Peter S. Beagle surprised me last night, reading a long short-story that felt like a memoir. It was a verbal tone poem, singing the tale of a boy on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah, studying with a patient rabbi who collects odd things: sugar packets and keys that have lost their locks.
"The Rabbi's Hobby" in Eclipse Two, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan, gets to its supernatural heart waaaay into the piece. The boy, Joseph, and Rabbi Tuvim become obsessed with a mysterious young woman on a 30-year-old magazine cover. Even though she is in the background, she is the most compelling person in the shot. Eventually, the pair discover a ghost and a lesson about love.
After the reading, Beagle said he has always been fascinated by the things he can't see, and his works reflect the intrusion of the fantastic into the mundane.
His approach to writing is to jump in, making up the story as he goes. "Somebody, I know, is telling me a story, and I have to get it down," he said.
He also talked about growing up in the Bronx within a family that included artists, musicians and writers. One of his uncles gave him this advice: "If the muse is late, start without her."
All I can say is I just hope she catches up with me...