Monday, October 6, 2008
The Princess Bride
I finally took the time recently to read The Princess Bride novel by William Goldman. Yes, this is the same The Princess Bride that the movie of the same name is based on. Oh my, what a delight! The movie stayed very close to the original story, even matching much of the same dialogue word for word. Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo, Fezzik, the Cliffs of Insanity, even the priest's speech impediment during the wedding......everything you love about the movie is in the book.
I actually preferred a lot of things about the movie over the book. Some of the scenes I liked better from the movie -- definitely the ending -- and the characters are portrayed so well on screen that in the novel it feels like something is missing. So, why bother reading it if you already know the story and if the characters suffer a little in print? Because the comic genius in the book comes not from the story (which is still funny), but from the narrative.
Goldman claims to be abridging the story from one S. Morgenstern who wrote and published the original tale in his native Florin. Goldman himself was introduced to it as a child by his father (whom he claims was a Florinese immigrant). He insists that Morgenstern and Florin really exist and goes to great lengths to convince the reader of this, until you're not sure how much of anything to believe (including the details about Goldman's own wife and son). It reminds me of the creation of Lemony Snicket, except that in this instance he continues to use his real name and details from his real life as a novelist and screenwriter.
The story itself has the same good-humored, light-hearted feel that the movie does, employing silly, ridiculous scenarios that are navigated seriously by the characters. But what makes it even more fun to read is that S. Morgenstern's narrative is riddled with unexpected comments, absurd justifications, and intentional contradictions. Goldman also interjects his own comments -- some clever and others just plain silly -- that are as much a part of the reading experience as the story itself. And over-arching it all is the fact that he's telling this story under false pretenses anyway, which adds to the absurdity of it. There are some great lines that made me chuckle out loud -- and that's saying something! (I am not a reading-chuckler by nature.) I would share them here, but I don't want to take anything away from the experience of discovering them on your own, so you'll just have to trust me!
If you're a fan of the movie, I would recommend taking the time to read the book. There's no great literary value, but it's a funny read that will brighten your day!