In what could have been, with a little more work, a tremendous insight and very poignant look back at a life affected and in some ways effected by a strong, early exposure to fantasy fandom, Gilsdorf produces in a manner of speaking two books in this volume.
In the first and admittedly more readable piece, he outlines in tones of sad nostalgia the affliction of his mother, his escape from that and his marginalization at school, and the repercussions he feels now in his forties at choosing the easier road of escapism over trying harder to be there for a mother who was at the same time both suffering and very difficult to love. He provides through carefully chosen and striking imagery a potent glimpse into awkward adolescence in the 1970's even for a reader who wasn't alive then or did not experience the same difficulties, and is at once both emotional and objective. In this former part, he shows the roots of his entrance into fantasy fandom and much of his sentiment about how it affected him. It is, in and of itself, a touching memoir.
The second part, hinted at when he first speaks of going off to college and growing up past the phase of Dungeons & Dragons and J.R.R. Tolkien and begun at full speed after the near-cathartic moment involving the blue cooler, is rather like listening to a tape on a machine that's running out of batteries. The narrative begins strongly, connected through Tolkien to the world of fantasy fandom at large, but steadily slowing down and dwindling in energy and enthusiasm to the end, by which time we're left with the unfortunate impression of a grown man playing with toys in the woods and growing continuously more pissed off that he can't get a decent girlfriend who shares his interests. The latter half of the SCA segment and more or less the whole convention trip are pretty much disconnected from the rest of the work by an incessant, almost nagging theme of "I can't bed a woman." I found this to detract tremendously from the original intent of the book. In addition to that, the final chapter places the author in New Zealand (a thoroughly beautiful place), a journey "to Middle-Earth" which should be the culmination of a great personal and emotional journey. However, the entirety of the trip feels tacked-on, as if Gilsdorf didn't feel like he had enough to finish his book yet, but really didn't have anything left to explore. More than anything, the end of the work reads like the author gave up, shrugged, and said in a resigned tone, "That's good enough."
My recommendation is to pick up the book, to be certain. Read the first part, where he touches on some things that are universal to humans who have survived childhood. Read the beginning of his quest, on the pub crawl with the Tolkien society, as some of the people he meets and their insights prove equally relevant and wide-reaching. Read his adventure into LARPing. If nothing else, it provides some eye-opening examination of a world I had joined the larger society in snubbing. And then stop.