Thursday, May 16, 2013

Prepare to Die… Laughing

"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman

The story of "The Princess Bride" is a complex one. According to William Goldman, this is the true account of a group of people and the events that happened to them in and around the land of Florin a very long time long ago. As the account begins, we are introduced to Buttercup, a milkmaid who has the potential of being the most beautiful woman in the world. Then there’s her family’s farm boy Westley, who apparently is far from being a slouch in the looks department. We are soon introduced to Count Rugen, who is the only person that Prince Humperdinck trusts. At the onset we already understand that Buttercup will eventually rise far above her lowly station to become worthy of the man who will eventually become a king, and make her his queen. The truth is Buttercup doesn't know she is actually in love with Westley. And Westley isn’t anything better than a love-struck farm boy. As the story unfolds, these two are quickly parted and then go through a series of adventures (and misadventures) before they can finally be reunited. Along the way they encounter such interesting people as Fezzic the giant, the Spaniard master swordsman Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Does that sound like a fairytale to you? Of course it does. But throughout this book, Goldman insists that all he has done is take an existing true story that was desperately overly wordy and technical in order to extract from it the “good parts”.  This, because he wanted to make it as close as possible to the story his father read aloud to him when he was recovering from Pneumonia at the age of about ten years old.  The original, he states, was written in Florinese (the national language of the country called Florin) by one S. Morgenstern.  Apparently, Morgenstern’s original book has “been on the Florinese Times bestseller list continuously since the week it was published”!  But it really doesn’t matter if you decide that this pretense is fact or fiction.  One way or another, this is a book that will warm your heart and make you smile - if not laugh out loud, as I did. 

And so the stage is set for a myriad of adventures, heartbreak, romance, intrigue and everything a perfect fairy tale could offer.  But this isn’t a fairy tale - or is it?  Sound a bit muddled and convoluted to you?  Well, you see, this was apparently Goldman’s problem with Morgenstern’s original text versus what his father read to him when sick as a child.  Because of this, Goldman has attempted to remove all of the superfluous passages (including whole chapters, when necessary), while allowing himself to interject from time to time with his own insights and commentary.  Some readers might find this a pretty egotistical way to abridge a story.  However, I found that quite to the contrary, it was these interjections and comments that made the whole thing come alive for me.  Sort of like being slapped in the face every so often by a velvet glove - here we are, deep in the convoluted story and then Goldman brings us almost rudely back to the present with something as obvious as “they had acres back then” or as silly as “they had arguments then too”. 

Goldman’s abridgment of this story not only helps us concentrate on the essence of the tale (by eliminating the “not good parts”), but also brings us closer to these characters (um… historical figures) by practically speaking to us through his commentary.  The humor he puts into his commentary and interjections perfectly parallels, as well as compliments the humor of Morgenstern’s original text.  If you don’t at least crack a smile while reading this book, then your funny bone must be made of hardened, cold, molten stone!

In addition, Goldman also appeals to our senses of wonder, amazement, bravery and valor, while showing us that these do not exist in a vacuum, but are part and parcel of a world that holds evil as well.  Still, he gives us hope that good can overcome evil if we only believe that it is possible.  It is probably this message that Goldman is trying to put forth to us, and he does it by doing everything in his power to make you believe that this is no fairy tale, but a true story - a historic account and that these people really did exist and triumphed through adversity we can’t even fathom to understand.  Lastly, Goldman always leaves you wondering and wanting more, because, after all isn’t life just one big question that’s never totally answered?  Much like the famous Reunion Scene that Goldman wrote, was stopped from including in the original edition of the book, and is to this day, buried in litigation and mystery - yet hope still springs eternal!

It would therefore be my opinion that this book is not simply highly, or even merely extremely recommended, but rather, I wholeheartedly believe that it should be required reading!  (Thank you, Miss Roginski, wherever you are.)

The Princess Bride is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, as an iBook or an AudioBook from iTunes, The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide), or from an IndieBound bookstore near you.

This review was originally published on DooYoo under my username TheChocolateLady, and also appeared on {the now defunct} Yahoo! Contributor Network. 
Comments Welcome!