Today we’re continuing with a review of a book better known by its movie counterpart–but it’s a book first and forever. If you’ve seen the movie, “The Princess Bride” you’ll still want to read this book. For those of you who haven’t seen it or read it (do these people even exist?), here’s a little teaser:
Buttercup, who has risen to the title of most beautiful woman in the history of the world, waits for her true love, Westley, only to hear he has been lost at sea. She vows to never love again, and keeps her vow, but agrees to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck (evil, but ridiculously smart and wants her for low-handed political reasons). But when the Prince’s plans go slightly awry, and the Dread Pirate Roberts comes on the scene, it’s only the beginning of scores of adventures and interesting characters. The prologue says it best:
[Young William Goldman] “Has it got any sports in it?”
[Father] “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”
[Young William Goldman] “Sounds okay,” I said, and I kind of closed my eyes. “I’ll do my best to stay awake…but I’m awful sleepy, Daddy…”
Do you ever find an author that makes you want to keep reading, and you’re fifteen or twenty pages in before you realize the author has said nothing of significance? And you don’t care? The Princess Bride does that for me. And it happens while I’m reading the preface, for pity’s sake. (Side note: I’ve done this with other books too–once I read a whole 432-page kid’s thriller novel like the outcome of World Peace, and possibly the World Cup, depended on my finishing it in under half an hour. (And it took me longer than that–now we know why the world is the way it is. Sorry, folks.) Anyway, I read the last page, shut the book, gasping like a marathon runner, and thought to myself, “That was dumb.” Ah, the power of thriller novels. I was powerless to do anything until it was read cover to cover, and then I realized I didn’t even like the book. And then I read the second one! (It was very persuasive.) And this wasn’t even a full blown ax-murderer story! It was about some genetically altered kids with wings. I don’t know if I should link to it, since this wasn’t an entirely positive description, but if you’re interested, you can find it here. Just cancel your life beforehand.) Warning warning warning we are now returning to our previous altitude in the above-parentheses stratosphere. Thank you.
They say that readers have to like the narrator to like the story–and the narrator of The Princess Bride is both charming and snarky. I know it’s hard to imagine both of those together, so I’ve mined some examples for you skeptics:
The land of Florin was set between where Sweden and Germany would eventually settle. (This was before Europe). In theory, it was ruled by King Lotharon and his second wife, the Queen. But in fact, the King was barely hanging on, could only rarely tell day from night, and basically spent his time in muttering. He was very old, every organ in his body had long since betrayed him, and most of his important decisions regarding Florin had a certain arbitrary quality that bothered many of the leading citizens. (Chp. 1)
In what must be an attempt to ground the story in history, the narrator tells us whether things have been invented or not. After mentioning stew, he says,
This was after stew, but so is everything. When the first man first clambered from the slime and made his first home on land, what he had for supper that first night was stew.
and then has a small fight between the parents:
“What exactly is it dumpling?” Buttercup’s mother wanted to know.
“You look; you know how” was all he replied. (This was their thirty-third spat of the day–this was long after spats–and he was behind, thirteen to twenty, but he had made up a lot of distance since lunch, when it was seventeen to two against him.)
Tell us what you think! Have you ever read this book? Why, after all this time, has nobody been able to locate the original, unabridged S. Morgenstern version?
Next week’s book: Alice in Wonderland…