Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Have Fun Storming the Castle

There is so much literature in the world. It is just plain difficult to pin down one favorite. I have enjoyed most of what I've read. But this one, well, it was pretty fun. I am sure most of you are familiar with the movie, The Princess Bride. For me, it's part of my childhood. We grew up watching the movie over and over and over....to the point that sitting around the dinner table, someone could state a line, and the rest of us would chime in, doing practically a whole scene or two. Or nine. As a kid, you figure if you like it, the whole world must like it. If it's something you do at your house all the time, it must be something that everyone does at their houses, too. Then I met my husband. He just doesn't care to join the throngs of folks who obsess over the movie enough that they know it all by heart. But, I have my quirks, and he has his. So, we agree to disagree, and I love it still.

What does my husband's dislike for the movie, The Princess Bride, have to do with any of this? I shall tell you. It is his doing that led me to read the book. He, too, enjoys great literature (Although he may not consider this one great literature). His friends read. He was in the office of one friend, who happened to have a copy of the book, S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. My husband knows me well. He knew I would love to read it. And so, he asked if he could borrow it for me. The friend consented. I read it in a week. My favorite bit? Simply the fact that the book read almost word-for-word with the movie. I know. The book came first. I should have said, 'the fact that the movie runs almost word-for-word with the book.' But I knew and loved the movie first, so that's how it looks to me.

So, if you are looking to read something that you already know from start to finish, The Princess Bride would be a good choice. The writing isn't terribly difficult. The descriptions are vivid, and the story, well, you know it already. There are interruptions in the book (like in the movie) as the narrator (I perceived it to be the author) jumps in to tell you his insights, and some tidbits from his life (unlike in the movie). This is where the book differs from the movie. Because you know the movie (if you don't, I don't know if you'd bother reading my post!) I shall tell you about the interruptions contained in the book.

In the novel, Goldman tells all this back story about how he was able to 'abridge' the so-called original work by S. Morgenstern. He even tells of a group who is over the 'Morgenstern estate' that pitches a legal battle with Goldman over the rights to even abridge the work. Goldman describes how he loves the book, as his father read it to him while he was terribly ill as a child. I like that idea. The book has meaning because his father shared it with him. So, he wants to share the book with his son. Being out of town, he goes to great lengths to find the book, finally finds one copy (but can only have it if he buys a second in the original language) and sends it to his son. His son can barely get through the first chapter. This is the bit that threw me. Goldman is completely disgusted with his son. Not just in the fact that he can't get through the book. Disgusted in general. I, assuming it was a true story, was completely flabbergasted that the man was so obviously disgusted in the life that was his boy, and that he openly wrote about it in a book that he probably hoped would sell to the masses. Isn't it a bit harsh to admit to the world that you have complete distaste in your offspring.

Anyway, this father finally picks up the book that he sent to his son. In it, he does not find the book his father read to him. He states that it is riddled with history and back story that doesn't move the plot. So, after sifting through hundreds of pages of stuff his father didn't read to him, Goldman decides to abridge the book, thus bringing the work he remembered to the world.

Well. I believed it all. I told people that the book was not the original. Then, I watched the special features on my DVD. Things the actors said made me start to think that I had been fooled. So, deciding that I'd write a post about this, I wanted the truth. I looked at Wikipedia. (Not always reputable-but still.) I checked out Amazon. I read Goldman's bio on IMDB. And I found a site called filmmakers.com. They all point me to the knowledge that the interruptions are part of the story. I found this quote on filmmakers.com. "One night, [Goldman] asked his 4- and 7-year old daughters what they wanted his next story to be about. One replied, 'Princesses,' the other, 'Brides.' Thus, the Princess Bride was born." His daughters. Goldman doesn't even have a son. Which, to me, is a relief, because I couldn't stand how cold he was in print.

As you read the book, you will find Goldman interrupting often. It's like a story within a story. It was entertaining for the most part, but, I also found it odd that he would interrupt the story of the Princess Bride so many times to tell this other story. Especially odd, since it reads like truth, but is also fiction. I'm having difficulty understanding the reasoning behind that. Sometimes it felt like this side story would never end. It's funny to think about. When you read a good story, you almost climb inside it and get lost. Then say your spouse or kid comes up to you needing your attention. You are suddenly knocked out of that world into the real world. It's like Goldman is trying to do that in the book. And then, almost as suddenly, you jump back in the story.

I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the movie. I found out it was nearly identical because William Goldman not only wrote the book, but he also wrote the screenplay. Readers will enjoy the "Zoo of Death" scene which is replaced by the "Pit of Despair" in the movie. That is the one major change that I noted. Oh, and the end of the story doesn't really end with Buttercup and company riding off into the sunset. I won't spoil it, but I thought it a strange way to end a book. Then, at the back of the book (depending on which printing you read), there is a chapter of what is supposed to be a sequel, Buttercup's Baby. Here, we get another story about the Morgenstern estate, and why there is only one chapter included. Supposedly, the estate wants Stephen King to do the abridgement. There is no such book. Only a teaser of a chapter. Goldman is now 80 years old. So, unless he's truly committed, we may never see more of these characters than what is written.


Elizabeth said...

First, that clip at the end is JUST PERFECT! I loved it!

Second, I may have to watch the movie again and I'm really curious to read the book now. Loved your take on it.

Third, the graphic of Buttercup and Wesley with the quote is AWESOME!

Fourth, no more rhymes now. I mean it!

xo -E

The Husband said...

It's not that I don't like the movie, I just don't find it funny anymore after seeing it for the 800th time. Sort of like cleaning the toilet: you were so excited when your mom let you do it for the first time, but then the job just became crappy...

Anonymous said...

Anybody want a peanut?

mom said...

Anybody want a peanut?
Dad and I watched it again friday night after he red your blog!
Just as good as ever!

Carrie said...

I remember way back when I first saw the movie in the theater and my mom hated it. But later we watched it at home and she was rolling on the floor laughing. For that memory it is a classic in my book. However, I have yet to read the book. I'll have to check it out on my next library visit. Along with the Neverending Story.

"anybody want a peanut?"