Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Book Details
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Paperback, 512 Pages
2007, Harcourt
ISBN: 0156035219

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the "S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Having loved The Princess Bride movie, it was sort of obvious that I would love the original novel it was based upon. Only, I didn't exactly love it. Don't get me wrong, I love the story and all of the very best parts of the movie came from the book. The problem is the book is written in such a strange way, with the author being a character in his own novel, that made the reading experience not completely enjoyable.

The Princess Bride movie is a modern classic, so I'm going to assume that most people have seen it at some point in their lives. The novel is better than the movie when it comes to character background and development, as most books are. We get to know all of the characters from their childhood right up until the action. More than just Westley and Buttercup and Inigo Montoya, but Fezzik, Prince Humperdink and Count Rugen as well. Favorite scenes from the movie are directly taken from the novel. Inigo's famous line, Westley and Vizzini's poison scene as well as the final battle.

The movie is a condensed version of the novel and seems to have taken the very best aspects from the book. What's left, beyond the deeper character histories, is a lot of unnecessary information in a distracting format. The author, William Goldman, is the narrator in the book. He's describing his supposed personal experiences in learning of the story as a child and now writing his own edited version of the tale. He breaks the narrative frequently to explain what he cut out and why. Most of the time claiming the excluded information was boring. This is a lot like the movie, which I imagine is supposed to portray Goldman as the child with his father relating the story. The problem is the the grandfather in the movie telling Fred Savage the story is likeable. The way Goldman portrays himself in the book isn't. Explaining that he's away on business and going to cheat on his wife, never pays much attention to his kid, etc. does not endear the reader. The fact that he wants to share this story from his childhood with his son doesn't really redeem him.

The story of The Princess Bride is absolutely wonderful, but in this case, I'd have to say the movie was much better than the book. I'd actually recommend watching the movie instead of reading the book for the few that don't know the story. Missing out on the character depth is unfortunate, but you'll be able to avoid Goldman's fictional version of himself. That guy's kind of an ass.


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