The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I – Peter S. Beagle

The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I

The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I

Summary

A collection of fantasy stories by Peter S. Beagle.

Review

In my review of Peter Beagle’s Summerlong, I mentioned that perhaps I should go back to his short stories and try them again. In this and the successor volume, I’ve had the chance to do just that, including specifically re-reading two stories I’d seen previously, “Lila the Werewolf” and “Come, Lady Death”.

I said previously that I was unimpressed by Beagle’s short stories, and that remains true of the two mentioned above – the ones I had read before. I was pleasantly surprised by several others. I know little about Beagle’s career, but I was surprised by how many of these stories are relatively recent – something I usually find suspect in an ‘essential’ collection – indicative of padding or an attempt to get some attention to later work by stacking the deck with some classics. In this case, however, the later stories were the ones that caught my attention.

The stories are generally low key – somewhat contemplative, somewhat conversational – and I think I could safely say that Beagle is a master of the conversational story. Many of these also lean toward reminiscences, and effectively.

My favorite stories:

  • notableEl Regalo” – A young girl’s brother is a witch and gets into trouble. Beagle says he’s interested to expand this story, and I hope he does. While it works nicely at this length, the characters are engaging, the tone perfect.
  • notable “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and The Angel” – A grouchy painter is blessed/cursed by an angel turning up to be his muse. A really nicely done story from a young boy’s point of view.
  • notable “We Never Talk About My Brother” – The narrator’s brother is a big success, but maybe not deservedly. The first story in the collection that struck me that wasn’t from a young person’s point of view. A touch long, but effective.

As noted, several of the stories are from a child’s point of view, and they’re among the most effective. The more adult stories tend to run a bit on the long side (and especially the closing story, “A Dance for Emilia”), but many of them also work well. Despite my initial reservations, a good introduction to the short work of a talented writer.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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