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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.

 

Book 32/100: The Last Unicorn, The Lost Version, by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version - Peter S. Beagle

It was a real treat to be able to read this, especially after I learned from a friend that there were only 1,000 ever printed, each one signed and numbered (I read copy #263). It is a "rough draft" of what later became The Last Unicorn, and although it bears very little resemblance to the final version we know and love, there are a few haunting fragments -- such as the opening sequence -- that were lifted almost verbatim into the finished book.

In this story, the unicorn journeys with a two-headed demon exiled from Hell through a modern-day landscape. It's not hard to see why this was scrapped, as it has the feel of a story that is not quite sure where it is going, full of long conversations and chance meetings on the road, as if each encounter is begging for something to give shape to the story. I was also surprised (and disappointed) that typos, grammatical errors, etc., remained in this draft; it seems some basic "clean-up" for the reader's sake would have been appropriate without interfering with the sense of this being an unpolished work. Despite that, Beagle's beautiful prose still makes an appearance here, especially in the provocative conversations about hell, earth, humanity, and the nature of life between the demons and the unicorn. The unicorn also retains her other-worldly feel, which infuses this story with the same aching beauty found in the final product.

It ends abruptly and thus is really only a worthwhile investment for someone who wants to read it as an addendum to "The Last Unicorn"; read as a standalone, it would be nothing but frustrating -- and if it led people to the final version in hopes of finding out what happened to the characters in this one, they would find themselves disappointed that there never will be any true resolution.