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A Fine & Private Place Paperback – May 28, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications (May 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391469
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Conversing in a mausoleum with the dead, an eccentric recluse is tugged back into the world by a pair of ghostly lovers bearing an extraordinary gift--the final chance for his own happiness. When challenged by a faithless wife and aided by a talking raven, the lives of the living and the dead may be renewed by courage and passion, but only if not belatedly. Told with an elegiac wisdom, this delightful tale of magic and otherworldly love is a timeless work of fantasy imbued with hope and wonder. After multiple printings since 1960, this newest edition will contain the author's recent revisions and will stand as the definitive version of an ageless classic.

Questions for Peter S. Beagle

Jeff VanderMeer for Amazon.com: When you were writing A Fine and Private Place, did you have any idea it was going to have such staying power?

Beagle: No. Not at all, of course. When I was 19 years old I never thought in terms of classics or being permanently around. I'd known enough writers, even at that age, to see that what happens to your work is so far out of your control you simply can't afford to let that kind of concern enter your thinking.

Amazon.com: The publisher asked you to remove four chapters from the book. At the time, did you agree with the decision? Have your feelings about it changed over the years?

Beagle: At the time I was outraged. I fought every step of the way, and every sentence. Today I'm inordinately grateful to Marshall Best, the editor who did that. Marshall is long gone, so I just hope that back then I had sense and courtesy enough to say thank you. But I don't think I realized fully what his effect on the book had been until many years later. If it weren’t for him I don’t think the book would still be in print. He's also the one who came up with the title and the allusion to those marvelously appropriate lines from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"--I'd originally called the book The Dark City, after the way that Jonathan Rebeck saw the graveyard. Titles, sad to say, have never been my strong suit. Most of my best have actually come from friends or editors.

Amazon.com: To what extent are any of the characters in A Fine and Private Place autobiographical? I ask because the detail work in the novel, especially with regard to older people, seems so fresh and free of cliche.

Beagle: I think that A Fine and Private Place is very nearly, though not quite, my first attempt to capture the voices in the Bronx neighborhood where I grew up. Nobody is based on any one person, but there’s a piece here and a piece there was useful. I hung fire on creating Laura Durant, when it came time to bring her into the story, until I decided to base her physically--not emotionally, but physically--on a Pittsburgh actress I was in a play with. I just didn't know enough young women in those days. And there are scenes in there which people from the old neighborhood would recognize--when Mrs. Klapper goes into the Wireman's grocery, that is very much the little store on the corner across from my house. Yet even there I mixed things up. I think what keeps the book fresh isn't the fantasy, but the fact that I was trying very hard to make it real. To make the voices real. In the end it is always the voices, for me.

Amazon.com: Your books have, over the years, resonated with readers everywhere. Have reader reactions or opinions changed the way you think of the books?

Beagle: Only in the sense that they sometimes make me go back and look at them. When you do this writing thing day by day, you don't do a lot of reflecting on your own relationship to the old work. What does get me, though, is just how much the books have actually influenced the real lives of real people in ways I couldn't imagine. That’s enormously touching for me.

Amazon.com: One of my favorite moments in your fiction is when the true Medieval infringes on the fake Medieval in The Folk of the Air. You manage to convey a real sense of the alien perspective--a sense that if we were to travel back in time, we might find our ancestors as hard to understand as we would creatures from outer space. Did you research your way into that moment and that effect, or...?

Beagle: I've thought about it a lot, having read a great deal of history (my father was a history teacher). And there are fiction writers out there who are so good at bringing the literal stink of a certain period into your nostrils as you read...well, for me they are intimidating, because there are novels I'd like to write based on certain historical events that I'm just not sure I could. In the case of The Folk of the Air I did a lot of research, from many angles, because the real group that my imaginary one was based on didn't limit itself to a narrow span of time, but rather built characters and personas out of events as far back as the Viking era and as recent as 1650. And the history as presented in their gatherings wasn't necessarily the most accurate. So on the one hand I was trying to go for a certain sense of the real, when it does come, in contrast to some fanciful, semi-informed imaginings.

Amazon.com: What are you currently working on--and where should we look for your short fiction in the next year or so?

Beagle: In terms of short fiction, I've got a chapbook coming out from Dreamhaven Books early in 2008 called Strange Roads, with three stories inspired by the art of Lisa Snellings-Clark. There are also six or eight pieces of short fiction appearing in various original fantasy anthologies, magazines, and fiction websites, and I'm working on a quartet of season-themed stories that will premiere not in print, but as podcasts. That last set is for a wonderful little website called The Green Man Review. They did a whole special issue about me and also named me their official Oak King this year, so it's the least I could do. In terms of book-length work, 2008 is going to be absolutely crazy with original books and reprints. Just crazy. There are a couple of new novels finally coming out, a manga-style graphic adaptation of The Last Unicorn, several new collections, and at least two nonfiction books. I can hardly keep track of it all myself, so the best way for anyone to stay up to date would be to visit my website or Conlan Press, or just sign up for my free email newsletter, The Raven. Whatever else I might think about being 68, the simple fact is that I'm busier than ever. It's like George Burns used to say: "I can't die--I'm booked!"

Review

"I can't think of a better book to buy for someone you love this holiday season."
Omnivoracious.com

“One of literature’s most beautiful works about ghostly times and places...told with wit, charm, and a sense of individuality.”
New York Times Book Review

A Fine & Private Place is just as wonderful as I remembered it to be: beautifully written, the characters warmly drawn, the pages filled with conversations that run the gamut of the human condition.... It’s a great book in a lovely affordable package.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“Both sepulchral and oddly appealing.... [Beagle’s] ectoplasmic fable has a distinct mossy charm.”
TIME Magazine

“Delightful!”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A sweet, sad, and smart novel about life, death and love...a book that has endured for a reason.”
The Agony Column

“A wonderful work of literature...a gem of a novel.”
BookLoons

“Over a cold beverage and a hot bowl of chili, Peter Beagle recently told me how he came to write A Fine & Private Place. He was just nineteen years old at the time, the length of time that Mr. Rebeck spent in that cemetery. He was working as a counselor at a boys’ summer camp. Once the campers were settled for the night there wasn’t much for the counselors to do. Those who had sweethearts at the girls’ camp across the lake would borrow canoes and paddle across to see them. Peter had no such luck, he told me, so he warmed up his rattly little portable typewriter, cracked open a ream of paper, and starting writing a book. We are all incredibly lucky that Peter had no girlfriend that summer.”
—Dick Lupoff, SF Site

“An amazing read.... If fantastically developed characters trapped between love and death appeal to you, this is a nearly perfect book.”
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Beagle's writing is sublime, his imagination seductive.
Kathy Phillips
This is well written, with interesting characters- if you buy a talking raven and a man living in a mausoleum for 20 years without being noticed by the living.
GeoUtah
The story itself plods along at a slow pace, with very little action to speak of.
L. Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By G in Ohio on January 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
I used to read this book at least once a year, although recently I've been too busy. But I'm about to start up again. This is a wonderful look at life and death, of people who are afraid to live and people who are afraid to die, and how in many ways they are the same fear. It is also a delicate romance, but not in the mushy or "romance novel" sense. It doesn't have the action and the sweep of some of Beagle's other books, but it has the depth and the heart.

It doesn't plod, as the other reviewer said, but it is lovely and slow, written in the smooth and elegant prose that is the hallmark of Beagle's best work. Was he really only 19 when he wrote it? You know a great book by Beagle when you never want it to end, and this is one. It isn't like any other book, so I can't compare it to anything. Read it.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By L. Wilson on June 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I loved Peter Beagle's novel "The Last Unicorn," so when I came across this book I thought I'd give it a try. Beagle's genius is in his language, using similies and metaphors with superb art, and never once sounding pompous. It is like having a conversation with a wizened old friend. This feeling is as evident here as in his most popular novel.

The story itself plods along at a slow pace, with very little action to speak of. You feel much like the main characters of the story; recently deceased with very little to do but sit around and wax philosophical. It is a highly unique piece, with a different take on the afterlife. The novel will certainly leave you pondering your owns views about life after death, as well as contemplating the preoccupation the living have with the dead.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amalthia on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This gothic story follows several characters, such as a man who has withdrawn from the outside world and now lives in a graveyard, along with newly deceased ghosts and a no-nonsense raven. Very dialogue heavy and thought provoking, providing different perspectives on what life and death mean to different people. You will be touched by this story while pondering your own existence and actions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Lilyne on August 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have never read a Peter Beagle book that I did not fall in love with. My very favorite being "Folk of the Air". His style is unique, ironic, and beautiful. "A Fine and Private Place" is one of the true masterpieces of this age.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Chapin on March 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
Been reading Peter S. Beagle ever since he wrote magazine articles; fell in love with the Last Unicorn and wished he'd asked me to illustrate it, and A Fine & Private Place is another one like that. I've never spent any time in New York, but the characters ring true, and the story is wonderful.

Authors are supposed to get better with age, and Beagle, for my money, has gotten uneven instead(I had a hard time forgiving him for a couple of his short story collections, not to mention the book about the cat). But in this book he does not dip into maudlin nor stretch your credulity until it tears (Folk of the Air does both several times, although it too is a good story and well told). This is pure, vintage Beagle with a great story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Misty W on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's been revised? How can Peter S. Beagle improve on perfection? I read this book first over 25 years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. I think of it randomly several times a year and have read it several times. It's one of the few that I have read that I can always think of the title and author when it enters my thinking or a discussion I'm having. If you haven't read it, do yourself the favor, but set aside plently of time to devour it in one fell swoop because you will not want to put it down. Now I guess I'll have to read the revised version because I have to know how Beagle might have managed to improve on this wonderful, beautiful, exceptional story! It will certainly be MY PLEASURE!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Phillips on August 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I dare anyone to read the first two paragraphs and not be completely entranced. I did, at the University of Rochester Book Store in the late 1960s, and I've bought more than a dozen copies since. Beagle's writing is sublime, his imagination seductive. And while I've been a fan of science fiction since childhood, I'd never have said I liked fantasy, but this may be the exception. Perhaps it's not fantasy but metaphysics? While it is hard to describe this book in a paragraph, it's certain to grab your fancy and just not let go.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Johnson on September 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
If they haven't already made a movie out of this book, they should. I loved this story of love in the afterlife. Beagle is one of my favorite authors.
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