Neil Gaiman’s fiction has changed my life several times, so it was no great shock to me that The View From the Cheap Seats, a collection of his non-fiction, would also have a profound impact on me.
Anybody who knows me also knows that I have all seven of The Endless tattooed on my body, and it isn’t just because I think they look cool (but they do). I first read The Sandman at a prime formative time in my life. I was just about to leave high school when a friend introduced me to Gaiman and The Sandman. While I jumped on that train late, I was there for the last three years of that ride in “real-time.” For better or worse, it, along with the worlds it introduced me to, had a big enough impact on me that I changed from being pre-med to a History major with a Creative Writing minor. I also stopped reading almost all of the comics I’d collected for years (the superhero ones) and discovered the many other genres of comics that are practically a given today.
Fast forward twenty years and plenty of reading Gaiman and King and Ellis and Hunter S Thompson (my biggest literary heroes), and I work at a software company doing a job I’m rarely proud or fond of. Thankfully, this past year and a half, I’ve started writing here at GeekDad, tapping into that creative outlet I found all those years ago but have neglected. And after barely scratching the surface of The View From the Cheap Seats, I was inspired to get off my ass and get working on all those great ideas I’ve kicked around or been sitting on for years.
I don’t need to tell any Gaiman fan that reading anything he writes is worth reading, but The View From the Cheap Seats is rare in that it gives you a direct view into his heart and mind versus the reflection of it you get in his fiction. Besides just being inspired to get to work on my own creative projects, I found myself laughing out loud, tearing up (even ugly crying), being ecstatic, feeling devastated–feeling everything I could possibly feel all while reading real and true things. I think it’s rare that we get an honest look into the lives of people we admire or idolize, and while both Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer, are more public (and without artifice) than most celebrities, the eclectic collection within this book shares Gaiman and his life in a completely new light.
So what is the book about? Anything and everything that is of interest to Gaiman through the lens of his amazing and brilliant mind. But, as Gaiman himself has said about his vast body of work and what he does, it all comes down to storytelling itself. Although the topics of the book vary quite a lot–from literature, to comics, to music, to film, and so much more–storytelling and the power of story is definitely the overarching theme of the book.
Usually, when I read a book, I devour it, cover to cover, in a pretty short amount of time unless I decide I don’t like it enough to finish it at all. With The View From the Cheap Seats, I’ve taken quite a different approach. Partly because its broken up into easily digestible chunks, I’ve been savoring the book with small nibbles and bites over a long period of time. Although I wanted to read through the entire book, not only to write this review but because it’s so good, I decided to pace myself and really enjoy it. I’ve listened to Gaiman speak enough times, live or recorded, that I can hear him giving each one of these talks or speeches or reading it as I read them which makes them even more powerful to me.
Gaiman is, as always, infinitely quotable as well. I fear I’m going to run out of stickies before I ever finish the book! I did want to share one quote that I felt was perfect for the GeekDad audience. “..the fundamental most comical tragedy of parenthood: that if you do your job properly, if you, as a parent, raise your children well, they won’t need you anymore.”
Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The View From the Cheap Seats. You will be inspired, and you will experience all the feels, especially if you’re a Gaiman fan. And while you’re waiting for your book to arrive, you can also go watch the just released Neil Gaiman documentary, which, not surprisingly, is also all about the power of story.
NOTE: I received a preview copy of the book, but all thoughts and opinions above are my own.