This is a review of View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. See what I did there?
This book is an assortment of non-fiction writings and speeches delivered by Gaiman over several years. These include, but are not limited to:
1) award acceptance speeches- which are charming, self-deprecating, and sometimes repeat jokes and anecdotes,
2) book introductions- which consist of Gaiman fangirling about the author and how their work inspired him; this is sweet when you know the author, but tedious when you don’t (I ended up skipping these whenever he spoke of a relatively less-famous sci-fi author from the 80s),
3) newspaper columns and obituaries- which are almost always terrific and well-thought-out.
Clearly, they cover a diverse variety of topics, which makes them sometimes hit-or-miss in their execution. They’re largely unrelated, so it’s easy to skip pieces if they are not your cup of tea.
There are several articles that reminded me that Gaiman first became famous as a writer of graphic novels, notably The Sandman. One essay I particularly enjoyed was an open letter to managers of comic book stores, urging them to stop selling graphic to novels to children as ‘collectors’ editions’ or ‘investment pieces’. As an author, he says, collectors’ editions or first prints are as well- or poorly-written as other editions, and they are meant to be read, not placed on the shelf in shrinkwrap. This was touching, because of course marketing to children that way is a scam, but I don’t see any other authors defending kids’ rights to waste their pocket money in more productive ways.
Gaiman comes across as a very humble, knowledgeable, gentle soul. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the author himself, and he makes an excellent narrator as well. 4/5 from me, worth checking out. Read only the pieces that catch your eye!