Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beagle's Shorts

Peter S. Beagle: The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche and Other Odd Acquaintances (Tachyon Publications; 1997; ISBN 0-9648320-7-0; cover by Michael Dashow).

Made up of: Under the Zucchini (Patrica A. McKillip); Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros; Come Lady Death; Lila the Werewolf; Julie's Unicorn; The Naga; Pittsburgh Stories; Telephone Call; My Daughters Name is Sarah; Learning a Trade; My Last Heroes; D.H. Lawrence in Taos; The Poor People's Campaign.

Counts as thirteen entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

I recently received Mirror Kingdoms from Subterranean Press and was shelving it when I saw I had another collection by Peter S. Beagle...this one...and much to my embarrassment, I realized that not only did I have this collection but I had never read it.


So I sat down and read it. Overall, an amazing journey!

Beagle is known more for his long works (A Fine and Private Place, The Last Unicorn, etc.) than his shorter works. In fact, in the introduction to Mirror Kingdoms he talks about a very long dry spell for short works lasting years. So perhaps a can be forgiven for having overlooked this book.


What really struck me about most of the stories were the fantastical elements. Or, how unnecessary they are because Beagle just knows how to tell a good story. Take the first tale in the collection, Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros (cleverly retagged to give the title a name). Forget the rhinoceros/unicorn that can spout philosophy. Strip away that fantasy element. What is left? A very moving tale about a bachelor professor who moves through life affecting students and having a relationship with another professor where neither can move towards a commitment. Until it is too late. Good stuff.

Luckily for you, if you cannot find this collection (it is even autographed by the author, you putz, how could you forget about this book for years?), you might be able to find Mirror Kingdoms easily. Which I am now reading, so it does not spend more than a decade on my bookshelves. Putz.

FTC Disclaimer: Despite being a putz and having the book on the shelf for several years, I actually bought it. What a putz.

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