August 28, 2016

Review: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is pretty much a grab bag. Neil Gaiman, one of the reigning rockstars of comic book and fantasy writers, started out as a journalist. That training still comes through in many of these pieces; there's a sort of laidback evenhandedness in how he approaches his subject matter, even when he's definitely advocating an opinion, as many of these pieces do. (Libraries and literacy are apparently two of his favorite topics.) Neil's trademark style and voice are front and center in this book, a sort of wry British drollery that can carry the reader through some things that would seem to be, at least on the surface, as dull as dishwater. But Neil has a delightful habit of picking apart his subjects, nosing his way into all sorts of odd nooks and out-of-the-way crannies, and in the process giving a unique perspective that the reader most likely hasn't thought of before.

The book is divided into ten sections, dealing with beliefs, people, introductions, film, comics, music, fairy tales, art, and "real things." This last section is the most hard-hitting, I think, because Neil gets pretty personal, laying bare some of the challenges and tragedies of his own life. The very last essay in the book is the introduction to Terry Pratchett's collection, A Slip of the Keyboard, written before Sir Pterry died. It's a poignant, memorable ending to the book.

This is not a quick beach read by any means. Most of the essays here are meant to be digested slowly and savored. In some ways, this collection is for the Neil Gaiman completist, but there's plenty here to hold the attention even of those who have just read his fiction.

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