Once before, I recommended in this LitStack feature a book I hadn’t yet read (Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook). Now I’m doing it again, but for a different reason.
I was excited to finally get notification that a copy of Neil Gaiman’s book of selected nonfiction work, The View from the Cheap Seats, was finally ready for me to pick up at my local library – I had requested the book back before it was published (May 2016) and it still took over six months before my number came up.
But once I started reading the book, I was torn. On one hand, I was quite excited, especially at the freedom it gave me. Right there in the Introduction, Mr. Gaiman wrote of the different essays, speeches and articles contained in the book, “You are under no obligation to read them all, or to read them in any particular order.” So I took him at his word. I scanned the Table of Contents, and jumped from one tantalizing entry to another.
Of course, one of the first things I read was the text of his fabulous speech “Make Good Art” that he delivered at the 2012 commencement ceremony at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, which still stands as one of my favorite motivational speeches of all time. Then I read an essay on libraries, then a memorial to Lou Reed. And with each entry I read, I got more and more reluctant to continue. Finally, I stopped, and resolved to return the book to the library before reading any further.
The reason? I was enjoying it too much. I wanted to have my own copy of this remarkable book. I wanted to be able to make notes, to annotate resonant passages, to maintain my own bookmarks that would remain in place until I accessed them again. I was loathe to give up what I had found, and return it back to public service. In this case, I have no problem admitting that I was selfish.
The book is that good. It’s something that can mean different things to different people, and all of them are personal, all of them are treasures. And that’s why I am confident that I can recommend this book without reading it – because each and every person that reads it is going to take away something special, something precious, something enduring.
Believe me, you’re going to want to read this book. You’re going to want to own this book. You’re going to love this book.