Friday, 19 May 2017

The View From The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman - Book Review

Neil Gaiman is one of those names in the bookish world that's nearly impossible to ignore. I had heard of him for ages, and last year I finally read two of his novels. Neverwhere was our summer book club selection, and then I read Coraline with my Grade 8 students as part of our school book club. Neverwhere I devoured and loved and can't wait to reread sometime soon. Coraline, on the other hand, actually terrified me (my students completely loved it, however).

And so began my entry into the genre of fantasy. Since reading Neverwhere less than a year ago, I have read no fewer than 10 books that fall solidly into the genre of science fiction or fantasy. And a handful of others that weave magic into their stories. It is these books that have taught me that who we are as readers at 20 or even 30 are not who we are going to be as readers our whole lives. Like anything, our reading life ebbs and flows in directions we may never have anticipated. And surprises await us if we are open to them.

In his introduction to The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman talks about his exit from journalism to write fiction. He says "...I wanted the freedom to make things up. I did not want to be nailed to the truth; or to be more accurate, I wanted to be able to tell the truth without ever needing to worry about the facts."

I love these novels. The ones that build the breathtaking worlds that our brains know can't possibly be real but in which our hearts feel their truth. It is this feeling that has connected me with Neil Gaiman, and what peaked my interest in his recent non-fiction collection. How do these storytellers see our actual world and how does that influence them when building their own?

The View From The Cheap Seats is selected non-fiction work of Neil Gaiman. It's a collection of speeches, essays, book forwards, and introductions. In a manner that is playful, insightful, serious, witty, and wise, Neil Gaiman discusses a variety of subjects that are meaningful to him. He shares his thoughts about literacy, libraries, various authors and books, America, mythology, ghosts, genre, and more.

I've been savouring each of the pieces included in this collection, reading them slowly to spend time with each of the ideas presented. It's long (522 pages) but deliciously so. Readers, writers, parents, and educators will be drawn into Gaiman's non-fiction work and find ideas and anecdotes that will reaffirm their love of language.

The View From The Cheap Seats is available for purchase on Amazon or HarperCollins. You can also connect with Neil Gaiman on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, along with his website or his blog.


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