Dispatches from the Goodreads Reading Challenge Wasteland: Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats

(Quick note: Last year, 2016, I found myself struggling to get through a book as quickly or with as much enjoyment as I used to.  No shade thrown on those books, but my life had become busier and it was easier to read io9 or cruise my Facebook newsfeed than crack open a book.  I didn’t like that and the Goodreads Reading Challenge seemed like a nifty way to get my head back in the game.  Of course, after setting my challenge, I realized I had way overshot my count in comparison to others–some of them reviewers, for Christ’s sake–so this became what will hopefully be a fun, year-long experiment on crashing and burning.

(But, on a related note, I’ve always wanted to see how I read over the course of a year, what my tastes were depending on the time of year, the circumstances, etc.

(So, here’s Dispatches from the Goodreads Reading Challenge Wastelands.)


There’s this thing when reading Neil Gaiman–you know you’re reading Neil Gaiman.  His voice, his word choice, his construction of prose or even just sentences–they are, from beginning to end, Neil.  This is a rare feat–many writers, trying to be as direct as possible, struggle to maintain their own voice, finding it just enough to avoid the inescapable “drone”.  Few can be direct and still be flourishing.  Neil can do it.  Harlan Ellison can do it.  Joe Hill can do it more than his father, in my view (these are all my view…duh).

So, it was with great pleasure, I’d finally gotten a chance to read The View from the Cheap Seats, a collection of Neil’s nonfiction work.  The book doesn’t have everything from Neil that isn’t story-based, but it offers a nice overview of the past thirty years.  There are introductions (some of which I’d read prior to this), articles, musings, speeches.

Those looking for a “Gaiman story” will be dissatisfied, but for those looking for his dissection of what makes art work, or why you shouldn’t be bothered by the winning or losing of awards, or how to manage oneself on a creative endeavor will find themselves very satisfied.  I found myself nodding when he dissected the purpose of awards in his keynote speeches, finding kinship when he discussed Imposter Syndrome (the idea that you’ve somehow tricked everyone into liking your art, which makes you successful, but all will ultimately be turned over to someone who actually deserves it, leaving you stuck getting a real job), and explained how the people you meet, even the most unlikely of people, will help you build the life you become.

He’s chattier than a Stephen King nonfiction book (Danse Macabre or On Writing), making the subjects sound more like conversations.  This can be a strength or a hindrance, depending on what you “want” from Neil Gaiman.

For me, though, it was just fine.  Just what I wanted and needed this week.

Next, Bracken Macleod’s Stranded.

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