Peter S. Beagle is one of a handful of authors who are absolute no-miss-wonderful for me. I'd try to make a sports or cultural icon analogy, but I am a book nerd at the end of the day. I read. I read a lot. I believe I have read (and reread) everything widely available which he's published. There are two things I've found to be true with Peter Beagle's oeuvre. 1)The books and stories are accessible, enjoyable, and readable for anyone and 2)the meanings and messages change subtly every time they're read. That's literally as close to magic as makes no difference, and I have absolutely no idea how he does it. I guess I don't honestly really want to know how he does it, because I'm afraid that, like most magic, it won't work properly if it's dismantled.
The Overneath is a collection of 13 stories, including two Schmendrick stories. I was so excited to be allowed to review the Overneath because Schmendrick (and The Last Unicorn) was really the watershed book for me growing up and between Peter S. Beagle and Madeline L'Engle I turned into a ravenous bookworm and never got better.
I therefore expected the Schmendrick stories to be central for me in the collection with 11 bonus stories which I expected to like, but not be blown away by. I am truly surprised that that wasn't the case. Oh, both of the stories are wonderful, and Schmendrick Alone has never been published elsewhere, but for me at least, they weren't the standouts in this collection. It's brutally difficult to pick three to concentrate on, but for me they would be:
Trinity County California: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You. Combining modern realism with dragons and drug control, this is a beautifully written gritty fable about monsters... and the illegal dragons they exploit.
The Way it Works Out And All. Avram Davidson, (yet another of my favorite authors) and Peter S. Beagle go road tripping interdimensionally together.
Music, When Soft Voices Die is a melancholy parable about pursuing a connection to the unknowable pain at the center of existence.
I lied, I couldn't quit at three... They all resonated deeply with me, but two more especially:
Great Grandmother in the Cellar is a wonderful creepy fairy tale about loyalty and family and Olfert Dapper's Day which gives some of the back story of one of the original catalysts for The Last Unicorn.
This is as good as it gets. Peter S. Beagle is an amazingly generous gifted storyteller and we're lucky that he has shared his stories with us.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.