The Overneath

Author: Peter S. Beagle
Published: 2017

I always love reading Beagle’s work. I find there’s always something inside the pages that sparks an idea or a creative impulse within me. And I generally find that he has provided answers to problems I’m currently experiencing. I don’t even know the author and he’s providing answers and solutions to my everyday mundane problems, and ones that are beyond the scope of what a book should provide. I feel so good after reading any of Beagle’s works even when I want the ending to turn out in my favour, I understand why he writes the endings that he has. Any other way, and it would be a let down to the reader. A momentary let down is far greater than an ongoing let down forever tarnishing the glow of the book. I’ve only selected two of the thirteen short stories from this collection to review; ones that stood out for me and paired extremely well with the tea I chose.

We begin with a back-story of Schmendrick the Magician, The Green-Eyed Boy. You’d think you were about to read a story about jealousy but you’d be mistaken. It’s about a boy with “a perfectly unremarkable face…”, the one and only beloved mishap of a magician famous for turning the last unicorn into the Lady Amalthea and back again. This story provides the back fill required to understand who, what, when, where, of Schmendrik’s formative years. When I started reading this book, I was sipping a flavoured green tea called Coconut Calypso. An unremarkable tea; it has the green tea taste and mouth-feel to it but no hint, or even an after taste of coconut. There is a slight coconut smell to it but nothing powerful enough to even change the tea. Hmm… sounds a bit like our unremarkable magician. It’s a shame that the tea, which such a fantastic, exotic name is such a let down because Schmendrik does become powerful at the end of the Last Unicorn. Regardless of his fate later in life, it’s the early history we’re concerned with and Beagle writes with such each and grace a character destined to learn from his failure even if those failures occur again and again. I can see parallels with my tea selection. I’m always hoping that the tea will yield its tropical fruit sweetness but I’m always let down. Coconut has always been a flavour and taste that has quenched my thirst, but paired with green tea, it leave my mouth dry and wanting more. In this regard, Beagle captures Schmendrik’s early years by giving us just enough but not nearly enough to quench the thirst. I highly suggest reading this short story and pairing it with the Coconut Calypso. You will be let down by the lack of strong, bold coconut flavour but after finishing the story you’ll come to appreciate that anything stronger would overpower Schmendrik’s failures and make him look more like a dunce then he actually is.

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The other story, Great Grandmother in the Cellar, was a surprise I didn’t know I would like. I was waiting for it to turn into a horror story a la Stephen King, or at least something morbid and depressing, but of course I should never doubt Peter S. Beagle! It is such a strong story in so few pages that only a strong tea would suffice for the reading. I was shocked that I still had at least three quarters of tea remaining in my cup. The story goes by that quickly! The tea I chose, Turmeric & Spice, generally has a bitter after taste if left to steep too long. In this case, I disregarded my natural inclination towards two and a half minutes and let the leaves steep for about a minute or so. I was in a hurry to get back to the book, after all, and couldn’t wait any longer. My complaint with the story is that I wanted more history about the characters, not just great grandmother but all of the characters leading up to the opening paragraph of finding the sister in a coma. I know Beagle can add so much more depth to these characters, it’s a shame the story is only 20 pages long, however, Beagle does have a magical way of making the story complete without providing massive amounts of information. The tea as well has its only unique depth that can be overpowering if steeped too long. In this case, me rushing to get back to my chair provided me with a perfectly balanced spicy flavour to match the spectacularly otherworldly story. Anything less and I feel the story would be a disappointment.


The tea’s I drank

  • Coconut Calypso – Steeped Tea, Green Tea
  • Turmeric & Spice – Steeped Tea, Black Tea