Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Princess Bride - William Goldman

1973; 398 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Fantasy.  Full Title : "S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The Princess Bride".  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    The full title doesn't mislead; The Princess Bride truly is a tale of love and adventure.  It features Buttercup and Westley; pirates and swordplay; six-fingered villains and R.O.U.S.s; Fezzik and...

    ...oh, come on now.  We've all seen the movie; most of us have watched it several times.  Do I really need to do a plot synopsis?

What's To Like...
    All your favorite quips and one-liners are here.  But the book (which came first) has a lot more depth and a bunch of scenes that the movie just couldn't cover due to time constraints.  Fezzik in particular is fleshed out.  We learn about his childhood, are privy to his thoughts, and enjoy a rhyming game that he and Inigo play.  More details about Buttercup are given, sometimes to her detriment.  And there is a kewl fight through the Zoo of Death that I don't recall being in the movie.

    There is an extra "story layer" in the book.  The movie has the main tale plus Peter Falk reading the story to the little boy.  Now Goldman's fictitious editing of Morgenstern's manuscript overlays both those plotlines.

    The "extras" are a mixed bag.  There is a neat map, and the epilogue, Buttercup's Baby, gives some alluring teasers for a possible sequel, plus some answers about what happens after the film ended.  The introduction, where Goldman gives details about the making of the movie, is skippable.  And his pseudo-criticisms of Morgenstern's manuscript get irksome.

    Buttercup ran to her bedroom mirror.  "Oh, Westley," she said, "I must never disappoint you," and she hurried downstairs to where her parents were squabbling.  ...  "I need your advice," she interrupted.  "What can I do to improve my personal appearance."
    "Start by bathing," her father said.
    "And do something with your hair while you're at it," her mother said.
    "Unearth the territory behind your ears."
    "Neglect not your knees."  (pg. 56)

    Did they make it?  Was the pirate ship there?  You can answer it for yourself, but, for me, I say yes it was.  And yes, they got away.  And got their strength back and had lots of adventures and more than their share of laughs.
    But that doesn't mean I think they had a happy ending either.  Because, in my opinion anyway, they squabbled a lot, and Buttercup lost her looks eventually, and one day Fezzik lost a fight and some hotshot kid whipped Inigo with a sword and Westley was never able to really sleep sound because of Humperdinck maybe being on the trail.
    I'm not trying to make this a downer, understand.  I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.  But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair.  It's just fairer than death, that's all.  (pg. 315)

"Inconceivable."  (pg. 100)
    There are some slow spots in The Princess Bride, particularly between when Humperdinck captures Westley and the wedding day.  This is probably unavoidable for those who have watched the movie a couple times.  You know what's going to happen, and you've memorized all the verbal zingers coming up.  When the action slows, one's interest lags.

    Nonetheless, I found this overall a fun read, simply because I could take my time to savor the good parts.  And the movie, excellent though it is, does leave a lot of unanswered questions, which Buttercup's Baby addresses.  Sadly, I don't think it will ever be developed into a full-fledged sequel.  William Goldman is 80+ years old, and seems to have settled in to doing screenplays, not novels.

    7 Stars, maybe more if you're one of the 17 people in the world who haven't seen the movie.

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