First Lines: The View from the Cheap Seats

The View from the Cheap Seats (ToC) is a collection of the selected non-fiction of Neil Gaiman. It’s a hodge-podge of essays, interviews, book introductions, speeches, and the like. Some of them I had read before, either online or as part of the Neil Gaiman Humble Bundle.

What makes this collection work, I guess, is that despite some of the pieces being deeply personal, they are never private. Even when I knew nothing about the subject/person being talked about, Gaiman manages to make a connection. So that you can relate. After reading some of the included book reviews, there were quite a few titles I might want to look into eventually. But the pieces about making art and the process of making things up were the most fun for me.

Throughout the book there are little nuggets of quotable wisdom, like “I don’t get only supporting the freedom of the kind of speech you like. If speech needs defending, it’s probably because it’s upsetting someone.” and “Things can mean more than they literally mean. And that’s the dividing line between art and everything that isn’t art. Or one of the lines, anyway.”

Two pieces are among my all-time top 5 favorite things Neil Gaiman put on paper. The first is a Credo:

I believe that you have the absolute right to think things that I find offensive, stupid, preposterous or dangerous, and that you have the right to speak, write, or distribute these things, and that I do not have the right to kill you, maim you, hurt you, or take away your liberty or property because I find your ideas threatening or insulting or downright disgusting. You probably think some of my ideas are pretty vile, too.

I believe that in the battle between guns and ideas, ideas will, eventually, win.

Because the ideas are invisible, and they linger, and, sometimes, they are even true.

Eppur si muove: and yet it moves.

(full text, full text illustrated by Chris Riddell)

And then there is perhaps my favorite thing Gaiman ever did, the incredibly uplifting The ‘Make Good Art’ Speech (transcript):

So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.

Book read
Neil Gaiman — The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction
First line
I fled, or at least, backed awkwardly away from journalism because I wanted the freedom to make things up. (from “Introduction”)