Reviewed by Nina Longfield
The View from the Cheap Seats brings together the non-fiction writing of storyteller Neil Gaiman. This collection contains a variety of speeches, essays, book introductions, and articles. Reviewing a body of essays written over the span of decades is a challenge. I would love to sit here and expound on the merits of each piece or pare it down to my many favorites, yet I must consolidate my thoughts to the book as a whole. Sadly, some might not read this book because it is non-fiction or because it is a collection of essays. I would say that is an unfortunate mistake. Within these pages, there are passionate ideas, tributes from a noted author to his mentors, intriguing thoughts on writing, thoughts on reading, and thoughts to dwell on. There are stories and there is humor.
I found The View from the Cheap Seats interesting and informative. Gaiman’s concepts are intriguing. They cause one to pause and think (even if only for a brief moment). I liked the diversity of thought provoking essays on the merits of libraries, literature, comics, creativity, reading, music, and a multitude of subjects. After his own introduction to this collection, Gaiman dives right into his thoughts on ideas and how ideas are “difficult to kill” and “they move fast.” This beginning essay shows the passion behind the words. Gaiman then jumps into the merits of reading and libraries in his essay, “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries.” His thoughts on reading and libraries are a theme that continues in his Newbery Medal speech and just about every essay after.
The essays are organized into sections about ideas (the author’s beliefs), people, science fiction, comics, film, music, fairy tales, art, and more ideas. Ideas, reading, and writing abound throughout The View from the Cheap Seats. I especially enjoyed the glimpse of other authors whom I admire through Gaiman’s eyes. Within these essays, Gaiman expounds on singular works or bodies of works by the likes of Bradbury, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Alan Moore, Douglas Adams, Brian Aldiss, and many more. The essays do not only focus on literary works. Gaiman also writes about music and the “wonderment” that musicians, such as Tori Amos, can inspire.
The View from the Cheap Seats is unfortunately not a book that will appeal to the casual reader. It is a book that takes time. I could not simply sit down and read The View from the Cheap Seats cover to cover. I started by reading the essays linearly then found myself skipping around throughout the book choosing essays by subject. The essays are quick to read but, for me anyway, required consideration afterward before moving on to the next. I would recommend Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats to any person wanting stories and thought provoking ideas that induce one to think. The View from the Cheap Seats is a collection that will remain on my shelf and one I will dip into it again.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.