- Paperback: 231 pages
- Publisher: Tachyon Publications; 1 edition (Aug. 25 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1892391368
- ISBN-13: 978-1892391360
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #212,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Line Between Paperback – Aug 25 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This story collection from fantasy legend Beagle offers a sublime mix of reprints and original works. "Two Hearts," the coda to his masterwork, The Last Unicorn, is a sweet, slight story sure to leave fans hungry for the novel's promised sequel. Yet even Beagle's lesser efforts contain delicate shadings and subtle prose. The brief selections grouped as "Four Fables" pay tribute to George Ade and James Thurber, while the tantalizing "El Regalo," a bittersweet tale of two Korean-American children with strange powers, deserves to be expanded to novel length. The volume closes with "A Dance for Emilia," which Beagle in his introduction calls "as autobiographical as anything I've ever written" (quite a statement from the author of the autobiographical I See by My Outfit). It is a tapestry woven of love, friendship, art and a very special cat. This book is a fitting tribute to a beloved author who one hopes has several more novels left in him. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* When Beagle's A Fine and Private Place (1960), a story of two ghosts in love, emerged virtually simultaneously with other brilliant debuts by Philip Roth, Reynolds Price, and Wendell Berry, he was hailed as one of their cohort of promising American novelists. The Last Unicorn (1968), however, disclosed him delving more deeply into fantasy (the unicorn is the protagonist, not a metaphor), and he was critically drummed out of the troop. He hardly lost his talent, though, and ever since Last Unicorn, one of the most beloved fantasies ever written, fantasy critics and readers have treasured his work, all the more so because he isn't prolific. For all their variety--four fables, a children's story for all ages, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, an old tar's tall tale, a sequel to one novel (Last Unicorn) and a prequel to another (The Innkeeper's Song, 1993), and the germ of a prospective witch novel--all 10 stories in this book are lucid and refreshing as spring water, full of amusement, humanity, and wisdom. Perhaps Beagle is incapable of writing genuinely dark fantasy, but his tall tale "Salt Wine" touches the tonalities of R. L. Stevenson in "The Bottle Imp" and W. W. Jacobs in "The Monkey's Paw," while on the other end of the spectrum, the Last Unicorn follow-up "Two Hearts" is like Kenneth Grahame's "Reluctant Dragon" with greater gravitas. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Beagle has won me as a fan, and I will be enjoying his stories for as long as I can read or re-read them!
He also doesn't write (or at least, publish) nearly enough. Yet here is a collection of short stories, all fairly recent, and many with their first publication herein.
The lead-off tale is a little charmer about a mouse who decides it's a whole lot better to live as a cat than a mouse, so he goes off to cat school, with some humorous and ironic results. Beagle's note to the story mentions that he hopes to turn this into a children's book in the manner of 'Charlotte's Web'. If so, this is a pretty good start.
The next story, 'Two Hearts' is a sequel to Beagle's best known novel 'The Last Unicorn'. I'm always leary when a writer returns to the world of a major work, years after that work's publication. In this case, it's been 38 years but Beagle pulls it off, returning many of the major characters from that novel and developing a new character that will lead into a new novel. Brillant, warm and hearttouching.
Next up are four fables, dealing with moths, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, ostriches and octopi. Funny stuff. In fact, Beagle is so good at this type of writing that one could easily see a complete book of such fables. Listen up, Mr. Beagle!! The world needs more bluejay stories.
Next is 'El Regalo, which deals with two Korean-American kids and their witchy abilities. Another good story that one can easily see expanded into a complete novel.
'Quarry' is a tasty prequel to Beagle's novel 'The Innkeeper's Song', which tells an early tale of one of that novel's major characters.
'Salt Wine' is the best story in the book (and that's saying something, considering that 'Two Hearts' is here too). An old sailor relates the horrific tale of his shipmate who saves a merman and is granted the merman's most cherished secret, the ability to make salt wine. The gift comes with a horrible price, however, that makes itself known in a quiet, understated fashion. This story ought to be in the running for a number of major awards next year. Very disturbing.
'Mr. Sigerson' is a Sherlock Holmes tale, related by a narrator who doesn't appear to like Mr. Holmes at all. There are tons of Sherlock Holmes knockoff stories out there but this is a good one.
The closer is 'A Dance For Emilia', a warm story of a dead man possessing his own cat so that he can leave one last message for the love of his life. Warm, tender and haunting, in the best sense of the word.
You're gonna love this book. Buy one for yourself and one for your best friend. You'll both be happy you did.
I'm going to start with Two Hearts because it was the reason I bought this book. Two Hearts is the sequel to The Last Unicorn and I plunged into it with reckless abandon, obviously wanting to return to that world. It didn't disappoint. In fact, when it was over, I didn't know what to do with myself; it touched me in ways not a lot of stories do and I was an emotional... well, not wreck, but let's just say I couldn't do anything for a while but hold the book in my arms while getting flooded by emotions that went beyond words. Two Hearts was achingly beautiful and funny and deeply sad all at the same, and how many stories can say that for themselves?
As for the rest of the stories...
Gordon, the self-made cat: incredibly fun story about a mouse who decides that he can be anything he wants and what he wants is to be a cat so he goes to Cat School to achieve his dreams. I want to read this story to my nephews so bad.
Four Fables: I can only speak highly about the last of this four fables -the first three, I didn't like-. So, The Fable of the Octopus, the fourth one, is one of the best short stories I have ever read. It's a deep, philosophical, witty, ironic, and funny story about the search of an Octopus for God. So good, I tell you.
El Regalo: great story about a an older sister and an annoying little brother who turns out to be a witch. Really funny, yet scary at the same time.
Quarry: this was the only story I didn't particularly like (besides the first 3 fables of the Four Fables). It is apparently about how two of the characters from The Innkeeper's Song met and maybe it is because I have yet to read that book, but I wasn't too engaged by the story. But, even so, the emotional depth Beagle achieves in some scenes moved me and I couldn't help but applaud him for his skill (and imagination).
Salt Wine: one of the stories that when I started reading it, for the first couple of paragraphs I wasn't too sure about it. It's written in first person and the way the narrator talked was a little annoying but then he started talking about mermaids and mermen, and I was caught up in his tale before I even realized it. And it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in this book.
Mr. Sigerson: ah, a Sherlock Holmes tale. Thoroughly entertaining and witty. I enjoyed it very much and it actually surprised me. Beagle did a good job with this one.
And the last one, A Dance for Emilia: the most autobiographical thing he was ever written, as Beagle puts it, born out of mourning for his closest friend, who died back in 1994. And as such, one of the most touching, even heart-wrenching stories of this collection, if a little unbelievable. But what can I say? How can a story born out of such sad and personal circumstances be anything but great in the hands of a man like Peter S. Beagle?
Something else to add: another thing I really love about his collection of stories are the little explanations he gives before each one about how it came to be. It adds a lot to the reading experience and it is always wonderful when a writer share the stories behind their stories.
All in all, great read, some good stories, some amazing stories, and genius writer. Go read them, now.