Review: “The View from the Cheap Seats” by Neil Gaiman


152949The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman. William Morrow. 522 pages.

I was surprised to see this book in our university library new books section and snatched it up for a read last week. Neil Gaiman is known as a fantasy, horror and comic writer, and is very good at what he does. This book is, however, none of those. It’s a collection of pretty much all the nonfiction writing that he’s done over the past several decades within several categories.

There is some pretty good stuff here. He makes some good observations on writing, which I am always ready to snatch up. He also talks about many novelists–often in science fiction–that I am familiar with. Gaiman has a wit that makes his writing easy to take.

But a large chunk of the 522 pages is dross is could have been left out. In fact, in the introduction Gaiman himself recommends that the reader skim and read whatever they find relevant. For me, there was many introductions to books, art, comics and music that I was unfamiliar with and not interested in. So close to half of the book was material that wasn’t relevant to me.

Another problem was that because the material was repeated from use elsewhere, the author used the same illustrations more than once. But that’s something you can overlook.

But there are good bits in here as well. The best parts are when he talks directly about his life of writing, or his interaction with other writers. Gaiman dropped out of school, worked as a journalist, then began writing comics, then books for a living. It’s a fascinating story, and I would like to hear more of that story. The rest seems like it is just there to make the book thicker.

I give the book three out of five stars.

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