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Folk of the Air Paperback – Sep 17 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Book Publishing (Sept. 17 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747230684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747230687
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,059,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Beagle's least-esteemed novel does not deserve much of the critical spleen that has been vented in its direction. To be certain, the novel falls down in a variety of ways, and it is not nearly as coherent or simply apprehensible a book as his The Last Unicorn or A Fine and Private Place (not that either of those books is all that facile, either).
Many reviewers savaged The Folk of the Air when it was first published, failing to see what is, or should be, obvious: the novel is a more interesting failure than most conventional successes. I have read many novels, both in and out of the fantasy genre, that cleave more closely to most people's expectations for "a good read," but I almost never feel compelled to reread them. Folk of the Air, on the other hand, is a tattered vade mecum that I want to loan to everyone I know (but dread losing for fear of never being able to return to its more sublime and wrenching characters and scenes).
What is the book about? I'll eschew banal summarization: Folk of the Air is about the joy and the danger of wearing masks and playing roles; about the vital part fantasy itself plays in all our lives; and about the melancholy that accompanies growing older, when the masks begin to crumble, the roles to seem shopworn, and the fantasy to pall.
And yet, Beagle suggests, to cast aside the irrational pleasures of role-play and magic-making is as tragic as clinging too fervently to them. We rightly fear being trapped underneath our disguises, he implies, but need them all the same.
The beauties of loss, of unrecoverable time, of regret, and of the noble, desperate denial of all of the above, permeate the novel.
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By A Customer on Dec 12 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is unmistakably written in Peter S. Beagle's style. It starts out with Joe Farrell returning to Avicenna, California, a town he has not seen in ten years. He has picked up a hitchhiker who tries to rob him. His method for escaping without surrendering his money or his life is the first hysterical thing about this book. All the characters in this book alternate from funny to serious (or, in the case of the second major character, Sia, from odd to odder). The things that are revealed in the book lead naturally to an ending that, as in The Last Unicorn, seems to solve nothing but is nevertheless a satisfactory ending. I'm hoping to find and read A Fine and Private Place soon, and anything else he has written.

There are only two things wrong with this book: once you read it, you have read one more thing that Peter S. Beagle has written; and it's too short.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant Failures, Part I Jan. 19 2000
By Scholar-Gipsy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Beagle's least-esteemed novel does not deserve much of the critical spleen that has been vented in its direction. To be certain, the novel falls down in a variety of ways, and it is not nearly as coherent or simply apprehensible a book as his The Last Unicorn or A Fine and Private Place (not that either of those books is all that facile, either).
Many reviewers savaged The Folk of the Air when it was first published, failing to see what is, or should be, obvious: the novel is a more interesting failure than most conventional successes. I have read many novels, both in and out of the fantasy genre, that cleave more closely to most people's expectations for "a good read," but I almost never feel compelled to reread them. Folk of the Air, on the other hand, is a tattered vade mecum that I want to loan to everyone I know (but dread losing for fear of never being able to return to its more sublime and wrenching characters and scenes).
What is the book about? I'll eschew banal summarization: Folk of the Air is about the joy and the danger of wearing masks and playing roles; about the vital part fantasy itself plays in all our lives; and about the melancholy that accompanies growing older, when the masks begin to crumble, the roles to seem shopworn, and the fantasy to pall.
And yet, Beagle suggests, to cast aside the irrational pleasures of role-play and magic-making is as tragic as clinging too fervently to them. We rightly fear being trapped underneath our disguises, he implies, but need them all the same.
The beauties of loss, of unrecoverable time, of regret, and of the noble, desperate denial of all of the above, permeate the novel. If you ever outgrew an imaginary friend, a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, or a madcap lover, Folk of the Air will resonate with the deep, painful places where you store your most cherished, vanished memories.
Please don't imagine that the novel is lachrymose or gloomy; Joe Farrell is at once hangdog and breezy, and Beagle's inimitable wit leavens the proceedings nicely. Of special note are Farrell's reactions to several of his "stupid" jobs, which must be read to be believed.
The supporting characters, from Ben Kassoy to Julie Tanikawa to poor, deadly Aiffe, are all well-drawn and compelling. And Beagle's language is as superb as ever: an exquisite tapestry of metaphor, precise diction, and wistful irony.
The ending is a dreadful mess, but that didn't stop Neuromancer from being a smash, now did it? (If you feel that you understand it perfectly, please don't mail me your insights. I agree with the sentiment expressed in Beagle's short story "Julie's Unicorn": perfect expression and understanding of an artistic subject can be a terrible prison. I can live with ambiguity.)
Folk of the Air is sadly out of print as of this writing; make it your personal quest to track a copy down. Save your newfound treasure for a beautiful autumn weekend; it's worth waiting until that most lovely and longing of seasons to start your journey to the Avicenna of myth and memory with Farrell and company.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Fantasy both funny and serious Dec 12 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is unmistakably written in Peter S. Beagle's style. It starts out with Joe Farrell returning to Avicenna, California, a town he has not seen in ten years. He has picked up a hitchhiker who tries to rob him. His method for escaping without surrendering his money or his life is the first hysterical thing about this book. All the characters in this book alternate from funny to serious (or, in the case of the second major character, Sia, from odd to odder). The things that are revealed in the book lead naturally to an ending that, as in The Last Unicorn, seems to solve nothing but is nevertheless a satisfactory ending. I'm hoping to find and read A Fine and Private Place soon, and anything else he has written.

There are only two things wrong with this book: once you read it, you have read one more thing that Peter S. Beagle has written; and it's too short.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fantasy about Fantasy. Dec 1 2007
By Mark Silcox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Here's what for me has always been the greatest paradox about academic life: in order to secure a position in the world for oneself that allows for the cultivation of a rich, colorful and sophisticated inner life, one's outer life has to be thoroughly routinized, riskless, and (at least in a certain sense, let's face it) pretty damn boring. Some professors who realize this belatedly do stupid things like sleeping with their students, making catastrophic investments of their savings or driving around in flashy sports cars. Others (more sensible and imaginative folks, in my book) join the SCA.

Beagle's book about the SCA is a wonderful, sympathetic but unsentimental expose of the people around universities who've adopted this eccentric way of life. He's a magnificent stylist and his characters are as complex and fully realized as those of any fantasy writer I've read, even including China Mieville. THE FOLK OF THE AIR also contains the best-portrayed dog in all of western literature, IMHO. The ending is shallowly pyrotechnical and many of the novel's central issues unresolved, but it doesn't ruin the fun.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Deserves to be reprinted Nov. 11 2002
By T. Traub - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Folk of the Air is a fantasy that I grew to love after two readings. Like all Beagle's novels, this one creates a world that is at once fantastic and humdrum, incredible and believable in a mixture that only a master like Peter S. Beagle can concoct.
The characters in this story have Beagle's trademark stamp of realism about them; you feel you know these people like your own family. How does Beagle do it? He manages to weave the petty details of day to day living into his stories in such a manner as to make his worlds come alive. The people seem too real for fiction, even though you know that the marvelous magic of this world is, sadly, all too missing from ours.
Anyone who has met the Society for Creative Anachronism will instantly recognize the behavior they encounter in this story; against the backdrop of medieval jousting tournament reenactments we meet a goddess, a man who can channel a Viking, and a talented young witch who gets dangerously involved with an evil spirit.
I can highly recommend this book and may some intelligent publisher pick it up and give it the distribution it deserves, that new generations of readers can discover Beagle's magic anew.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Folk Of The Air March 20 2007
By Chris Rickert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is by far my favorite Peter Beagle book (which is really saying something!)

Folk of the Air begins with Joe Farrell's return to Avicenna, California and an attempted robbery. Farrell has gone back to the town of his youth to stay with his old friend Ben and his unlikely companion Sia. Farrell is content with the strange dynamics in Sia and Ben's relationship, with their skittish dog, even with the house's windows, which defy counting properly.

The local League for Archaic Pleasures gives Farrell's on-again off-again lover Julie a place to dance and wear her beautiful period costumes, and Farrell a place to play his lute. The League also gives Ben a place to hide his "Egil" spells, the unpredictable swapping of his consciousness with that of a ninth century Viking. What starts to disturb Farrell is the obnoxious Aiffe, daughter of the League King who seems to have a little actual magic going on around her, and her disquieting friend Nicholas Bonner. When Farrell begins to piece together the odd occurrences surrounding Aiffe and Nicholas and can't get his friends to admit that something is wrong, he decides to solve the mysteries of the world around him no matter how much they resist being solved.

I love handing this book to people who refuse to read fantasy novels, because it's set in a very real world where a little magic has leaked in. The characters are richly realized but utterly believable, from their refusal to admit to what they have witnessed because it isn't logical to their quiet acceptance of impossible things that mold their lives. A newsletter I subscribe to asks authors what book they wish they could read again for the first time; I would chose The Folk Of The Air.

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