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We Never Talk About My Brother (2009)

by Peter S. Beagle

Other authors: Charles de Lint (Introduction), Jacob Weisman (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3221182,042 (4.14)18
The nine extraordinary stories in Peter S. Beagle's new fantasy collection are profound explorations of love, death, transformation, and the choices that define just who and what we are. ... [Includes] the recently rediscovered poem cycle, The unicorn tapestries.
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
We Never Talk About My Brother’ is the title story of this anthology by Peter S. Beagle. Some of the other stories herein include ‘Uncle Chaim, Aunt Rifke And The Angel’, ‘The Tale OF JUNKO AND Sayuri’, ‘King Pelles The Sure’ and ‘The Last And Only, Or Mr Moscowitz Becomes French’ all of which also appear in ‘Mirror Kingdoms: The Best Of Peter S. Beagle’, which I have already reviewed this month. I didn’t mention the story about a chap becoming French in that review but, while good, it is slightly too absurd for my taste. Nor did I review ‘Uncle Chaim, Aunt Rifke And The Angel’ again, because I did so when it appeared in ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science-Fiction but it is very good. Beagle doesn’t do bad. His range is from good to absolutely bloody marvellous.

That leaves me with only four stories to critique. ‘Spook’ is a Joe Farrell adventure. He’s the cook who featured in ‘Julie’s Unicorn’ and here finds a desirable new apartment haunted by a ghost who is convinced that Joe is his killer. As he was murdered over a hundred years ago, this isn’t so but spooks are stubborn even when wrong. It had me laughing out loud and is the finest thing here. If you ask me it should have featured in The Best Of Peter S. Beagle, but no one did ask.

‘The Stickball Witch’ is set in the Bronx in the 50s but has some universal characteristics or at least some common to western cultures and perhaps others. Every neighbourhood has that feared old person into whose garden children dare not tread, even to get the ball back. When the Stickball Witch comes out to join in the game, things get interesting. Especially nostalgic fun, no doubt, for those who share ‘Mr. Beagle’s New York’ origins.

‘By Moonlight’ is a tale of Oberon and Titania, the Queen of Faery. As, so often with Beagle, it is told to someone else, a highwayman in this case, by the person to whom it all happened, a Reverend in this case. On a lonely Yorkshire moor, the clergyman went wandering one night looking for his cat and wandered into the magic kingdom. The story was narrated in the usual seemingly effortless prose and passed the time pleasantly. I am unable to describe Beagle’s writing but it is so natural, so easy, so unforced that it seems to have come into being almost organically by itself. Even with the best of writers, you can see, occasionally, the craftsman at work, sometimes badly. A jerky transition, a bad simile, something will bring the writer to your attention. Beagle is invisible, perhaps because he uses his narrators so well.

‘Chandail’ the last story, is about telepathic sea monsters who get inside your head and play with your memories and make you cry. It is told by Lalkhamsin-khamsolal, an old lady now, who did not enjoy the sea monsters’ attention because her memories were mostly bad. She was sold into slavery as a child and raped. A moving revenge story with a lot of soul searching by the teller.

The problem for the purchaser of short story collections is to avoid wasting money buying the same ones twice. As mentioned, half of this collection is included in ‘Mirror Kingdoms: The Best Of Peter S. Beagle’ and, hand on heart, that is the better book, if only because it contains more of Peter S. Beagle. However, it is a limited edition and might not be available or affordable and you would miss out on ‘Spook’, which is marvellous. The canny reader will scour the contents pages of the various anthologies and decide which ones best fit the finances. Having read these two, I am sorely tempted to chase up every single word Peter S. Beagle has ever written and devour them at my leisure.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/ ( )
  bigfootmurf | Aug 11, 2019 |
I find short stories a little frustrating - too long for a T ride, too short to enjoy the story, but most of these were very good and who can resist a duel of bad poetry? ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
I continue to be impressed at Beagle's range; every time I read a story of his I think he must have spent decades honing his mastery of that particular subgenre, and then he goes on and writes something completely different. My favorites in this collection were "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel," about an angel who shows up one day insisting she's a painter's muse; "The Unicorn Tapestries," a poem cycle based on the famous works of art; "Chandail," a story about healing; and the title story, about good and evil and family. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Dec 4, 2016 |
Beagle is a writer of urban or contemporary fantasy (in the vein of Ray Bradbury) with a marked ability to shape ordinary life into the fantastic.
Author has won Hugo and Nebula awards (and deserved them). ( )
  librisissimo | Apr 25, 2015 |
Just wasn't in the mood this time. Even back when I read The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place, I had to get myself past Beagle's jokey class clown style narrator to appreciate his stuff, but then, of course, I was captivated. But that was a long time ago now. Maybe you can't go home again.

Still, I'll always have a place in my heart for American Fantastic. Steven Millhauser, Shirley Jackson, William Kotzwinkle, John Crowley, Charles Finney, Mark Helprin, Colson Whitehead, James Thurber (the fables). We need more fabulists.

...Actually, maybe I'm going to take that back. Looking at the list of contemporary slipstreamers that comes up as recommended on this page, I realize we may now have an overabundance of fabulists, each more twee or gothic or wtf than the last. And yet I'll bet you nobody'll be reading them in 50 years' time. I guess I'll stick with my old friends after all. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The first half of the collection are the strongest of the stories but each one is a beautiful song, each with it's own voice and tone. Beagle plays the classic themes of love and death, sacrifice and self-discovery like a master. Never clichéd, he pulls out new riffs and vamps on the expected conventions of modern fantasy, even the ones he helped create in the first place. With just the right notes he can describe an entire room, the people in it and the mood, all in a few perfect sentences. Pure poetry. Beagle is an American bard: He makes the tough guys weep and all the girls sigh.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter S. Beagleprimary authorall editionscalculated
de Lint, CharlesIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weisman, JacobEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berry, John D.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monn, AnnCover design and artsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The nine extraordinary stories in Peter S. Beagle's new fantasy collection are profound explorations of love, death, transformation, and the choices that define just who and what we are. ... [Includes] the recently rediscovered poem cycle, The unicorn tapestries.

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