The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – Part I

I have a confession and an apology to offer about The View from the Cheap Seats.

First, I will confess that I didn’t pay attention when requesting a review copy that the books was 544 pages.  I simply thought: “Oh, a collection of Neil Gaiman’s non-fiction writing? How interesting. I should read that.”  But about halfway through, I was started wondering just how long this book really was and noticed the answer was very, very long.

And this brings the apology. I haven’t finished reading the book yet. Perhaps a second confession is in order.  I am not really a fan of comics; although I have been reading some graphic novels now that my kids enjoy them.  I didn’t grow up reading comics and know very little about the genre or its history. I enjoy Gaiman’s fiction but really know nothing about his comic work.

So I got a little bogged down in the sections dealing with comics and the comics industry and took a bit of a break from reading. Sorry.  That is why I a writing a “review” of a book I haven’t finished reading.  I figured I get some pixels down since the book has been out for two weeks and the publisher probably didn’t give me a review copy so I could write a review sometime in the distant future.

I assume that diehard Gaiman fans have already got their hand on this book and have probably read it. So we can leave that group of potential readers as checked off.

If like me, you enjoy Gaiman’s fiction but don’t know much about the wider history of science fiction, fantasy, comics, etc.  This book is an interesting introduction or discussion of the topics and its seminal figures through the lens of Gaiman’s experience perspective and career.

But I also am not one to read collected essays very quickly.  This seems like the kind of thing you would dip into on occasion or work through slowly over a period of time.  It is not like a work of fiction or non-fiction work making an argument or telling a story.  There is no reason you have to read in chronologically or in large chunks at a time.  But perhaps that is just my approach to collections.

But for those who are curious, here is a brief outline of the content  The first section, Some Things I Believe, introduces you to the way Gaiman thinks, what he values, and how he expresses himself outside of fiction.  The second section, Some People I Have Known, offers his take on a variety of famous, groundbreaking or otherwise influential people.  People like Terry Pratchett, Harlan Ellison, Douglas Adams, Steve Wolf, and Stephen King.  Section three tackles science fiction while four movies, particularly movies and Gaiman. I made steady progress through these sections and enjoyed learning about how Gaiman sees the world.

Sections two through four will mean more, I am guessing, the more you know about the topics.  They are often interesting just in how they reveal Gaiman’s perspective but I would think if you know something of the subject or people involved, his perspective would be more informative.  You can place them in a historical and cultural context and compare them to your own opinion.  For many of the topics, I was not able to do this as I knew almost nothing, or literally nothing, about them.

Section five, On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them, is the above mentioned section that bogged me down.  I just feel like I don’t know enough about, or don’t have enough invested in, comics to appreciate much of this section.

So there you have it, halfway through and ready to dive in again.  So far, my sense is those who are fans of both Gaiman and the genres he works in would enjoy this book the most.  A lot of it is “inside baseball” on comics, fantastical fiction, etc.  those who enjoy that world will get the most out of Gaiman’s unique discussion and perspective on it.

Stay tuned for Part II…

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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