Neil Gaiman takes my breath away with his vision of everything, how he looks at the world. Of his collection, The View from the Cheap Seats, he says, “This book is not ‘the complete nonfiction of Neil Gaiman.’ It is, instead, a motley bunch of speeches and articles, introductions and essays. Some of them are serious and some of them are frivolous and some of them are earnest and some of them I wrote to try and make people listen.” There are more than sixty pieces in this collection. And, the majority of them are exceptional pieces of writing, essays that will make you smile at times. They'll always make you think.
Of course, I have favorite essays. There's "Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming". "So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. I'm going to tell you that libraries are important. I'm going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I'm going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things." "Everything changes when we read." Gaiman talks about his local library when he was growing up, and how he worked his way through the children's library, and then started on the adult books. He ends that essay saying, "I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand."
He also discusses his love of libraries and librarians in his Newbery Medal Speech in 2009, his speech after he was awarded the award for The Graveyard Book. The speech is called "Telling Lies for a Living...And Why We Do It". Here's a writer who says, "It was as if some people believed there was a divide between the books that you were permitted to enjoy and the books that were good for you." Where's Neil Gaiman? "I was, and still am, on the side of books you love."
Neil Gaiman loves books. He discusses "Four Bookshops", and in that essay, says, "I wonder who I would have been, without those shelves, without those people and those places, without books. I would have been lonely, I think, and empty, needing something for which I did not have the words."
There's so much more, but I mentioned some of my favorite essays, ones that discuss books and reading and libraries. Gaiman discusses music and comics, graphic novels. There are introductions he wrote to books by favorite authors. And, he ends with an essay that breaks your heart if you're a fan of Terry Pratchett because Gaiman was a fan, a friend, a co-author. Of course, there's the essay "Make Good Art", given as a commencement address. And, as a fiction reader, I'm fond of his statement, "Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over."
Neil Gaiman is a man with wide interests, and he shares his passions and interests in this wonderful collection. Looking for "good art"? Pick up Neil Gaiman's fascinating book, The View from the Cheap Seats, and take your time. Savor all the words carefully selected by a master.
Neil Gaiman's website is www.neilgaiman.com.
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062262264 (hardcover), 544p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book after asking to participate in the TLC Book Tour.