a slow march that will eventually get you to the top of your personal Everest. It’s the kind of speech that speaks to all 20-something year olds who are lost and in need of direction (Or any other age really).
In general, I enjoyed this book. I doubt I will ever read it cover to cover again however, it is the type of book that can be picked up and perused. I have my favorite parts, and as I write this review I’m tempted to stick a few Post-it flags between the pages so I can track them down from time to time.
I would recommend this book, perhaps not to everyone, but to the sort of person who loves books, stories, or just wants to make good art.
You May Also Enjoy:
- The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
- The Art of Neil Gaiman: The Visual Story of One of the World’s Most Vital Creative Forces by Hayley Campbell
- A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction by Terry Pratchett
YouTube Channel: Lennie Alzate
Featured image via Bleeding Cool