Friday, January 12, 2007

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

What a fun book to read. We read this for book club and then watched the movie (which wasn't necessary since we've all seen it so many times we were quoting the whole thing). It is better to know from the beginning that Goldman wrote it all, there is no S. Morgenstern. You feel less duped. I thought it was really obvious that Goldman is the true author (his humor is the same throughout, there's no way the language is from the era Goldman claims it is from), but, I do remember thinking it really was an abridgment when I read it in high school or junior high. And a lot of the ladies at book club didn't know the whole thing is fake either. Some decided they didn't like the book just because they felt deceived by the author.

It is so funny though. And you get all this background information about Inigo, Fezzik and Buttercup. I love the way he tries to place the book in time... "This was before Europe," then later he talks about Paris. Also, when he describes the great kisses since the first kiss was discovered and then says "Before then couples hooked thumbs." The whole thing is funny.

At the end of the newer edition, there's a chapter of the supposed sequel "Buttercup's Baby," along with a bunch of explanations about it. It went on and on... I couldn't even finish it. It was too irritating. Should never have been added, in my opinion.

11 comments:

  1. I remember reading this when I was a teenager and I loved it. The Princess Bride is one of those classic films that is always funny, and I think the book is like that, too. I'm hoping our book club will read it, maybe next month, though I will warn everyone about the fictionalized author/abridgment thing. It's pretty common in fiction for authors to claim that they're just editing something they've found or whatever. To use a contemporary example, Lemoney Snickett claims to be recording the true story of some sad orphans in The Series of Unfortunate Events. Of course, Lemony Snickett and the stories are completely made up. I'm surprised that people would be so taken in by something like that.

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  2. I too, fondly remember reading the book, I think around 1984 or so. I recall getting into an argument in college with someone about whether the book was "real" e.g. there really was an unabridged version. :) It's rare that a great book becomes a great movie - this may even be a case where a great book became an even better movie.

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  3. The movie really is great, isn't it? I can't think of anything I would change about it.

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  4. Our book club agreed that all the actors were perfect for the movie, except for Prince Humperdink. He was super funny, but the book's character was much more masculine, like a "dumb jock" (or hunter in his case). We decided, to match the book's character, he should have been more like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. Instead he's so feminine, which does make for some pretty funny parts.

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  5. Hi, Greg! I was a latecomer to the Cult of Princess Bride. I knew tons of lines from the movie by heart before I ever saw the movie, and I still haven't read the book. My freshman year of college the movie was very extensively quoted by my dorm roommate and others. But when I finally did see the movie, I still liked it, which is often not the case when you've already heard all the good lines!

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  6. Oh, by the way, if you like to get lost in a tangle of abridgements of translations of fragments of tales of uncertain origins, I haven't found anything crazier than Jorge Luis Borges's fiction. It's really fun, and always just believable enough that you wonder if you're counting something as fictional when it's really true. Borges does seem to mix in real events, people, and sources on occasion just to keep the reader awake.

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  7. Well, I finally read this book, and it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure it would be as good without the movie bringing the characters to life, which is unusual and a ringing endorsement of the movie. But the book was certainly quite good.

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  8. I read it, too, because our book club read it. I got a little tired of William Goldman's rambling and self-indulgent-seeming introduction and comments throughout the story, but I really did enjoy the book. Jon's right about the movie: rarely does a film bring a good book to life with such success. It was so easy to hear the movie characters while I was reading, and it just made the book more enjoyable. I liked the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby. I know Ivy didn't. But once I got past Goldman's mandatory too-long intro, I liked learning more about Fezzick and Inigo. I'm not sure it had much purpose, but it was fun to read, partly because it was new, and I didn't know it from the movie.

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  9. OK, I feel stupid. I read the book this summer and had no idea it wasn't a true abridgement of S. Morgenstern's original. Thanks for clearing that up. Makes it even funnier, actually. I was surprised at how closely the movie followed the book--a lot of the dialogue was word for word. I have to admit, though, that, even though I liked the book, like Erin and Joh, I liked the movie more. In the book I found Buttercup a little too, hmmm, what's the word--stupid? Her idiocy annoyed me. She didn't come across as particularly brilliant in the movie, either, but at least she wasn't quite so clueless.

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  10. I know what you mean about Buttercup being so dumb in the book. She kept talking about her Wesley and how she knew he would do this or that and all I could think is, you don't even know him.

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  11. Yeah, it's made pretty clear in the book that Buttercup isn't very smart. But maybe she wasn't all that smart in the movie, either, but we're predisposed to think of her favorably, because she's the heroine. I guess I just never thought about her intelligence until the book made it so clear--she's the fourth most beautiful woman in the world (or whatever) but not the sharpest tool in the shed.

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