Title: The view from the cheap seats: Selected nonfiction
Author: Neil Gaiman
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When I was 14, Neil Gaiman became the first author whom I idolized, for his work on ‘The sandman.’ He sparked my early interest in Shakespeare and mythologies, and is responsible for countless happy days of my youth. I have been rather remiss in keeping up with his work over the past decade, but I knew I’d get a lot from reading this collection of his nonfiction, some of which I’d read previously.
In ‘The pornography of genre, or the genre of pornography,’ Gaiman points out how a lack of preconceptions can stimulate creativity:
“I suspect I’m at my most successful and ambitious and foolish and wise as a writer when I have no idea what sort of thing it is that I’m writing. When I don’t know what a lover of things like this would expect, because nobody’s ever loved anything like this before: when for good or for evil, I’m out there on my own. And at that point, when I only have myself as a first reader, then genre, or lack thereof, becomes immaterial.”
– Location 1036-1040 (Amazon Kindle version)
The following phenomenon can happen in a span of a couple of years, and applies to other forms of art as well:
“What makes a book an adult book is, sometimes, that it depicts a world that’s only comprehensible if you are an adult yourself. Often the adult book is not for you, not yet, or will only be for you when you’re ready. But sometimes you will read it anyway, and you will take from it whatever you can. Then, perhaps, you will come back to it when you’re older, and you will find the book has changed because you have changed as well, and the book is wiser, or more foolish, because you are wiser or more foolish than you were as a child.”
– Location 1628-1632
“Not having to be liked is enormously liberating.”
– Location 3407-3408
I heard a similar sentiment in Joe Rogan’s podcast episode with Henry Rollins:
“I learned early on that most of the people at the top of their professions—and I’m not talking about comics here, I’m talking about everything—were the nicest people, easy to deal with, and with little side to them. And I also learned that the people who were most insistent on having VIP status, on making a loud noise about everything—the kind of people who would actually say things like “Do you know who I am?”—were the second-division talents, the ones who hadn’t made it, the ones who never would.”
– Location 3731-3734
“[M]ost interesting art gets made by people who don’t know the rules, and have no idea that certain things simply aren’t done.”
– Location 4498-4499
The Moth, as their website says, is about people going up on stage to tell true stories. Here is Neil’s take on it:
“The strange thing about Moth stories is that none of the tricks we use to make ourselves loved or respected by others work in the ways you would imagine they ought to. The tales of how clever we were, how wise, how we won, they mostly fail. The practiced jokes and the witty one-liners all crash and burn up on a Moth stage.”
– Location 5637-5639
From Gaiman’s article on the Syrian war:
“I realize I have stopped thinking about political divides, about freedom fighters or terrorists, about dictators and armies. I am thinking only of the fragility of civilization.”
For more notes on books I’ve read, visit https://paulspurpose.com/tag/notes/.
Buy Neil Gaiman’s ‘The view from the cheap seats’ on Amazon, here.
This document is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.