mark monday's Reviews > The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
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Feb 20, 12

bookshelves: fantastickal-classik

so i set the mood for rereading The Last Unicorn by putting together a nifty mix of woodstock era classics, heavily featuring the likes of jethro tull & canned heat & richie havens & a lot of early pink floyd. i put on my comfy clothes. i brewed some tea. i picked my sunniest room and my cat - sensing my mood - snuggled in close. however, i did not smoke any weed. perhaps this was my mistake? nonetheless, the mood was definitely set and the enjoyment swiftly commenced.

this is a nice little book. it's sweet and cheeky and full of a kind of idealistic purity. it is very counter-culture in its quiet way. i was reminded constantly of things like Harold & Maude and King of Hearts and the Yellow Submarine and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. and of laying out on the grass with my friends during college in the 90s, happily on drugs and talking about life. it made me think of flowers and sunshine and animals that i like. this is certainly not a trippy book, but it is a pleasantly mellow one in tone and outlook. the writing is similarly warm and fuzzy. characterization is relaxed; living metaphors for freedom & authority & purity & greed & experience are mixed and matched in a loose, breathable fashion. the entire endeavor is what one would call a warm and human experience. i can see why this book has so many admirers and why it has apparently never been out of print. reading it is like reading a modern fable - it feels instantly classic, automatically timeless. and hopefully its beautiful messages about life and how to live it will never go out of style.

my favorite parts came early and then at the very end. the final standoff between our heroes and the Red Bull was very well done and genuinely gripping. even better was the time spent in Mommy Fortuna's horrible caravan. that was awesome! the descriptions of the different ensorcelled beasts, the dreaming spider, Schmendrick's introduction, Mommy Fortuna herself (such a poisonous yet rather sad & pathetic character), Mommy Fortuna as Old Age, and of course the terrifying, brilliantly rendered harpy... all quite delectable.

it's interesting to me to think about my two different reactions to the book: now and then. "then" was back in junior high, i think. i LOVED Schmendrick and found Molly Grue to be an annoying, tedious character. despite her, i loved the book from beginning to end. the beauty of its ultimate meaning (whatever that may have been to my 14-year old self) had me thinking about life and how to live it. many, many years later - yesterday! - i found Schmendrick to be distinctly annoying and Molly Grue to be the secret hero of the novel. this grouchy, critical, often overbearing middle-aged lady is also brave, honest, decent, completely down to earth - and such an unusual character to find as a lead in a fantasy novel. go, Molly, go! unfortunately, i also found myself to be positively un-charmed by all the anachronisms and whimsy. all that stuff just felt dated, goofy, sorta cheap. like that fookin butterfly for chrissakes. so unfunny. and judo. and "last of the red-hot swamis". and much more. ugh!

still, a lovely book with a timeless message. although i found those whimsical anachronisms to be obnoxiously precious & cutesypoo, overall they didn't end up being too dire and my experience was not remotely ruined. hell, i roll my eyes at my closest friends and i still enjoy their company. this may only be a 3-star book for me, but i did like it a lot. it remains sweetly appealing and genuinely charming. maybe if i was stoned now, i would give it 4 stars. but nowadays i only get stoned to reality tv.
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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message 1: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez I stone people who watch reality tv all the time! Think fast! *Woosh*


mark monday *duck*

i wouldn't say all the time. mainly Survivor and, er, Bad Girls Club. as far as the devil-box goes, i'm more of a hbo/amc/showtime tv series kinda guy.


message 3: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez I actually meant "All the time, I stone people who watch reality tv." It did sound a lot more threatening the first way. Damn you, grammar!


message 4: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Cutesypoo! that's such a cute little expression... all warm and fuzzy..


mark monday Paquita Maria wrote: "I actually meant "All the time, I stone people who watch reality tv." It did sound a lot more threatening the first way. Damn you, grammar!"

well, whew! for a moment there i thought you were judging the hours & hours & hours i've spent watching episode after episode after episode of Bad Girls Club during all-day marathons. sunshine is very minor compared to these very important things. oh, and Top Chef too. ah, Padma Lakshmi. from Salman Rushdie to Top Chef. i could watch her all day. oh, and i have.


mark monday Traveller wrote: "Cutesypoo! that's such a cute little expression... all warm and fuzzy.."

my charming GR friend Mark-with-a-capital-M was also pleased with that the phrase "precious & cutesypoo", several months ago. i promised him i would try to work it in 1 out of every 8 reviews or so. et voila!


message 7: by Traveller (last edited Feb 21, 2012 03:15AM) (new) - added it

Traveller I give you encouragement to use it as often as you like. But only when it's applicable. ;)


..and you and I know that many many of the books we read aren't cutesypoo..

So I'll be on the lookout for it, but not too optimistic, LOL :)


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Aww, I am charmed completely by the anachronism here, but I can feel how if it were just a bit different, I would not find it so winsome. I really love the downbeat ending too. Makes my throat strangle up.


mark monday definitely agree that the ending (both the confrontation i mention above and all the rather lovely, contemplative, minor notes things that happen afterward) was very, very well-done.


message 10: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday oh and "winsome". that is a great word to use for both the unicorn herself, and this book.


message 11: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel i think you dropped a star or two somewhere along the way but i suppose this is a fine review anyway. SIGH


message 12: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday well thank you Joel. that's a qualified compliment, but hey i'll definitely take it! i think docking a star off of what is mainly a 4-star book was my only way of expressing my extreme irritation with all those whimsical anachronisms.


message 13: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel but it is mainly a 5-star book!


Arkady Mark you are the best reviewer but you don't know what is a good book! This is a Very good book!! I will keep it


message 15: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday Вы идиот! Но ты мой любимый идиот.


message 16: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel Я люблю тебя. Вот почему я собираюсь убить тебя последним.


message 17: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday yeah, Joel! i think you are using the same Google Russian Translator that i am!


Alaina lol i love this review!!


message 19: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks Alaina!


Kwoomac I love your playlist for reading this book.


message 21: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday well thank you Kwoomac. i am a fan of that era of music.


message 22: by Drew (new) - rated it 5 stars

Drew I know the story only from its cartoon form but am currently reading the art beneath it.

I'm with you - really fun and timeless story with all these strange wrinkles like the swammi, judo, the lyrics for a butterfly, "have a taco."

Yet it's charming and I'm glad to pick up this book when all I knew was nostalgia.

That morphing you feel in the characters over time is a testament to the strength in the fabric of the characters. And I'm glad to read that it's being enjoyed in a similar way to how I am enjoying it just now.

(^__^)


message 23: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday charming, exactly!


drowningmermaid The butterfly is really far more annoying in the animated movie.


message 25: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday hard to imagine. sounds like a good reason for me to avoid the film.


Geoff Good review mark. I like how you noted the "idealistic purity". It really is such an innocent book. One of the big reasons I loved it for. And it was like Tolkien in the way that it described nature. Only minus Tolkien's insane world building. Another reason I loved it: it was so gosh darned simple.


message 27: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday glad you liked it, Geoff.

that idealistic purity is something I crave from time to time in my fantasy. while I am also a big fan of the darker modern fantasy authors, I still need to balance it out with what is essentially the opposite style & way of looking at the world. books like this one, authors like Patricia McKillip, etc.


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