This is a collection of essays, forwards, introductions, speeches and other similar short non-fiction. If you’ve been a Neil fan for a while, you’ve probably read some of them before, but it’s great to have them collected. It’s a large collection at 522 pages, and divided into ten sections, so while perhaps not perfectly complete, close enough, at least until the next one.
You can learn a lot about Neil from reading his fiction, and plenty of interviews are out there too, but if you want to know more about what Neil likes, and what he thinks about what he likes, or what he dislikes (ditto), this is the place. There are also many personal anecdotes that fill out Neil’s story in one way or another, assuming a life is a kind of story. There is some repetition. Some anecdotes are told more than once or even more than twice, but as they are relevant to the context, that’s okay, and the retellings are all a little different anyway. Neil is a complex person with a wide variety of interests, and a life-long voracious reader, so there’s lots to discover and enjoy in that area. Neil has strong opinions about big subjects too, and his speeches and essays about things like the importance of libraries, the harm of censorship, making good art, and the crisis in Syria are here too.
Perhaps the pieces I liked the most were on authors and artists we both love, as it reminded me of conversations we used to have about such things in the early days of SANDMAN, when we were both getting to know each other and had the time. There are also entries on authors and artists I don’t know, which make me want to read or explore them.
I perused this over a long number of days, one or two entries per evening, and it was a delightful way to spend some time in the mind and words of a friend I rarely get to see, but one I feel I know even better now. As a rule, I am not a non-fiction reader these days, but this book is a wonderful exception.