Friday, October 18, 2013

Neil Gaiman on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming

I'm very fond of Neil Gaiman and his books and lectures. In this article, he explains why public libraries deserve our support. "But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information."

He gives a litany of obligations, and this one is especially for writers of children's literature: "We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it's the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers' throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves."

Read the full article here:


Mirka Breen said...

Amen to that. I understand what Mr. Gaiman is referring to is that thing we call "value." We have an obligation to give our readers value.

Johnell DeWitt said...

Wow. There must be something in the air. I just blogged about a short video done by Neil Gaiman. I can see why you like him.

Faith E. Hough said...

Neil Gaiman writes about writing just as well as he writes fiction. That "pre-masticated maggots" simile isn't ever going to leave me. :)
Just yesterday I was reading a book about Benjamin Franklin to Lucy and ruminating on how grateful I am for our public library system that he instituted. Trying to imagine a world without libraries is...horrific.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I love that he gets how important this repository of knowledge is. Yes, value.

Johnell, I'll check out the video. His commencement speech from last year is really amazing too.

Faith, he doesn't mince words does he? Max was laughing at that phrase too :)

Gary Ludlam said...

I read his original Sandman graphic novel back in college. Great writer. Joshua is reading a book of his now.
I also read that article. He said something I had trouble with though. He said there are no bad books. I understand why he said that, that we shouldn't overly limit what our kids read, but there really are plenty of bad books out there.
Books are food for the brain, and some food is unhealthy. Some downright poisonous. Sure, let them try varied cuisines, but protect them.
Other than that, I really like what he has to say.
Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Vijaya said...

Gary, I agree that there are plenty of bad books. Thankfully, our children never developed a taste for it because we always had good fare for their mind. At the age our kids are at now, 12 and 14, they know enough to put aside books that don't feed their soul. We do have discussions about some of the garbage books we've read, some by trusted authors even.

Marcia said...

Anybody who champions public libraries has my respect, though I have to admit I've yet to become a Gaiman fan. Maybe I will...