The Last Unicorn (post the second), Peter S Beagle

So, apparently, this book was first published in 1968. It had its fortieth edition printing in 2008, and we’re in 2013, so I’ve really missed the boat. Also, a cult classic animated movie exists that I somehow missed during my childhood (not too surprising since my brother was five years older and picked all the television we got to watch – it was mostly the Dukes of Hazzard during my formative years – which explains a lot, now that I think about it…). When I called my mother up last week to tell her about this great book I had found, she said, “Oh yes, I think I read that the year it was published,” which simultaneously made her feel old and me, stupid. Well, hats off to ROC for rewrapping an old favorite for a new generation of readers!

Over the last year and a half, I’ve gotten to read plenty I might not have otherwise because I want the opportunity to talk about a diverse selection of books here. I haven’t been perfect; in fact, I haven’t even been close. My tastes naturally lean toward genre fiction (and I include YA under that umbrella). It will always be a struggle for me to motivate myself to choose history or politics over a really great novel, but I assume that if you’ve stuck with me thus far (as a painter friend told me last week, “I keep meaning to read your reviews, but there are just so many words!”), you already know this. You don’t need to be reminded, so why am I saying anything about it now? Well, it’s because I want you to know that when I recommend a book like The Last Unicorn with unbridled passion, it’s because I have read thousands of books like it in my lifetime and I know a one-of-a-kind reading experience when I see it.

I read with enthusiasm all sorts of books – memoirs, poetry, travel, science – and my recommendations for them are certainly founded in my education and life experience. I love discovering great books in less familiar territory, and it’s exciting to be able to share those with you. When it comes to my true expertise though, a gold star for a book like this comes from the most entrenched part of my passion for reading. Some people know the details of the solar system, or baseball, or the situation in the Middle East; while I have a fondness for learning about such things, they will never be a part of me the way this type of fiction is – it is a limb, and my history, and the escape I most rely on. Books like this are a part of what makes me whole.

So when I say that you should read it, examine yourself first. Decide what kind of books turn you inside out. Ask yourself what you look for in those stolen moments with the page. For me, I need wonder and magic and sadness; I need redemption and heroes who occasionally go for a cheap laugh; I need bridges burned.

“When I was dead-,” King Lir began, but she was away. Not a stone rattled down after her, not a bush tore out as she sprang up the cliff. She went as lightly as the shadow of a bird; and when she looked back, with one cloven foot poised, and the sunlight on her sides, with her head and neck absurdly fragile for the burden of the horn – then each of the three below called to her in pain. She turned and vanished; but Molly Grue saw their voices thump home into her like arrows, and even more than she wished the unicorn back, she wished that she had not called.” (pg 272)

I understand not everybody needs books like this one, but I do.

6 thoughts on “The Last Unicorn (post the second), Peter S Beagle

  1. I watched the movie as a child, but I had no idea there was a book. I have added this to my reading list! If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out the movie. The animation is so beautifully drawn.

  2. I read this book when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and remember reading it really late at night while my mom was asleep. She’d leave the hall light on, so when everyone was asleep, I snuck down the end of the bed and read by the light sneaking into the room. It’s a great book! Now I’m going to have to read it again! Thanks!

    1. Those are the best memories! I have similar ones myself, and the books read by those “forbidden” lights were made all the better for the hint of secrecy and rebellion :)

  3. I had the VHS version of this book. I loved it! Definitely on my top 10 for animated-non-Disney movies. I’ve wanted to just snag the graphic novel version but I think I’d only cheap myself out of something fantastic. So one day I’ll read the book, but right now… no. :)
    – Krys

    1. I’ve seen a few images from the graphic novel online and it looks incredibly beautiful. I’d actually like to pick up a copy for myself at some point and see what has been created from this marvelous story.

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