Friday, June 4, 2010

We Never Talk About My Brother

We Never Talk About My Brother
By Peter S. Beagle

Tachyon Publications, 2009

If someone begins to tell you about the death of the short story, show him this book as a living proof that the story, genre or not genre, it does not matter, is alive and well.

In this collection, Peter Beagle, known more for his fantasy novels, presents nine new stories, each of them deserves the highest praise.

Starting collection with the most powerful story is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, knocking down after reading the first story, you certainly want to read the entire book, and the sooner the better. On the other, moving lower and lower in content, feel some bitterness - the other ones fail to reach the level of the opening story. Beagle broke the sword: his story «Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel» which opens the collection are the best, but if the remaining eight ones inferior to it, then not too much. At the very least, a sense of frustration does not arise. This story tells about the childhood of the boy whose parents leave him with his uncle and aunt. Uncle Chaim is the artist, and the boy all his spare time spends in his studio, watching as his uncle paints. One day, when the uncle works on a portrait of the wife of his friend in his studio an angel shows up. This is a woman, and she requested that Chaim paints only her and nobody else. His uncle is stubborn at first, but then agrees, despite protests from his wife. Angel is a perfect poser: she does not get tired and all day can sit in the same position, she does not need to eat and drink. But the boy's aunt Rifke still feels that something is wrong with this angel: the angel knows almost nothing about the life on the earth, but she is silent about life on the heaven. The aunt with Rabbi reveals the secret of the mysterious angel.

The narrator, a little boy, is largely Beagle himself , what he acknowledges in the preface to the story, because it is based on the memories of the author about his childhood in New York. And this is the boy, and not Uncle Chaim, Aunt Rifke or the angel, who in the final pages makes the reader wince. This audacious in its precision and accuracy in drawing the characters, and simultaneously very touching and melancholy story of humility and self-sacrifice.

Children but those who had matured became heroes of the second story in this collection, which gave the title to the entire collection - «We Never Talk About My Brother». Older brother Jacob and his sister no longer mention in the conversation of younger brother Esau, after one case in their childhood: little brother warns his abuser, that he would run off the car. The next day it happens. The path of Esau in his life was easy. But his older brother also has its own secret. A strong story about, it may sound corny, good and evil, where the worst is that good and evil are always brothers, one blood.

«The Tale About Junko and Sayuri» occurs in Japanese set. Junko hits the otter, after recovery, a beautiful girl. The former otter Sayuki and Junko marry, live happily and would live so always, if not envy of Junko. Slim and graceful story.
In the «King Pelle the Sure» King unleashes a war with hiss neighbors just for fun. This leads to dire consequences for him and his country. Anti-war story in which the humanistic message does not hurt the eyes.

In «The Last and Only, or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French », perhaps, the strangest story in the collection, ordinary man, whose native language is English, loses his "Englishness" and becomes - becomes a Frenchman. That's only he does not see anything French in other Frenchmen.

The easiest tale in the book turns out «The Stickball Witch». Boy games on the street often have not the most pleasant consequences: the ball for the game in stickball accidentally flies into the courtyard of one woman, long rumored that she was a witch. The witch, however, shows himself to quite unexpected side. It is more realistic story, but the atmosphere created by the author still makes change your mind in the direction of fantasy. (If you have not yet felt a sense of humor of Peter Beagle, the title of the story should have been convincing you in his presence: it sounds funny, “The Stickball Witch”, doesnt` it?)

The final in the collection are «By Moonlight» and «Chandail». They are, perhaps, too monotonous and verbose. «Chandail», taking place in the world of Beagle`s novel «The Innkeeper` s Song», so deeply dives (the story takes place into the sea) in the theme of memory, describing the fear of our past, that we have to hold our breath.

Beagle has shown himself not only a good novelist, but also the absolute master of short fiction. «We Never Talk About My Brother» means one thing: we wait for his new short stories.

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