If there's an afterlife for people, how about entertaining the thought of an afterlife for books? Just imagine all of those mournful leather-bound volumes, all the titles that didn't move off the shelves because of lackluster covers, all the sorry stories that languished in the shadows because they were published at the same time as Stephen King's latest. Imagine them all at their best, crisp unmarked pages, yet to have been taken into anyone's bathroom, sitting plumply on the shelves of the Afterlife Library, full of promise. What titles would you find there?
I, for one, would look for Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. It's the story of Rebeck, an eccentric recluse who has chosen the ultimate home for a misanthrope - he lives in a cemetery. His only living companionship comes in the form of a raven who brings him stolen sandwiches. But Rebeck does enjoy another form of friendship - he can see and talk with the ghosts of the dead, who are tied for a while to their resting places until their memories begin to fail them and they slowly fade away. His latest friends are Laura, the ghost of a bookstore clerk who wasn't watching when she crossed a street and Michael, a man who was either poisoned by his wife or committed suicide - his memory is beginning to fail.
Into this cast of characters comes the very much alive Mrs. Klapper, who is ostensibly coming to tend her husband's grave but who seems to be more and more interested in Rebeck with each visit.
A Fine and Private Place is both a mournful story of lost opportunity, and a redemptive one, of friendship and last chances. And fortunately, you won't have to visit the Afterlife Library to find a copy. What forgotten book do you wish more people knew about?