Non-Fiction from Neil Gaiman That You Can Read Right Now

Neil Gaiman’s 544-page collection of his nonfiction, The View From the Cheap Seats, is due out May 31st—but if you poke around various corners of the internet, you can find a broad array of his essays, appreciations, introductions, and lectures that will tide you over until you can wear your wrists out carrying the tome around lose yourself for days, possibly weeks, in the full collection.

I’ve rounded up fourteen pieces that run the gamut: a talk about libraries; an appreciation of Ray Bradbury; an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that almost all of them share a common Gaiman theme: story and the power of narrative, and the magic of books and the people who read, write, and advocate for them. He’s unabashed and sincere in his love for other writers, for libraries, for the things that stories do for people: open windows, open doors, create new worlds while telling us about this one.

And sometimes, he just tells us stories, like the one about the time he didn’t win an Oscar.

 

Terry Pratchett: An Appreciation

Available at Gaiman’s site
Posted May 2004

“Terry has been writing professionally for a very long time, honing his craft, getting quietly better and better. The biggest problem he faces is the problem of excellence: he makes it look easy. This can be a problem. The public doesn’t know where the craft lies. It’s wiser to make it look harder than it is, a lesson all jugglers learn.”

An Introduction to Jonathan Carroll

Available at Carroll’s site

“Jonathan Carroll’s a changer. He’s one of the special ones, one of the few. He paints the world he sees. He opens a window you did not know was there and invites you to look through it.”

The Myth of Superman

Available at Wired Magazine
Published June 2006 (with Adam Rogers)

“Other heroes are really only pretending: Peter Parker plays Spider-Man; Bruce Wayne plays Batman. For Superman, it’s mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that’s the disguise – the thing he aspires to, the thing he can never be. He really is that hero, and he’ll never be one of us. But we love him for trying.”

Happily Ever After

Available at The Guardian
Published November 2007

“A fairytale, intended for adult readers. It was a form of fiction I loved and wanted to read more of. I couldn’t find one on the shelves, so I decided to write one.”

Julius Schwartz Lecture at MIT

Available at Open Transcripts
Lecture given in May 2008; watch the video here.

“Now, life (and this is something you think about a lot when you write fiction) does not obey genre rules. It lurches easily, or uneasily, from soap opera to farce, office romance to medical drama to police procedural by way of pornography, sometimes in hours.”

A Nobody’s Guide to the Oscars

Available at The Guardian
Published March 2010

“Whiskey and sugar careening through my system, I defy the orders on my ticket not to photograph anything, and I tweet a picture of the bar menu. My fiancee is sending me messages on Twitter urging me to photograph the inside of the women’s toilet, something she did during the Golden Globes, but even in my sugar-addled state, that seems a potentially disastrous idea.”

A Man Who Won’t Forget Ray Bradbury

Available at The Guardian
Published June 2012

“A Ray Bradbury story meant something on its own—it told you nothing about what the story would be about, but it told you about atmosphere, about language, about some sort of magic escaping into the world.”

Make Good Art

Available at The University of the Arts
Keynote address given to The University of the Arts Class of 2012

“So I thought I’d tell you everything I wish I’d known starting out, and a few things that, looking back on it, I suppose that I did know. And that I would also give you the best piece of advice I’d ever got, which I completely failed to follow.”

On Lou Reed

Available at The Guardian
Published October 2013

“His songs were the soundtrack to my life: a quavering New York voice with little range singing songs of alienation and despair, with flashes of impossible hope and of those tiny, perfect days and nights we want to last for ever, important because they are so finite and so few; songs filled with people, some named, some anonymous, who strut and stagger and flit and shimmy and hitch-hike into the limelight and out again.”

The Reading Agency Lecture 2013

Available at The Reading Agency
Lecture given October 2013

“There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.”

Let’s Talk About Genre: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in Conversation

Available at The New Statesman
Published May 2015

“Genres only start existing when there’s enough of them to form a sort of critical mass in a bookshop, and even that can go away.”

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant

Available at The New York Times
Published March 2015

“Fantasy is a tool of the storyteller. It is a way of talking about things that are not, and cannot be, literally true. It is a way of making our metaphors concrete, and it shades into myth in one direction, allegory in another.”

Why I Love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Available at The Guardian
Published May 2015

“For the next decade, people would ask me who my favourite authors were, and I would place Clarke on any lists I made, explaining that she had written short stories, only a handful but that each was a gem, that she was working on a novel, and that one day everyone would have heard of her.”

 

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