24 October 2017

The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

Posted by Callan Bentley

I’ve been reading a fair bit of Neil Gaiman over the past year or so: American Gods, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Each of those books is good in its own way, and each is fiction. I just finished a compilation of Gaiman’s nonfiction, and there is enough about it that I think is applicable to the audience of this blog to mention it here. The pieces included in the collection are mostly speeches, essays, and introductions to other people’s books. Some are celebrations of authors or artists I know well (Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, They Might Be Giants), while others are equally passionate descriptions of the work of people of whom I was previously ignorant (Harlan Ellison, Dave McKean, Diana Wynne Jones). That’s inspiring – it’s a revelation of new literary pathways available for me to stroll down in the years to come. There are numerous essays on key figures in the world of comic books, for instance, and high-level thoughts on science fiction, movies, libraries, reading, creativity, and genre writing. Though there is noticeable overlap across separate pieces in subject matter and even turn of phrase, I think this works to give you deeper insight into what Neil Gaiman’s perspective is on these various subjects. It imparts a sense of familiarity, in other words. Gaiman is a gifted writer, and when he sets out to be inspiring, such as when giving an awards speech, or a graduation speech, he can really churn it out. I closed the book feeling jazzed up to “make good art” and follow my geology outreach muse to the fullest extent possible. Here’s his “make good art” speech: If you haven’t seen it, you should. It will get you fired up, and it will give you a flavor for the character for this book.