Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Fine and Private Place - a book and an anxiety attack, RIP VI reading....

A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle is not the normal sort of ghostie/ghoulie horror story that would incur a nightmarish anxiety attack.  But it did for me.  On the surface, this is a sweet ghost story - it's slow and meandering and wonderful to read on a warm autumn day with golden sunlight falling all around you.  It's the story of Michael Morgan, newly deceased and waking up as he is buried.  It's the story of Laura, who is buried two weeks later.  It's the story of Mr Jonathan Rebeck, who has hidden in the cemetery for almost 20 years, subsisting on food a raven brings him.  Rebeck is a living man, he can talk to the raven, and he can also talk to ghosts. Why he's hiding out, and what happens to him, is as much fun to watch as what happens to Michael and Laura as they share the experience of being dead together.  It's a sweet story full of love and gentle wisdom about death, and the more I read it, the more I enjoyed it. Except.......

Except I woke up the night that I finished reading the book, in a panic attack.  I'd had a dream that my eldest son was going on a trip to Thailand - a gap sort of trip - and I was worried about his job, if it would be waiting when he came back.  I woke up at this point and felt terror seize me.  I'm going to die and fade away like the ghosts do in A Fine and Private Place! I thought.  It's my worst nightmare, it's a fear that I've struggled with for many years while I searched out my spiritual faith.  For a moment or two I was frozen, seized with horror because I absolutely dread the idea that we don't exist after death.  I had to tell myself it was ok, that it's not what I believe - I believe we continue on in some way after death, that our spirit does come from something and goes somewhere afterward.  I will admit that in A Fine and Private Place, how the ghosts talk about how most of the dead simply go to sleep and drift away until nothing of them remains seems peaceful, and then I remember that it's one thing to read it in a book, it's another to contemplate as reality for you and me here.

In a funny kind of way, A Fine and Private Place helped me heal where I still had some work to do around this area. I have had incidents over my life that have shown me that there is a 'me' that goes on, and it was putting this belief to the test with the fear that made me realize that it's ok, that both beliefs can exist.  Some people think there isn't anything after death, that this is all, and then there is the long darkness.  Some people like me think that there is much more to life than this, that this is one important stage in life, but that the spirit exists beyond and through this, that the universe is spirit and that we do continue on after.

It's funny what reading ghost stories and horror can make one understand about one's self, sometimes!

And despite my waking fear, I really enjoyed A Fine and Private Place.  It's sweet and gentle, and filled with unexpected tenderness about life, and wondrous thoughts about how a ghost might want to try to remember what it's like to be alive.  It certainly makes me appreciate all I can do just by being here, in this moment, feeling the wind blow, waiting for the rain to come, enjoying the windows open on one of the (probably) last warm evenings of the year.  It's harder to warm up to Jonathan Rebeck - I really wanted him to stop being so afraid! - and wanted a little more of the raven, who was very interesting.  I really like how Michael and Laura fight to stay ghosts and not just dissipate into nothingness.  This is a very interesting ghost story with a philosophical bent, just like a conversation you could have if you found yourself wandering in a cemetary one day.  I really like it.

This is another book read for RIP VI.  I am over my total of 4 books to read for the challenge, and I have a whole pile of books to read yet!  Despite my anxiety, or in spite of it - I don't care, I'm reading horror still! 

So how about you, have you discovered any gems yet during this RIP read?

Two great bloggers wrote about horror reading.......
I am thrilled to announce that as well as Emily's wonderful post on why she reads horror, Geraniumcat has also joined in, and posted this last week: her  fabulous thoughts on why she reads horror.  I am excited that they took my questions and wrote about horror and ghost stories, that's part of what blogging is for me, sharing our thoughts and ideas about why we read, and about what we read.  They both wrote thoughtful, serious posts about horror.  If you have any thoughts as you go through Carl's challenge, please write about them - I would love to see why you read ghost stories/horror/thrillers, dear Gentle Reader. Or let me know in the comments if you are shy (and a surprising number of us are shy about why we like what we do).


Kailana said...

I read this and couldn't quite get into it. I am not sure why, but I can't seem to love Beagle.

Cath said...

What a thoughtful and thought provoking post, Susan! To tell the truth I'm not sure what I believe. I think about it quite lot and *want* to believe that there is something after death. Whether we move on somewhere else or are reincarnated... I don't know but wish I did. Or do I? I'm confused. But it is a relief to know that other people ponder these imponderables too and have genuine fears like myself. This comes as we mature I think, I don't remember giving it a second thought when I was younger. Now these thoughts occur quite often as I go through my day.

The only book I've read by Peter Beagle is Tamsin, which I liked a lot. Will keep an eye out for this one.

Nan said...

Such a great post! I'll go visit the links, too. I just saw a movie you might like. It is called Unmistaken Child.


No ghosts, but reincarnation presented in a quite matter of fact way, and yet miraculous. I was in awe the whole time.

Gavin said...

Great post, Susan. It has been a long time since I read this one and now I must reread it!

GeraniumCat said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed this despite the anxiety, I thought it was charming and, as you say, full of gentle wisdom. And I'm glad that in the end it felt healing.

It was fun writing a post in response to yours -you so often write very thought-provoking posts, and I'm full of ideas after reading them. It's what I was looking for when I started blogging and it's been wonderful to feel part of a community like-minded people.

DesLily said...

hmmm I have this book , I might have to push it up on the list to read this month!

Susan said...

Kailana: It took me a little while to get into, it's a gentle fantasy, I guess. Not action-packed! Definitely original. At least you have tried him!

Cath: thank you! I thought it was interesting how the book affected me, on the horror level, and on the real in your guts level that was so unexpected. I'm happy you enjoyed it and you don't feel the only one to think and wonder. Sometimes I think horror books are our way of working out our fears, in so many ways.

Tamsin was good, wasn't it? I think it's his best, though I haven't read The Inn-Keeper's Wife yet.

Nan: thank you so much! I'll check out the link for the film. It sounds interesting.

Gavin: Thank you! Have you read Tamsin by him yet? Also very good, scarier in places too.

Geraniumcat: I often find myself thinking about other people's posts too! You know how often yours get me thinking, you have such interesting views on what you read and why you enjoy them. You spark me too :-) and this is exactly why I started blogging, meeting like-minded people. I love that we are scattered all over too, I mean, that book lovers are all over the world :-)

Deslily: I think you might enjoy it!

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