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Author Topic: PC175, Giant Episode: El Regalo  (Read 6309 times)
Talia
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« on: September 20, 2011, 06:45:06 AM »

PodCastle 175, Giant Episode: El Regalo

by Peter S. Beagle.

Read by Emily Smith.

Originally appeared in The Line Between.


“You can’t kill him,” Mr. Luke said. “Your mother wouldn’t like it.” After some consideration, he added, “I’d be rather annoyed myself.”
“But wait,” Angie said, in the dramatic tones of a television commercial for some miraculous mop. “There’s more. I didn’t tell you about the brandied cupcakes—”
“Yes, you did.”
“And about him telling Jennifer Williams what I got her for her birthday, and she pitched a fit, because she had two of them already—”
“He meant well,” her father said cautiously. “I’m pretty sure.”
“And then when he finked to Mom about me and Orlando Cruz, and we weren’t doing anything—”
“Nevertheless. No killing.”
Angie brushed sweaty mouse-brown hair off her forehead and regrouped. “Can I at least maim him a little? Trust me, he’s earned it.”
“I don’t doubt you,” Mr. Luke agreed. “But you’re fifteen, and Marvyn’s eight. Eight and a half. You’re bigger than he is, so beating him up isn’t fair. When you’re . . . oh, say, twenty-three, and he’s sixteen and a half—okay, you can try it then. Not until.”
Angie’s wordless grunt might or might not have been assent. She started out of the room, but her father called her back, holding out his right hand. “Pinky- swear, kid.” Angie eyed him warily, but hooked her little finger around his without hesitation, which was a mistake. “You did that much too easily,” her father said, frowning. “Swear by Buffy.”


Rated PG
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« Last Edit: October 11, 2011, 08:39:09 AM by Talia » Logged
Scattercat
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2011, 06:50:37 AM »

A pleasant if unsurprising little jaunt.  I was reminded a bit of Charles de Lint, actually, which I'm usually not when reading a Beagle story.  It was slow and gentle and quietly amusing.  High marks, although not quite top marks. 

I know Peter S. Beagle will be utterly crushed that a random asshole on a forum thought he wrote a pretty good story instead of an awesome story, but this is the price of freedom. 
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2011, 07:49:04 AM »

I absolutely loved this bilingual, tri-cultural jaunt into a mucus-covered alternate reality.  Although I doubt Angie will continue to find a teenage El Viejo angry but lovable -just angry and, possibly, Emo.

When I started the story, I only had about five minutes to listen, with high plans of continuing later at work.  After ten minutes, I cancelled my plans and just listened.  Gee, that happens often with Podcastle.  Curse you, you eternal time suck!!!  Seriously, though, the author did a great job with the story building.  Please, please, please, continue feeding us stories.

Now for pointless analysis:  the author did an phenomenal job with the age-appropriateness of the nature of the characters.  Great sibling interaction.  However, I have to point out that their reasoning capacities were a bit too adult -especially evident with the discussion between Angie and her friend.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 08:00:21 AM by brlteach » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2011, 10:49:06 AM »

...what? I usually like when a story throws me off balance with a twist I didn't see coming, but not this time. This was just too...odd I think is the right word. It didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story. Maybe it was the intro that set my mind into thinking this story would be all about the girl growing up with a brother with magical powers, trouble then ensues, she has to come to grips with the reality that her brother is the special one and not herself (a reality a lot of people have trouble with) and eventually a resolution one way or another. Rather, we're given a story about a girl who has never expressed magical powers before getting angry and desperate and suddenly she is more powerful than her little brother. So is this really the story of the little brother having to watch his sister grow into her powers while he has very little? I was all set to hear a very different story, and usually I like being surprised, but this one just didn't jive for me.
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2011, 11:42:29 AM »

A fabulous  many faceted gem of a story. I loved the juxtaposition of the mundanity of the sibling rivalry against the growing menace of the use of magic. All the background characters were well drawn as well, Mr & Mrs Luke especially.

I loved the little vignette of Mr Luke and the kitten M'Lady sitting staring at each other.

Great reading too. The whining worried voice of poor Marvyn and the teenage stroppiness of Angie really came across.
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2011, 12:41:59 PM »

This story was about twice as long as it needed to be. And suburban fantasy suddenly seems like such a well-trodden place. I kept thinking of "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing", which is not necessarily a bad thing. The characters were characterized well. I just couldn't help but feel like the amount of story we got was less than the span of time it was given in.

I guess if I had to name a really specific problem with the story, it's that the idea of these intuitive witches with powers they're simply born with is kind of a lazy approach. (io9 had an interesting take on the issue.) The idea that witches and wizards are born-not-made fits nicely into the "this is a metaphor for racism/homophobia/[insert civil liberty at stake]... discuss!" trope, and it's also making fantasy gradually less distinguishable from X Men (or is it vice versa?).

Nothing wrong with this per se, but I just feel there is a lot more potential for different kinds of magic systems than "tag, you're a witch".
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2011, 01:00:34 PM »

I had a long drive and this story was exactly what the doctor ordered. I liked the story, though the first couple of minutes were a bit painful--mainly the father/daughter argument about swearing by Buffy the vampire slayer was sort of "eh".

Anyway, the overall story was good, I was entertained but like others the plot twist with Angie being 'the powerful witch' and not Marvyn was just sort of weird. I liked the 'normal' older sibling/ 'super power' younger sibling interaction. My favorite line was "Never under estimate the power of a pissed off woman."

The only thing I didn't like about the story was the time traveling. It didn't make any sense to me--if you plucked something/one from where they were, then all of the things they did never happened. It didn't make any sense to me and frankly, I found that jarring so I made up my own reasons as to why "that worked".
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2011, 04:43:41 PM »

Nothing wrong with this per se, but I just feel there is a lot more potential for different kinds of magic systems than "tag, you're a witch".

I actually quite like Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" for this, in that magic is an innate "talent" in the same way that a predilection for math is an innate "talent."  You might be inherently interested in the right stuff and you might have a knack for understanding some of the theory, but you're still going to have to work your bejeepers off if you want to accomplish anything in the field.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2011, 04:45:52 PM »

It was a well-written story which was very well read, though I suspect it would have meant more to me if I had any siblings, younger or older.
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NomadicScribe
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2011, 05:47:00 PM »

I actually quite like Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" for this, in that magic is an innate "talent" in the same way that a predilection for math is an innate "talent."  You might be inherently interested in the right stuff and you might have a knack for understanding some of the theory, but you're still going to have to work your bejeepers off if you want to accomplish anything in the field.

This reminds me of what is probably my favorite witch story, Kiki's Delivery Service (of which I have only seen the wonderful Miyazaki film). I don't know which came first, Lev Grossman or Kiki. But the idea was that a witch, when she comes of age, has to find her specialty. Kiki's mom did potions; random girl does fortune telling. Kiki can't seem to find a focus, but enjoys the hell out of flying on her broomstick.

What stands out to me though, is that in this pseudo-European port town, people just accept Kiki's witchdom. In that world, saying you're a witch is like saying you're left handed: maybe once it was demonized, but now it's just whatever.

Bringing this back to El Regalo, I found the secrecy really burdensome. What's more, the parents both seemed smart and attentive; how are they not picking up on this stuff? Is it that only magic people can detect (or have hunches about) other magic people?
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eytanz
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2011, 06:14:08 PM »

I actually quite like Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" for this, in that magic is an innate "talent" in the same way that a predilection for math is an innate "talent."  You might be inherently interested in the right stuff and you might have a knack for understanding some of the theory, but you're still going to have to work your bejeepers off if you want to accomplish anything in the field.

This reminds me of what is probably my favorite witch story, Kiki's Delivery Service (of which I have only seen the wonderful Miyazaki film). I don't know which came first, Lev Grossman or Kiki.


Well, the movie (which as far as I know was based on an original script and was not an adaptation of an earlier story) came out in 1989. Lev Grossman was born in 1969. Thus, he came first Wink. The novel "The Magicians" that Scattercat is referring to, came out in 2009.

It also is *very* different in tone from Kiki's Delivery Service (which is a movie I really enjoyed, which is more than I can say of "The Magicians".
(which I appreciated on an intellectual level but did not really have much fun reading).

This has been a short interlude. Back to the story thread, which I will probably post to again only after I actually listen to the story.
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2011, 10:38:42 PM »

It also is *very* different in tone from Kiki's Delivery Service (which is a movie I really enjoyed, which is more than I can say of "The Magicians". (which I appreciated on an intellectual level but did not really have much fun reading).

I had a blast reading it, but I'm a cynical bastard of an English major who actively enjoys watching postmodern deconstruction of beloved tropes, which is pretty much the main engine behind "The Magicians."  It made me laugh a lot in that kind of sharp "Ha!" way when something is about equal parts mean, sad, and humorous.
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« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2011, 09:46:11 AM »

So, back to the STORY... Smiley

I really enjoyed it. I'm currently reading The Last Unicorn, which I have never read before and I'm...well page the age at which I 'should' have read it. This fact has no doubt caused many people reading this post to clutch their chests in horror. So, I was glad to see another Beagle story come up, since I'm enjoying TLU so much.

I liked the characters, the story, the length...it was all just right, for me. As with some other recent stories by Escape Artists, the reading took it to a new level. I don't know if just reading the story straight would have been as enjoyable as listening to Emily Smith's excellent reading.

I, too, very much enjoyed the scene with the M'Lady kitten and Mr. Luke staring at each other. An awesome little character moment.
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2011, 03:38:16 PM »

Like most of PSB's stories, I liked it, but did not love it.  I doubt I'll look back on this as one of the best Podcastle episodes of 2011, but I did enjoy the trip.  I think it could have been trimmed some, and some of the events seemed to come out of nowhere. 
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Talia
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2011, 05:47:50 PM »

Well I enjoyed this a good deal. I thought he got the attitudes and behaviors of kids at those ages spot on, and it was tremendously fun to see the kinds of stuff a little kid would get up to if he had magic. It also felt realistic to me that it would wind up being just too scary, ultimately. Though I gotta doubt they will both REALLY give up the magic. As the trauma fades it will appeal again (at least to the boy).

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« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2011, 07:47:00 PM »

Fun!  I really liked this one!  The kids seemed real to me, and I loved the voices the narrator gave to them.
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2011, 08:30:14 AM »

I agree that this was WAY too long. I tried to deconstruct it into three acts, but when I did that, the first dramatic beat (the fertility doll) took WAY too long to get there. The scenes when Angie and Marvin were stuck in Thursday also went on too long, and the whole "sequel hook" sequence with El Viejo at the end dragged.
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« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2011, 08:45:39 AM »

Overall, I liked this story although it could definitely have been just as impactful if it was shorter. I loved how the little boy used his magic for the most mundane things, and the general "whimsy" that he brought to it. However, unlike Talia, I thought that the little boy was way too mature for his age in certain scenes, and more realistically portrayed in others. The girl was pretty believable though.

Also, I think it needed a different title. It's a bad sign when I can NEVER remember the story based solely on the title.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2011, 11:30:01 AM »

Chiming in here. Haven't finished listening yet, and believe it or not, if I zone out on my way home from work, I can forget I'm listening to myself. For about a millisecond.  Roll Eyes On listening, I am again amazed at the length of the thing.
I enjoyed the sibling aspects of the interactions as well as the feeling (I felt very well captured-especially about the horrid loss of the love note) of being a young teen. But, I have to agree with everyone else that it was a story that sort of did plot loopedy-loops on its way to the final conclusion. Which really wasn't much of a conclusion at all. That being said, I did enjoy it for its sort of slice-of-life-gone-sideways aspects. Benignly enjoyable.
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« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2011, 11:46:54 AM »

I have to say I found this story fantastic. I can agree with that it could have been shorter the amount of mundane life was perhaps unnecessary but it didn't bother me as I hauled wood to keep my family warm throughout the winter. I think it catches the dynamics perfectly, I've only got myself an older brother that was old enough that we never really did much together but that family bond is perfect. Sibling rivalry is one of the stranger expressions of love but it just fills this story to the brim. The words provide a framework for people to see brothers and sisters but behind that they would fight for one another.

The descriptions of El Veaho(Yea I took French and German so spelling that right is unlikely) just fit, from the raccoon imagery to animating the circles under the eyes, I've always found eyes to be a fascinating way to explore people. Reminds me of one line that by itself makes the entire Gorillas album its on worth buying, "But without the truth of the eyes, the happy folk were blind." Overall I think this will go down as one of my top favs here.

It probably helps that is a generally positive story as I've spent a few days now mulling over if the entire deconstruction movement, including of heroes is really that much of step forward or if perhaps we're cutting out the branch we're standing on.
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