mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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To her, diamonds are dross. (34)

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Then came the Black Bull;
glittering, like Finglofin,
stood the Unicorn.

I'll give you a glimpse into the future: this book is going to end up in my Best of 2011 list when the year comes to a close. The only Peter S. Beagle I'd read before was his collaboration with Lisa Snellings, Strange Roads, but I had a great fondness for the movie, so I expected this to be fun. I thought it would be a neat little piece of faerie tale writing, & I'd check it off my list of "classics" & then move on. Instead, I found out that it is amazing. As in, it put me in a maze where I can only think about unicorns. First, let me say this: Peter S. Beagle gets unicorns. From page one you know this, from casual mentions of dragonslaying & the healing of Fisher Kings. She is the opaline moon & stars, cold & gorgeous; she is monomaniacal grace, baleful purity; she is not kind nor is she cruel. She simply is, herself, a heartbreaking cliff for lovers to jump from. She is beauty made terrible. Now-- I'm a very wicked creature, a fat black spider, the Goblin King, exiled angel. I'm an awful piece of work, with a collection of unicorn skulls I used to practice phrenology. I'm like the harpy in the tale; knives & hate & laughter. I'm not like Haggard, however. In Changeling: The Dreaming there was the Seelie & the Unseelie...& then there was the Dauntain, the broken. Haggard is the latter; he's hunted his heart's desire & still come up bitter. The fact that Beagle manages to make him a compelling character is nothing short of astonishing. The arc of the novel is as much a commentary on the Monomyth as anything-- one long critique of princes & wizards-- but despite that, Beagle flushes out Lír & Schmendrick, gives them bones & wants & breaks their hearts & puts all the pieces back together again. That said, The Last Unicorn soars the closer you get your face to the text. The poet butterfly, the little details about Amalthea's fingers being the same length, her eyes being too wide, the "helpme" cry of the gulls-- each sentence is a grain of sand, growing nacreous in your mind as you read onward.
Tags: beagle, books, haiku, unicorns

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