June 13, 2010

The Princess Bride

Posted in Book Nook at 8:29 AM by goingbeyondzebra

Let me start out by saying, I feel totally duped.

If you have NOT read The Princess Bride, and would like things to remain a secret, then do not read this blog because I may spoil a lot of things for you.

Now that’s out of the way, let’ move on. Okay so I have seen the movie The Princess Bride multiple times and really enjoy it. One year someone gave me the book, and on my way to Italy I finally found the time to actually sit down and read it. The version I own presents itself as the “abridged, good parts” version, edited by William Goldman, but originally written by S. Morgenstern. William Goldman introduces this story with this long narrative about how, when he was a boy, his father read him this book when he (William) was sick with pneumonia, and it became his favorite book. But when he grew older, he learned that his father had left out a lot of S. Morgenstern’s version and had essentially read “the good parts” that he thought William would find the most interesting. So now, much older and a writer himself, William decided to put together his abridged, “good parts” version of the story for the general public to read. Throughout the story, William puts in his own italicized comments (which can take up several pages) about how he left out such and such a part for these reasons, or how at this particular point of the story he had reacted this way when he was younger, etc. etc., much like the movie interrupts the story with the narrative of the sick boy and the grandpa (I thought it was interesting that the movie included these parts as I was reading, that should have been my first clue).

Needless to say, I believed him.

I got all the way through the book, read all the narrative “additions,” read the special inclusion of the first chapter of the “long lost sequel” Buttercup’s Baby that Goldman was “allowed” to edit and the included story about why he was only “allowed” to edit that much. I even got frustrated at Goldman’s abridgment in places because the things he talked about that he was leaving out sounded very interesting at times. After finishing the whole thing, I decided to go online and research whether or not Buttercup’s Baby had ever been fully published.

And then I discovered.

IT WAS ALL A LIE!

There is no “S. Morgenstern”. There is NO “original manuscript”, even all of William’s memories and mentionings of his own son and grandson were all untrue (he, in fact, doesn’t even have a son). It was all a literary device! I felt like a complete fool. Here I am, Miss Graduated English Major, who is supposed to understand literature and have all this knowledge, and I had been duped! I felt betrayed. I was infuriated!

After reading several interviews with and articles about William Goldman, I came to this conclusion: I do not like him. However, my final opinion of The Princess Bride still remains positive. Though it took me a bit to adjust everything in my mind to fit the new knowledge I had acquired about the formation of the novel.

Once I came to terms with everything, The Princess Bride is a good story overall. Did I find Goldman’s “interruptions” annoying and unneeded at times? Definitely. Especially when he “cuts in” in the middle of a sentence. His framework can be interesting through its unusual technique though. I guess what you could call the “core” story, about Buttercup and Wesley, is still a good story, and the movie follows the book fairly closely. I was surprised by how, hmm… how can I put this delicately… empty headed? some of the characters were in the book though (which was by intention, Goldman was trying to make these characters seem like not the brightest candle in the castle, though he still developed their characters well). I also like coming to a greater understanding of certain things through reading the background and inside information that the book gives, which the movie hints at but is hard to catch unless you’ve read the book. For instance, in the movie (if I remember correctly), Buttercup mentions once after Wesley rescues her, but before she knows who he is, about Prince Humperdinck’s ability to hunt and track. But then why he has these capabilities is never really mentioned again or explained. In the book however, it details how Humperdinck’s only real passion is for hunting, and how he had traveled the world seeking every kind of prey imaginable. He even had a “zoo” built for his own amusement, with different levels of deadly animals, so he could have the challenge of hunting without having to leave the kingdom.

I also really enjoyed how it fleshes out the reason behind the rhyming game that Fezzik and Inigo play, and getting to actually learn the history behind these two characters in greater detail. One thing I am curious about: why did they change the creatures in the ocean that Buttercup dives into for escape, from sharks to shrieking eels? Little things like that were what I found to be the most intriguing.

Overall I rate the book around a 7 or 8, I enjoyed the story, and even came to at least a partial understanding of Goldman’s intentions, but I still found some of the interruptions and “back story” annoying and unneeded. I would still definitely suggest picking it up and giving it a read. I may even read it again now that I know the truth about the story. I rate the author about a 5 or 6. He has a great imagination, executes his ideas exceptionally, and writes very well. However, he made me feel betrayed, so I can’t bring myself to give him a higher rating.

That’s it for now. I will most likely post again this evening to talk about the events of today (my first experience in an Italian Church! All together now…oooOOOOOooo!). So, farewell to you all!

Robyn

P.S. Goldman supposedly does want to finish writing the sequel Buttercup’s Baby, and even says that he feels what he has written for that story to be some of the best work he has ever done. However, he has not written beyond what is included in some of the anniversary additions of The Princess Bride, and states he is unsure of whether or not it will ever be finished. But I am holding my breath, for what he has written so far is very good and brings up many, many questions.