Mrs. Klapper shifted impatiently beside him.
“Rebeck, pardon an old woman, but are you laying an egg?”
I first discovered this book as a teenager obsessed with cemeteries- I loved the way cemeteries are a microcosm of their city/country, the myriad stories behind each stone, the melancholic romance and slight morbidity. I found that Peter Beagle loved cemeteries as much as I did, and gobbled down this first novel by our finest living fantasy writer, in which two ghosts fall in love in a cemetery while drifting toward the great forgetting of their mortal lives. It’s always dangerous to love a book so much as an impressionable teen- one’s memories sometimes don’t live up to present day tastes- but I’ve reread this title at least 3 times as an adult, in different decades, and find my fondness for it does not diminish. Laura and Michael are the two ghosts, one ready to leave behind all memories of earthly life and the other constantly grasping for those memories. Their non-ghostly friend Jonathan Rebeck is a gentle soul and failed pharmacist, who lives in a mausoleum and serves as a sort of guide and company for those on their way out of one world and into the next. Mr. Rebeck has a faithful companion in a talking raven who brings him food and news of the world and his life is fairly stable, until he meets the widowed Mrs. Klapper, and feels the siren call of the living. Beagle’s writing is imaginative, lyrical and richly creative. He combines wry humor and aching pathos, without ever becoming sentimental. Many people know Mr. Beagle for his second novel, The Last Unicorn, which deserves its own entry. It’s time to discover (or rediscover) his first novel, written when he was 19.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: A Fine and Private Place