(Unofficially) Peter S. Beagle

I See By My Outfit

I See By My Outfit
by Peter S. Beagle

I See By My Outfit

I See By My Outift

I didn't really "get" this book the first time I tried it. I was fresh off of The Innkeeper's Song; and was expecting a biography or maybe some short stories. What I got instead was a two-hundred-plus page adventure, although I couldn't see it at the time.

A few years later, I read a review which used the description "travel literature" and thought "Of course! It's not a diary, it's not just a story, it's like a painting, or a song - a work of art unto itself!" Once I had dumped all of my other preconcieved notions of what this book "ought" to be, I enjoyed it very thoroughly. Zahorski also makes this analogy, of book to song, and in general has some nice things to say about the book in the scant two pages he devotes to it.

In 1963, at the age of 24, Peter left behind his home in New York, although not his beautiful Bronx vocabulary, and accompanied by his friend Phil Sigunick set out on an epic journey (on the motorscooters Jenny and Couchette) to San Francisco, where the beautiful Enid awaited her knight in shining roadgear. This is a true story, a patchwork of rememberances pulled together from Peter's (I'm sure) extensive trip notes. A good read overall, the book definitely pulls you into a feeling of "I wish I could do that / had done" etc. etc. (I must admit, part of my soft spot for this book is directly attributable to the fact that I got homesick from the scattered Yiddish and New Yawk references. Fuggedaboutit.) On the way, they interact with a strange selection of their fellow Americans, from the small-town-cops who are always questioning these bearded, disheveled travellers, to the friends and aquaintenances who give them shelter along their route, to the many small-town mechanics whose tools they are constantly borrowing to fix Jenny or Couchette, to the hookers in Las Vegas and the tourists everywhere. Oh, and they pass right through South Park, Colorado!

But the best part is the easy comraderie between Beagle and Sigunick as they make their way across the land. They have many roles that they drop into at the drop of a hat, such as the Lone Ranger and his Indian Sidekick, or the Grizzled Battle Commander and his Weary Yet Loyal Men. My best friend and I were naturally dropping into roles like these five minutes after we had met each other, and still do to this day, although we can't possibly hope to match the repertoire that Beagle and Siggy had going.

If you want a great picture of the United States as seen from its brownstone hotels, highways-with-no-tollbooths, all night diners, and makeshift campsites...

Or if you love a good buddy adventure, a la Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's "Road" Movies...

Or if you're just looking for one of the best-written pieces of literature out there...

Then perhaps you should give I See By My Outfit a whirl.

I See By My Outfit was originally serialized for Holiday Magazine as "A Long Way to Go".


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