Monday, June 27, 2016

Microreview [book]: The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

A thoughtful collection of essays

Diana Wynne-Jones. Jack Kirby. Douglas Adams. These are just a few of the artists that Neil Gaiman lovingly tackles in the essays included within The View from the Cheap Seats—a fairly comprehensive (though it states “selected non-fiction”) of Gaiman’s nonfic work.

Divided into thematic sections that include essays on music, comic books, films, fairy tales, and more, the book feels mostly like a love letter to the things that Gaiman finds most wonderful about writing, reading, and taking part in the world. I’ve always loved Gaiman’s introductions to his own books, there’s a sense of humor, playfulness, and kindness always in the intros Gaiman weaves, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these same things applied to such a wide array of subjects.

Of course, that being said, I might be one of the perfect kinds of audiences for this collection—the people, texts, and subjects, that Gaiman writes about are some of the people, texts, and subjects, that have meant the most to me throughout my life. His essays on Diana Wynne-Jones (and on her book Dogsbody) made me tear up. His intro to Jim Steinmeyer’s Art and Artifice (one of the few Steinmeyer’s I hadn’t read or, really even heard of) made me go out and immediately order it. And that’s one of Gaiman’s greatest skills as a non-fiction author: he always sounds like he’s telling a story to a friend, he’s telling you about this book or author or piece of music that meant so much to him and he’s telling it in such a way that you have to believe him.

If there is a slight issue with the book, it’s a small one for me, it’s that occasionally some of the essays feel slightly repetitive—sometimes in subject matter, but also, often, in tone. Tone is what makes these essays individually so wonderful, but when reading bunches of them at once it can also feel less engaging as a whole.

Still, I’d highly recommend this to anyone interested in speculative genres (if you’re well read in the field—you’ll be reading excellent essays  about things you already know and love, if you’re less well read in the field then you’ll be reading about things you probably want to know and love), comic books, or, of course, Neil Gaiman’s work itself. These are often beautifully written essays that make one glad to be in a world of books and art.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 9/10

Bonuses: +1 for the heartfelt odes to some truly great artists

Penalties: -1 for repetitiveness, -1 if you’re a Gaiman fan but not very into speculative fiction as a whole

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10 “
well worth your time and attention”

Reference: Gaiman, Neil. The View from the Cheap Seats [William Morrow, 2016]

POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.