Book Review: Up Late with The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

We’ve talked about Neil Gaiman before–in regard to his short stories and we mentioned he was married to Amanda Palmer when we reviewed her book, The Art of Asking.  But today what we review is a collection of non-fiction essays from the Great Gaiman, and this is unusual.  While he’s written a massive amount of non-fiction, this is the first collection of it in one place. The book is organized by topic (these are not the full section titles): Some Things I Believe; Some People I Have Known; Introductions; Films; On Comics; Music; Real Things.

What this book reads like is a conversation with your really smart friend who’s constantly recommending books and films and music and you wonder how in the world he knows all this stuff and you realize these are all the things he loves, the things he’s spent his lifetime with, and if you want something of quality, you should listen to his recommendations. While many of the authors and books he mentions I knew, there were plenty I didn’t and reading this helped me generate a reading list for multiple genres.

There are lovely passages readers and writers will underline, write down, turn back to for reassurance.  On why he left Journalism: “I wanted to be able to tell the truth without ever needing to worry about the facts.” On why books are important: “Books are the way that the dead communicate with us.” On life: “Life does not obey genre rules.”

I found myself writing down much of what he wrote–not because it was so profound, but because it was so perfectly articulated.

  • “Our tales are always the fruit of our times.”
  • “I don’t write with answers in mind. I write to find out what I think about something.”
  • “The magic trick upon which all good fiction depends…there is room for things to mean more than they literally mean.”
  • “Most interesting art gets made by people who don’t know the rules, and have no idea that certain things simply aren’t done: so they do them. Transgress. Break things. Have too much fun.”
  • “Make mistakes. Make great mistakes, make wonderful mistakes, make glorious mistakes. Better to make a hundred mistakes than to stare at a blank piece of paper too scared to do anything wrong, too scared to do anything.”

If you’re looking for some useful short essays on writing, there are some gems in here you could use with your students. If you want a celebration of reading and writing to read for yourself, this volume is perfect. Also, if you come to our 2016 Conference in State College, PA on October 15 & 16, you will have a chance to win a copy of the book!

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

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Book Review: Up Late with The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

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