I’m not an artist but I wish I were. I wish I could draw all the things I conjure in my imagination but I’ve always lacked that talent and been fiercely jealous of those who can. So while the comic book in my mind is locked away behind a talent firewall that I lack the basic artistic skills to unlock I have to resort to words alone. I can write moderately well I think. I’m better than average, not nearly as good as I would like to be, but I try and work at it to get better. Every now and then, and more than that lately, I’ve needed to be inspired to write even the most basic thing. What inspires me more than anything is what other creative people have done and how they did it. This usually leads to what inspires them and that peels back the onion further. Then you can see that the true artists work for their craft and they work hard at it to get better every time.
Neil Gaiman is just such an artist. Very few writers are as effortless and elegant to read. Couple that with his fierce imagination and storytelling genius and its not hard to see why he’s one of the most popular writers on the planet. It’s a reputation well deserved. From the phenomenal Sandman series in the 90’s, the amazing short story collections, the long form novels like Stardust and the epic American Gods, and the movie screenplays, Gaiman has been conjuring magic in his writing for so long we have forgotten what the world looked like before he arrived. In his new collection of non-fiction we get to see what inspires Gaiman and in turn the work it takes to look effortless.
Consisting largely of various book introductions, speeches, and commissioned articles, The View From the Cheap Seats is a series of snapshots in to the mind of Neil Gaiman. It’s highly doubtful you have heard of all these books, let alone read them. As Neil himself suggests in the forward you may want to keep a pen and paper handy while reading to jot down the names of the authors Neil writes about. Along with lesser known writers, Neil also writes about Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Lou Reed, Bram Stoker, Tori Amos, Alan Moore, Fritz Leiber, Douglas Adams, Amanda Palmer, They Might Be Giants, and on and on and on. His iconic “Make Good Art” speech is here as well and is just as powerful and relevant as the first time you read or watched it.
One of the first entries in the book is a lecture Neil gave to the Reading Agency, an English charity that promotes reading literacy. It brought tears to my eyes and for that piece alone I would give The View From the Cheap Seats 5 stars.
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
Quite simply this is a wonderful book that fans of Gaiman should absolutely not miss.