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I See by My Outfit

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  386 ratings  ·  57 reviews
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated his dream, JFK was assassinated, and zip codes were first introduced to the US. The world was monumentally changing and changing fast. But in the eyes of future fantasy author Peter Beagle and his best friend Phil, it wasn't changing fast enough. For these two twenty-something beatnik Jews from the Bronx, change was something ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published May 25th 2007 by Centro Books (first published 1965)
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Jeanette (Again)
This is really such a delightful romp!

In the Afterword of the 2001 printing of the book, the author summarizes the book thus:

"...a road book, an account of a cross-country journey on two small motor scooters by two New Yorkers in their early twenties; wise-ass Jewish artists both, utterly urban and Eastern, with absolutely no idea that the Rocky Mountains were that big, the Mojave Desert that wide. They camp out, they freeze, they get rained on, they have mechanical crises; they look up old fr
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Peter Beagle? Are you one of the most underrated stylists of the twentieth century? I don't know, I just know your prose is pitch perfect and sweetly honest and I could read it forever.

This is billed as a travel memoir, and indeed, if you want to read a book about the author of The Last Unicorn riding cross-country with his best friend on scooters in 1963, here you are. But this book is really the story of a friendship, of growing up and, of course, apart. It reads like a novel, and perhaps for
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, thanks to my father-in-law Dan for gifting me this book!

I've never read "The Last Unicorn," so I don't have any associations with Beagle's best known work, but I have traveled across the country (by car, not scooter) a bunch of times - it's one of my absolute favorite things to do. This travelogue made me pine - hard - for one of those trips, and to think of all of my past road-trip companions: my mother and father and brother, Jen, Maggie, Evan, Mike, Bill, and Annie. There's something a
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Beagle rides on a motor scooter with his buddy across the USA. The cops are always nagging them. The world has changed since the 1960s, and I think the watershed in this instance was a scene in Dumb and Dumber.

Nov 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Peter S. Beagle's autobiographical account of his cross-country scooter trip with an artist friend is very much a slice of Americana- quintessentially 60s, a kind of low-key ON THE ROAD for a more literary, clean-cut American type with a softer, sentimental core, indicative of Beagle's usual bittersweet style. Those looking for a fantasy novel will be disappointed, but those searching for something gentle and unique will be pleased they took the time to read this subtle little volume about being ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Another of my all-time favorite books, an account of two beatnik-era buddies traversing the country on motorscooters, stopping in small towns, meeting people, having adventures, and recording it all with a very sensitive ear. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Beagle (better known for his fantasy writing) and he's as delightful, observant and witty in person as he is in this book...highly, highly recommended. ...more
Mar 07, 2012 added it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2012
I read this memoir when it was recently published and I was a hippie-wannabe child, and adored it. I was a bit nervous reading it again*, but aside from a few winces at the misogyny of the time, I loved it again. (In the afterword in this printing, Beagle mentions wincing himself.) It's a tale of friendship, and growing up, and seeing America.
*One naturally fears that the Suck Fairy has gotten to a book that you loved years ago.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Enjoyable read. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting (it was more about the long friendship, in the context of a specific journey), but that's OK. Beagle's an excellent writer, and you can see his bent for fantasy coming through in some of his word choices. And I know it was consistent with the times across country on motor scooters...without ANY protective gear. That could have ended badly, and Beagle admits as much in the Afterwords. ...more
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this for the first time, many years ago (late 70s-early 80s). When I searched for other books by this author I could only find A Fine and Private Place and The Last Unicorn, but I had limited resources for searching then, no internet!
As a native of northwestern Ohio. My favorite line (forgive me for misquoting this, it really was a long time ago) was all the streets in Toledo/Maumee being named after Mad Anthony Wayne. There is only 1 street but it's a long one ;)
Jul 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
What a blast from the past! I'd forgotten a time when you had to explain why you were growing a beard, and called people "dad" instead of "man." The best line in this book is still "Only dogs and escaped criminals walk in California." A lovely evocation of friendship, people met on the road, and the hopes of the vanished sixties. ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Orion
A road trip of two best friends, to see about a girl. My favorite parts were when they took on the personas of something ridiculous to discuss something. The lone ranger and tonto, a general and his collective men...
Willa Guadalupe Grant
Oct 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A bit out-dated in 2008 but I had this book MEMORIZED I read it so often in 1971. No matter how often I read it,it made me laugh!
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I'm falling for Peter S Beagle. This nonfiction road trip recount is the best kind of travel story. I'm ready to be off on the road to see what I can see and who I can meet. ...more
Chris Stoddard
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Susan Biel
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ever since I read Steinbeck's "Travels With Charlie" when I was in grade school, I have sought out travel books, and especially Road Trip books. This book starts out in April of 1960 when the author and his childhood friend Phil, who from what I can discern are in their mid to late 20's, plan a trip to cross the U.S. on Heinkel scooters [note: as they correct someone, scooters, not motorcycles], which they have named Jenny and Couchette. They at times describe themselves as bearded Beatniks and ...more
Sutter Lee
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A total pleasure. My generation, Beagle's just a few years older than I am, so I can relate to the time period, the Zeitgeist.
I'm also an amateur musician, an old "folkie," so of course loved the music they played on borrowed guitars, or in the music stores, or referenced.
Their camping experiences a crack up. I'm a fairly experienced camper, so was appalled at their ignorance but admired their bravado.
Was a terrific tour of the USA, seeing areas I've either been to myself or haven't been to, t
Jennifer Collins
I bought this book because of the author, and then I ignored it for ages because, when it came right down to it, the idea of it reminded me of On the Road--which I couldn't stand. And I HATED the idea that I'd read this and hate it, as well, having so loved Beagle's other works. I suppose I was afraid that the picture of Beagle offered in this book would somehow tarnish all of the novels, and I don't know what finally led me to pick it up... but I'm so glad I did.

It's lucky I didn't come across
Julia B.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a real fun road trip on motor scooters from New York to San Francisco.

This book made me want to slap On the Road out of every white boy's hands and politely replace it with I See by My Outfit. Beagle and Phil are: 1) actually respectful of women; 2) aware of the struggles of other minorities; 3) good, supportive, emotionally vulnerable friends to each other; and 4) not preachy or annoying. (The writing is much better too. There, I said it.) But though their friendship is the main crux of
Will Wigmore
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pandemic reading - I re-read most of Keroauc since March. Then I read Peter Beagle's "I See by My Outfit" a tale of two young men riding from the Bronx to San Francisco in the early 1960's on motor scooters! - The title is from the Kingston Trio's joke about the song "Streets of Laredo"....The time Beagle writes about seems like ancient history - pre - Beatles - pre Dylan - pre hippies etc. Peter and Phil seek out Martin and Gibson guitars - and evidently play folk music well enough to be entert ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read an early edition (if not first) mm pb bound in boards by the library... iow, a difficult book to get through. But I did, because of lines like "We are in the desert now; before, it was around us" as the boys get on off the highway onto a smaller road. They are NYC Jews, creative, imaginative, clever, educated, silly... with aspirations to be rogues. A sort of a picaresque, I guess... but it does make me want to give the author's The Last Unicorn one more try (someday). It also makes me wa ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
a lovely road memoir written by this author in his youth. a 3.5
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sixties
This is an all-time favourite of mine. I've re-read it a number of times and enjoyed it each time. I think I read it first 'way back in the 1980's. ...more
Challenged Reader
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm always on the lookout for books about scooters, so following a recommendation on the Modern Vespa forum I tracked down a copy of I See By My Outfit by Peter S. Beagle (later to achieve fame for The Last Unicorn and other fantasy novels). It's out of print in the UK at the moment but my lovely local library had it in the stacks, stamped 'SPECIAL INTEREST DO NOT DISCARD'.

It's the story of a journey made by two friends from New York to San Francisco, on Heinkel scooters, in 1963. Peter is trave
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, 1960s
copied and pasted review from "KIRKUS REVIEW

The publisher's comment, ""travel book with a difference,"" seems a bit of an understatement as the author and his friend Phil, two nice young bearded bohemian Jewish boys from the Bronx, roar cross-country on their beloved motor scooters. It's early spring and these two likable troubadours make their way to California with joy in their hearts, sheathed in thermal underwear, and a rapacious desire to taste America, not to mention its cooking. They deve
Amy Lenarz
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
The references are terribly dated, but the interaction between the author and his buddy remain humorous and very real-feeling. I found the musings in the afterward to this edition to be particularly lovely, as the author reflects on how his friendship changed in the time between when the book was written and his current, later years. It's also a pleasantly honest reflection on travel in one's youth, when it would be easy to romanticize the events of the past. Beagle's account of the actual miser ...more
Jul 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
My trek into the comfort authors of my teenage years continues. Usually I pick up "A Fine and Private Place" to reread around this time of year, but I wanted to revisit Beagle's road trip book for some reason. Its a meandering, lonely sort of story. Beagle the writer and Phil the painter leave New York to trek across the country on motor scooters to bring Beagle to his fiance Enid. The trip weaves in and out of the lives of strangers' homes, pawnshops, gas stations, and campgrounds. I like it be ...more
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetic-prose, memoirs
I read this as a kind of ethnography- a snapshot and layering of American landscape (physical and temporal), the road-trip, and the 60's. True to Beagle's voice and filled with the kind of sentimental, beautiful and bittersweet I expect from his novels.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did-- the parts that stuck with me were perhaps not the parts the author intended-- I was struck by the antiquity of their travel gear, for example. I thought the section with the (probably) prostitute
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've mentioned before my deep love of Peter Beagle's weird style of writing, but this book is by far my favorite of his that I've read so far. His descriptions and observations and turns of phrase are so good that I couldn't stand to read this book without a pencil because I wanted to underline all my favorite parts -- and I haven't annotated a book since college. I really, really liked it and I'm sad it's not in print anymore, but if you can get your hands on a copy I highly recommend it. ...more
Julian Friend
Mar 08, 2008 rated it liked it
It's a gem of a road book. Surprisingly, I think it's a better road book than "On the Road." He keeps it simple and direct, and the magic of the road comes through in small, exquisite doses. It's a better book when you include the intro and afterword....which both succeed in continuing and embellishing the story of their childhood friendship, which meets its climax during this trip. The "inside" chatter between the chums is both a strength and a weakness. ...more
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Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American fantasist and author of novels, nonfiction, and screenplays. He is also a talented guitarist and folk singer. He wrote his first novel, A Fine and Private Place , when he was only 19 years old. Today he is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn, which routinely polls as one of the top ten fantasy novels of all time, and at least two of ...more

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