Welcome to Day Three of the Peter Beagle Interview!
Peter is the Hugo-award winning author of the strongest and most memorable fiction in the English language! His The Last Unicorn became an animated feature and has recently been turned into an audio book. If you love good writing, treat yourself and read some of Beagle’s work!
Joy: You’ve been telling me about a number of the animals that youve known in the past. The cats, the dog. Whats the one thing you would say, or encourage people to learn, from that? Or that you have learned from that?
Peter S. Beagle: Cant say about encouraging people everybody takes what he or she knows he needs. I always think of Walt Whitmans poem, I think I could turn with animals, turn and live with animals.” You know, they’re so quiet and self-assured. They do not lie awake at night and sweat over their sins, they do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, they’re not infected with the mania of owning things. Not one kneels to another over the whole earth. The thing ‘Ive always admired about animals is their understanding of who they are. The pleasures sometimes seen that even a cow will take in being a cow, whether its scratching an itch, or, two old horses standing out in the pasture, not doing anything, just standing head to tail, keeping each other company. And not needing anything more right then than each others shade and each others tails to swish away the flies.
JW: How does that make you feel?
PSB: I think about that a lot because there’s a guitarist I admire enormously named John Knowles. Hes a very nice man and a splendid guitarist. There are better guitarists, I suppose, at this Nashville convention I go to every July, but I remember watching John, thinking okay, there’s no way in the world even if I devoted 24 hours a day to it, that I could ever play like Buster Jones, or my friend Guy Van Duser, but maybe, if I worked really really hard, and brought the concentration to music that I do to writing, maybe I can kind of play like John.” Immediately afterwards I think no, we play who we are.” John is possibly the most peaceful man I’ve ever known, and it comes out in his music. I just like listening to John. I feel better, but its him coming out through the music his happiness with his wife, his two children, with what hes doing. This is a guy with a doctorate in physics, who worked for Texas Instruments in Texas, then he took a flying leap and got his wife to go on the trip with him. They took a trip to Nashville to see if John could make it as a musician and he did make it as a musician, and has been doing it ever since. Hes still there, playing, arranging, composing,
JW: Connect the dots for me just a little bit, between John Knowles and the two horses standing in the field.
PSB: So they’re a little different in the sense that the horses see things in their lives, you know, being cared for; while John is still making things, still composing music, now being a grandfather. The horses are peaceful because, at this small end of their lives, they don’t really have to deal with human beings, they can just be old horses together. With John its different, doing what hes supposed to do, the knowing that this is what hes supposed to do. There’s a spiritual I quote from a lot. It hit me when I was quite young. Its a song that personifies death as the man going around taking names, and there’s a verse that really struck me that goes never let him catch you with your work undone.” I took that very seriously. I still do. The other day a very serious dancer named Catherine Dunham died at 96. I never met her, but I saw her dance when I was a boy, when she still had her company. I saw her in old movies, and I knew people who had studied and worked with her. When I heard that she died my first reaction was, well, she got her work done.”
Thank you Peter! I hope you’re with us a long time getting your glorious work done!