Friday, January 24, 2014

A Love Letter to The Last Unicorn

Dear The Last Unicorn,

Fucking hell, I seriously love every aspect of you in every way.  Those links, by the way, are the times I've dropped your name on this blog, but shit is about to get all Bad Boys II up in here.  Not in the Michael Bay kind of way, but seriously: shit's getting real.

We become who we are by living up to the expectations of our gods, or whoever: parents, the Buddha, Harry Potter, a friend who died when you were seven, or a lovely young woman who used to be a unicorn as old as the moon.

This fairy tale is like a god to me.  I don't hold it sacred, but I praise its gospel.  I can only hope that someday I'm able create a story half as tender, tragic, and goofy as hell.

You guys, I own like all of The Last Unicorn paraphernalia.  I have the novel and the graphic novel, I have the movie on DVD and VHS, I have the soundtrack (by America, which is FANTASTIC). Whenever I list my favorite movies, I always forget to include this one, which is a crock of shit on my part, because The Last Unicorn is perfect.   It's a haunt on my heart, always lurking just outside of my the corner of my eye and glittering away like a dream I forgot to write down.

It's pointless to describe the plot here, because anyone can do that.  All I can do is say what I love about it, and hope that it makes at least one person read this book.  Because everyone should.  You might be thinking that this is lame.  That's the thought process of someone who doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. Don't let the title fool you.  This isn't about the magical ponies and their whimsical friends trotting around a land of rainbows.  Even though it's about a unicorn and a magician and giant red bull that is, like, always on's about princes who read magazines and carnies that tell dirty jokes, and the reason we need heroes.

All I'm saying is this: if you haven't read this book, whatever you're assuming about it, right now, is probably fucking wrong.  But anyone who enjoys this book should probably have a penchant for nonsense. And sorrow. And love.  So if your ideal author is John Grisham, you are not going to like The Last Unicorn.  Grisham has no fucking time for whimsy, as serious and true as that this brand of whimsy may be.  

The problem with this story is its extreme definitiveness. Everything Peter S. Beagle slipped into the story is now my personal truth.  Butterflies communicate in snatches of songs and poetry.  They know the lyrics to "My Wild Irish Rose." Of course they do.  Duh.  And...and bands of outlaws idolize Robin Hood and eat tacos.  This makes sense to me. They fundamentally must be raging taco hounds.

So now, because of fucking Beagle and his goddamn book, stories that are earnestly garnished with anachronistic fantasy are nearly always superior to those that aren't. It's an unpredictable surprise that lends a bit of credibility to a fairy tale that is by all other means governed by the rules of any classic fairy tale, although it supersedes and deconstructs them in every way.

I love it because it makes me feel everything. And because I always forget the little pearls.
We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream. 
- Schmendrick the Magician, Last of the Red-Hot Swamis

The Last Unicorn is about the ways you cope when someone fucks with who you are as a person, with the very basic structure of your psyche.  It's about the ridiculous things you will do for the one person who gracefully carries your heart around like toilet paper accidentally tucked into a perfectly fitted pair of pants.  It's about how priorities change because of things beyond our control, it's about picking up discarded quests, it's about how worship can dangerously become a cage.  We refuse to see what is plainly before us while we assume we can see what is plainly before others.

It's about memories and mortality, and how we confuse the two.  And it's about what happens when you judge yourself, and others, by what they possess.  But I mean possess in a decorative way, something ornamental that really doesn't belong to a person but they claim ownership of it nonetheless, or how what others possess reflects in yourself, or as a phrase like, "He's a nice guy, just a little sexist sometimes." If we do not love people based on how they behave, how can we truly identify with or love anyone at all?
What is the matter with your eyes? They are full of green leaves, crowded with trees and streams and small animals. Where am I? Why can I not see myself in your eyes?
- King Haggard
The movie was written by Beagle as well, which means each line of dialogue is pulled directly from the book, although sometimes they're spoken confusingly and rarely how I read the line in the book.  But that gives the movie a bewitching, elegant affliction that serves its medium.  I saw the movie first and read the book years later, but I think because I was able to independently enjoy them both that effects me to this day: I always prefer to watch a movie before I read the book.

It's just better that way.  There are always new things to discover in a book after I watch a movie, but if I read the book first I can only focus on the missing pieces.

I could go on for hours, probably, if you let me. I want everyone I care about to read this book and love it, even though I know that's impossible.  Differing opinions are important to the world, and to me.  But I want that to happen all the same.

Instead I will just post another quote, and it's a silly poem from the book.  It might turn people off.  But maybe someone will read it and think, "There's wisdom in that.  I should read this book."  Yes, you should.
"I am no king, and I am no lord,
and I am no soldier at-arms," said he.
"I'm none but a harper, and a very poor harper,
that am come hither to wed with ye."

"If you were a lord, you should be my lord,
and the same if you were a thief," said she.
"And if you are a harper, you shall be my harper,
for it makes no matter to me, to me,
for it makes no matter to me."

"But what if it prove that I am no harper?
That I lied for your love most monstrously?"
"Why, then I'll teach you to play and sing,
For I dearly love a good harp," said she.
I dearly love The Last Unicorn.



So I guess I have a Love Letters series now.  I mean, I do. Click here for the list so far


Later Edit:  DUDES.

Is this a thing now? Is The Last Unicorn finally going to explode?


Erin said...

I ADORE this movie. I watched it when I was about 6, and I couldn't sleep anymore because I thought my nightlight was the Red Bull approaching from the distance.

I recently watched it again, and it is amazing.

Rassles said...

Erin, I hope you read the book now (if you haven't yet)

Kono said...

A penchant for non-sense and sorrow and love... that sentence right there will get me to read this book, most likely to one or both of the boyos so we can discuss it... i have the funny feeling Nick Disaster may really like it...

Chris said...

Mission accomplished. I will read the book as soon as Amazon gets it here. (It didn't sound like a book that should be Kindled, for some reason.) Oh, and after I finish The Goldfinch, which so far I like very much. I am trying not to assign it to "just like A Prayer for Owen Meany", especially since I haven't finished it, but so far the sad, relentless, awesome similarities are hard to ignore.