Initial reaction: I don’t think I could give this less than five stars. It’s such a great collection of speeches and essays from Gaiman, and I admire his honesty, knowledge and distinct voice (not to mention his spot on humor in places). I don’t think I could write a long enough review to express how much takeaway I had from this book.
Have I told all of you how much I love Neil Gaiman? As a writer/narrator/comic writer/general purveyor of writerly wisdoms? No? Well, I suppose this is one opportunity I can expound, and this book provides a plethora of reasons behind that appreciation. “The View from the Cheap Seats” is a non-fiction work that takes several selections from speeches, articles, introductions to compilations, among other works that Gaiman has written/contributed over his multiple decades long career. He discusses everything from his writings to films he’s created to the significance of libraries, creating fiction for children, to his favorite authors and meetings with them and then some. It’s both a personal and professional journey that while not a comprehensive selection of all the work he’s done (and he says this in his introduction), it provides a look at many pieces that are important to him.
I feel like I just got thrown headfirst into many different aspects of his career and persona just from this compilation alone, and it’s well organized by titular headings that group his essays, speeches and introductions. “Some Things I Believe”, “Music and the People Who Make It”, etc. He has a very distinct and very identifiable voice in all of his narratives – fiction and not – and I’ll admit his humor never fails to make me chuckle or that he gets me to think on another level with certain things he speaks upon. His dedication to many different authors in this compilation (Terry Prachett, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, to name a few) really struck home with me. I’ll admit there were also authors in here that he’s made mention of that are new to me, and I’m glad to be able to have more works to pick up in curiosity for that.
I think my favorite selection in this entire narrative is the speech he delivered in 2013: “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming: The Reading Agency Lecture.” There was so much about that speech that was spot. on. About literacy, about reading to children, about the value of fiction. In general, this compilation has so many points where I could highlight phrases and post quotations on walls to reflect how much meaning they had for me and my own experiences as a reader, writer, and lover of media. I read the book as a source for inspiration for Camp NaNo in July and it ended up being the perfect read for inspiration and takeaway. I own this in my library and I definitely see myself re-reading it again.
For added experience: get the audiobook. He’s the narrator. 🙂
Overall score: 5/5 stars.