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We Never Talk About My Brother
Peter S. Beagle
Tachyon Publications, 256 pages

We Never Talk About My Brother
Peter S. Beagle
Born in New York in 1939, Peter S. Beagle graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1959. His works include the novels A Fine and Private Place, The Last Unicorn and The Folk of the Air, as well as non-fiction books and the screenplay for the animated film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. The Last Unicorn became an animated film in 1982. He lives in Davis, California.

Peter S. Beagle Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Fine and Private Place
SF Site Review: The Line Between
SF Site Review: Giant Bones
SF Site Review: A Dance For Emilia
SF Site Review: Tamsin
SF Site Review: Giant Bones

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Peter Beagle's new collection, We Never Talk About My Brother, is a great way to introduce yourself to the fabulous work this wonderful writer has been doing these recent years. Beagle made his reputation, of course, with the magnificent 60s novels, A Fine and Private Place and The Last Unicorn, and cemented it work outside the field like I See By My Outfit and with later novels like The Innkeeper's Song. But he published relatively little short fiction (that including, mind you, the classic "Lila the Werewolf") and even his novels were sometimes years in the coming. But as of a few years ago, there has appeared a veritable flock of new stories -- stunning work. This book includes only stories dating from 2007 or later, and it's full of great stuff. And there's more where that came from -- from 2007, "Barrens Dancing," last year's lovely novelette "What Tune the Enchantress Plays," and from 2009 already I've seen "Vanishing,"

Two of these pieces are new to this volume. I particularly liked "By Moonlight," in which a highwayman in Shakespearean England happens upon an old clergyman who tells him a strange, sad, story of his love for the Queen of Faery. "The Stickball Witch" is closer to home, perhaps, about playing stickball in the Bronx in the 50s, and how an old lady whose yard swallowed "Spaldeens" reacts when the protagonist dares try to retrieve one.

As I said, the rest of the book is hardly older. Last year, we saw a first rate three story chapbook from Dreamhaven Books, Strange Birds. All three stories are here (though minus Lisa Snellings-Clark's excellent art). "King Pelles the Sure" is a profoundly moving story about a King who foolishly leads his country into war, and who tries to find haven then redemption in exile. "Spook" is more of a trifle, featuring Farrell (from "Lila the Werewolf") battling a ghost haunting his and his lover's new studio. And "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel" is a powerful tale of a painter commanded by a fallen angel to paint her, over and over, until finally we learn the angel's secret -- a terribly sad secret, resolved quite beautifully here.

The title story features brothers significantly named Jacob and Esau, and how Jacob deals with Esau's unhappy power to change the near past. In the end, we see that some people rend and some mend. "The Last and Only; or Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French" is an utterly charming tale of a man in California who slowly, but quite completely, becomes French -- indeed, more French than the French. "The Tale of Junko and Sayuri" is a Japanese-set fantasy, about a commoner who marries a shapechanger who schemes for his advancement -- at first a good thing (the man truly is worthy) -- but of course too much ambition is ever a cause of downfall. "Chandail" tells of a woman encountering the title sea creature, which cruelly (to the woman) communicates mentally by using memories -- memories she'd rather not have brought to mind. Her response is a different sort of cruelty. Beagle never fails to engross and also to center his stories on a true moral point without moralizing.

There is also a sequence of poems from the 70s, "The Unicorn Tapestries", much worth bringing to light. Beagle is a treasure, that's all there is to it, and each new story is a wonder, and this book is thoroughly worth reading.

Copyright © 2009 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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