Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is a terrible, awful, horrible book. I loathe it with a deep passion that bad books rarely inspire in me. So badly do I hate it that I want to punch in the face not only Beagle, but anyone who ever liked this book, because it’s so fucking insufferable that anyone who likes it must be insufferable by proxy.

The problem with the book is that it jumps back and forth between two modes that 1) do not work at all well together, and 2) individually suck. The first mode is postmodern fourth-wall-breaking oh-look-we’re-in-a-fairy-tale literary awareness, where you can practically hear the author elbowing you in the side and smirking. The second mode is oh-so-fucking-precious beauty-and-awe, where you can hear the author’s jaw hanging open while a single tear rolls down his face. Before you punch him and start him crying for real, anyway.

Both of these modes are extraordinarily hard to do well. The postmodern self-aware thing ends up feeling like a bad sitcom if it’s done poorly, and the melodrama easily ends up feeling like a soap opera. And the thing is, doing either of them requires absolute commitment from both the author and the reader, but opposite commitments, to either take everything facetiously or to take everything absolutely dead seriously. It would be virtually impossible for a book to hit both notes at once, and The Last Fucking Unicorn certainly does not achieve the impossible.

This is the worst book I’ve read in a long, long while, and I recommend that you stay far, far away.


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