I See by My Outfit by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am not really a camper, especially in my old age, I am not inclined to sleep on the ground. I like my bed, indoor plumbing and internet access. Having said that, there is something appealing about being a free spirit and taking a cross country trip on a motorcycle, and live a happy carefree life, even if just for a few weeks.
This book is not a self help book in disguise like so many of these books tend to be. It really is just a story about Peter Beagle and his best friend Phil making a cross country trip to see a girl. The story is mostly about the people they meet along the way. Beagle does not spend a ton of time on any one person, but manages to convey what each persons life is like anyway. All of the people depicted were shown as likeable in some way, I would suppose this is more of a reflection of the time then probably the actual character of the people. In the early 60's life was different and our expectations of other people were different. Mothers taught their children that if you could not say something nice about someone don't say anything at all, and I think Beagle took this to heart while writing this book.
Many of the characters were outright racist, both Peter and Phil were very tolerant of this, even being Jewish themselves, they accepted even anti semitic statements, with a sort of blasé attitude. Beagle. in spite of this, still painted there people in the best light possible, which says more about Beagle's kind heart than anything else. His depiction of Jilly, the hooker from Los Angeles was an interesting one. On the one hand, she was depicted as this person who had lived and adventurous, if criminal life, who was maybe a good person under it all. However as Beagle tells her story, you come to realize that she really is not a good person, not particularly evil, but willing to do what it takes to survive. Jilly is probably the most interesting character outside of Peter and Phil in the book. Beagle also spends the most time on her.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, it is not an action adventure story by any means, it is just a slice of real life in 1962 America. It reminded me why I like to travel and I don't really mind driving across the country, as long as I have someone fun to share the experience with.
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