June 9, 2016 | RRP $29.99
On publication day, I headed out to my local bookstore in search of The View From The Cheap Seats, a collection of selected non-fiction by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman, author of juggernaut novels like American Gods and Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, was featured in the newspaper a while back as publicity for this book, and I had not forgotten.
So off I trundled, not particularly full of hope, as my local bookshop often disappoints me by not having the books I want. I wandered in and (no surprise), I didn’t see the book in the new releases section or anywhere obvious. Unwilling to waste any time in a bookshop and still secretly hoping I might find it, I had a little wander around. After fifteen minutes I found it, tucked away in the back shelving and snatched it up, half thinking it wouldn’t actually be real. It had a different cover than I was expecting (a better one, I think) and I happy danced all the way to the counter to pay. The guy looked at my happy face and then took a good look at the book cover (it was obvious he had no idea what the fuss was). However, the next day when I passed by the store, a stack of copies were front and centre and clearly visible.
What I love about non-fiction is the truth. Not just the straight forward truth, but the between the lines truth. Here, in the pages of this book, I learned some things about what Gaiman believes about books and reading and writing, about some of the people he has known, books he’s liked. Movies. Comics. Music. I discovered we had some unexpected things in common, and loads about writing, crafting stories and friendship.
I laughed at the Oscars retelling (hilarious and weird), the Syrian piece (heartbreaking) and the Pratchett story that ended the book (emotional). That one brought back memories of seeing Sir Terry on cable, travelling with a friend who had a progressive terminal illness who had decided to end his life in Switzerland. I am haunted by that documentary. And in learning about the things that someone else I admire believes, observes and has lived, and by pondering those things as well, I also learned something about myself.
Like I said, truth.
The book has a conversational style, and Gaiman talks often about ‘falling off the conveyor belt of life’. I suppose that any of us who have lived a while, have lost, but often that part of life, death, is an unspoken thing, which I think is a great shame. And I suppose that Gaiman’s childhood dream of outrunning death is a thread that runs through all of his work. In this book, there is as much to enjoy as a reader as there is as a writer, or just someone who is interested in words and how people think.
The View From the Cheap Seats is a fascinating insight into the mind of a deeply thoughtful man who loves to write, and is bloody good at it too.
Neil Gaiman’s work has been honoured with many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honoured with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.