Peter S. Beagle, because

My personal goal of updating Wednesdays is not having a good track record so far. I wonder if I’ve limited myself too much with the narrow subject matter. I don’t often know what to write. Well, I’ve been reading and re-reading Peter S. Beagle a lot this summer. I’ve gone on a Beagle binge, so to speak. So I will write about my relationship with Beagle’s writing.

Beagle was one of my favourite authors before I’d read any of his books or knew his name. You see, (horribly embarrassing confession time!), as a young girl, I was obsessed with unicorns. Honestly, I still am.. I’m just more defensive about it. (They have frickin’ weapons on their heads. Seriously.) And Peter S. Beagle is the genius behind The Last Unicorn, which remains one of my favourite movies.

The book is obviously better. I’m somewhat glad I never read it until I was a teenager, because when I was younger, I found Beagle hard to get into. His prose is poetic, lyric. It’s chewy. There’s a lot there. As a child, I never would have understood the gentle humour, the soft way Beagle makes fun of his story and characters while remaining serious and true to them. I would have missed half the references. I think the movie is perfect for children, summing up the more adventurous parts, while the book is for adults, with its references and its philosophy.

Beagle, of course, is not just The Last Unicorn. Hardly. He wrote many books and short stories. And I read somewhere that he considers The Innkeeper’s Song to be his favourite of his works. I find this interesting because while there are many things I love about The Innkeeper’s Song (namely the poem), I wouldn’t rate it at the top of my favourite Beagle works list. It is a beautiful book. I just don’t think it approaches The Last Unicorn in that strange misty magic, or A Fine and Private Place for its perfect simple humanity (that covers the raven and the ghosts). The construction of The Innkeeper’s Song reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—not at all in content or style, but in that almost sloppy artistic way, where the story rambles here and there and while it makes several points or touches several themes, it doesn’t feel wholly unified. A piecemeal story, where the creator is stumbling over pieces of the world as it is being written. I’m finding the stories in Giant Bones, a book of short stories set in the same world, much more polished, and, honestly, more riveting.

At the moment, I’m reading Tamsin. 30 pages in, and I’m hooked like there’s no tomorrow. (Why aren’t I reading it right now? I’m being attacked by a swarm of biting writerbugs.) In 30 pages, the protagonist is stuck moving to England with her mother. That’s all. And yet it’s not. It is the perfect example of show, don’t tell. It’s the perfect example of just why details are so important to a story. Because they’re quirky. They’re interesting. The protagonist describes her world so vividly that you can’t help but be interested, despite the fact that technically nothing’s happened yet. The image that stands out the most for me is the protagonist walking into the kitchen to see her mother chewing on a carrot. That’s the reason I’m falling madly in love with this book, 30 out of 335 small-print pages in. A mother eating a carrot. The author who can do that must surely be the best magician in the world.

So, Peter S. Beagle. His writing, as I’ve said, is lyric and poetic. It jumps off the page with quirks and curiosities. And yet it is often softly delivered. He can make you believe anything. Sometimes, when I read Beagle, I feel there’s a voice whispering or softly singing the stories into my ear. Intimate, quiet, but powerful. I don’t often Beagle the easiest writer to read, because his stories demand attention. But they are so very rewarding.

~ by ambergor on 02/07/2010.

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