And Then I Read: I SEE BY MY OUTFIT

iseebymyoutfit

© Peter S. Beagle.

I read Peter Beagle’s fantasy novel, “The Last Unicorn” when it was published by Ballantine Books in 1968, and his earlier novel “A Fine and Private Place” when they published that in 1969. I loved both. I continued to buy Beagle’s infrequent fiction whenever I saw it, and loved it all. There was one book title listed on the inside front of that first paperback I was never able to find, though, and it’s this book. Not fiction, but an entertaining and beautifully written travelogue of a cross-country oddysey by Pete and his friend Phil on motorscooters in the early 1960s. This is not “Easy Rider.” This is two young Jewish guys from New York on motor scooters. Yes, they have adventures, but they’re not terribly dangerous ones for the most part. Much of the book focuses on their friendship, friends they visit, and strangers that befriend them along the way. It’s a tale of foolish youth, in some ways: they leave in April, and never get warm for weeks. They have lots of mechanical problems, little money, and are full of puppydog innocence that somehow gets them through every problem.

Much of the book reminded me of my own youth and early friends. The time period is a little earlier than my own adventures away from home, but the feel is similar. The early sixties by date, but in much of the country, it’s still the 1950s in most ways. Pete and Phil are a great pair, both funny and charming and irritating by turns. Their trip is, as many are, a voyage of discovery, a coming of age, and a memorable experience. Beagle gets all that down perfectly in his prose. If you’re a Beagle fan already, you’ll love it. If not, I think you’ll enjoy this book and want to read more by him. Highly recommended.

4 thoughts on “And Then I Read: I SEE BY MY OUTFIT

  1. Kurt Busiek

    A brilliant book. It was the first Beagle I ever read; I picked it up at random in my local library when I was about 12; it was mysterious, charming and befuddling to me. After reading A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, I didn’t realize that the two books were by the same author for years.

    He has a new short-story collection out, WE NEVER TALK ABOUT MY BROTHER, in the event you weren’t aware of it. [Actually, it’s out even if you are aware of it, but of course you wouldn’t need to be told.] It’s full of great stuff, as might be expected.

  2. Connor Cochran

    The two-night show last summer in Wurtsboro, NY was the first time Peter and Phil had played together in public since a 1964 Berkeley gig where they opened for Tom Paxton. They had so much fun that they are talking about doing it again this year, possibly adding some appearances in Manhattan and definitely scheduling more time to practice…

    Thanks for the kind words about OUTFIT, Todd. I’ll pass them on to Peter. (It’s one of my favorite books, too.)

    — Connor Cochran

    p.s. to Kurt Busiek — once upon a time you were mentioned to me as a possible adapter for a graphic novel version of A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, by a company that said they wanted to do it. The interest proved abortive, however. If I can get that rolling again somewhere, might you be interested?

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