Scoop of the e-e-evening: Tamsin

Cheesecake. Thick and velvety and rich—none of your ready-made graham crusts, no instant pudding, but four packages of Philly, whole milk, a real vanilla bean.

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Peter Beagle writes cheesecake.

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I had to take small bites the first hundred pages, or risk overwhelming myself. It has that much depth and flavor. Lines like, “All my insides would jump right up from a standing start, the way crickets leap up out of the grass.” He grounds the reader with astounding strength before trickling out boggarts and pookas. You nod, you accept them, and what’s more, you accept them into modern England.

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His similes are personal. Specific and personal, that’s the best I can describe them. No faces turning white as paper. Every simile is pulled from the story and takes you deeper into the story. Beagle’s prose is simply right. And his characters—they’re like Shakespeare’s Jews … when you prick them, they bleed.

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He had my willing suspension of disbelief the entire first half. Towards the end, I found it a little harder to take things seriously, but that first half, I was thinking, “What am I doing, reading this at night?!” The sense of history and age he breathes into the countryside is amazing. That’s not quite the right way of putting it—maybe, the sense of everything having a past, a long, full, rich past.

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Americans stopped thinking of our land as the New World ages ago, but glance through one world history book, and just watch our timeline shrivel. I don’t think people living in such a mewling nation can ever really grasp the ghosts other lands possess. What is 1776 to Celts, Chinese, Babylonians, Sumerians? I love traveling down that thought.

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Of course, Beagle’s worldview is very different from mine. I knew from the rough language at the start that we’re not the sort who would get along at parties—I may adore myths and legends, and ascribe much more truth to them than the common realist who views the world scientifically, but when it boils down to bits like this, I purse my lips and sigh. “We [says the Lady of the Elder Tree] was here when your Almighty woon’t but a heap of rocks and a pool of water. We was here when woon’t nothing but rocks and water. We was here when we was all there was."

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And so, I savored this book like a slice of cheesecake, but kept my wits about me. Voraciously enjoyed it, but didn't totally succumb.

7 comments:

Janet Rubin said...

What a great review, Noel! You could write these for magazines. What better compliment than for someone to say you "write cheesecake."

Erin said...

You write wonderful reviews.

Noel De Vries said...

It's easy to write rich reviews of a rich book!

Seriously, if you like dark, folklore-ish fantasy, you'll like Tamsin. Have you read it, Erin? It's Elzabeth Bunce's favorite book. That's where I saw it, on her bookshelf.

Erin said...

I haven't, but I want to now. :)

DebD said...

What a great review, you've definitely piqued my interest. I like myth/fantasy/legend type books too.

Hey, and I we share our last names (my maiden name). Its pretty rare for me to find another DeVries. Cool!

Noel De Vries said...

How cool, debd ... were your greats by any chance from Gronigan?? :)

DebD said...

Noel - IIRC, my paternal Grandfather came from Harlaam.

Sorry about those typing errors (ugh).