narfna’s #CBR4 Review #32: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I didn’t see The Princess Bride, the movie, until I was in 7th grade. At that point, it was 1997 or 1998 and it seemed like everyone else I knew had seen it a million times, and I’d never even heard of it*. We were on a school trip to Tombstone and we watched it on the bus. I remember I had a one pound bag full of rock sugar that I was eating like it was chips or something (honest to God, I should probably be diabetic for how much sugar I consumed as a child), and between that and my first glimpse of the gorgeous Cary Elwes as Westley, and well, the whole rest of the movie, I was high all the way home.
*My parents raised me on a strange mix of Disney, Shirley Temple, and John Wayne movies, and so by the time I grew a brain of my own, I was horribly behind in all things pop culture — I still didn’t manage to see Star Wars until I was 16. Man, that was a good year.
It wasn’t until several years later that I came across the book in the library — I hadn’t even known the film was based on a book, and I had a hard time imagining what kind of book exactly could have spawned such a wacky, wonderful movie. The answer? An equally wacky — if not moreso — book, with an even more meta story inside of a story inside of a story thing going on. The Princess Bride and I were MFEO. I bought the book for the first time last week (for an undisclosed and super secret reason which shall be forthcoming) and decided I needed to take the opportunity to re-read it for the first time. Dudes, it was even better than I remembered it.
In fact, there’s so much goodness packed inside these pages, I’m having a hard time deciding what to write about.
Should I write about the characters? The admirable and dauntless Inigo, the loveliness of gentle Fezzik, the lonely cold beauty of Buttercup, the absolute dreaminess of Westley? Should I write about Goldman’s fictionalized self acting as a frame, about how “S. Morgenstern” is a fiction as well**, and how all his little interruptions and asides are gloriously made up? Or should I write about how this book is supposed to be a satire, but is so marvelous that it actually loops back around in the other direction, making itself not only a satire of traditional story tropes (most often adventure and fairy stories), but by the end, it actually becomes one of the best examples of those things that’s ever been created. For example, the love story between Westley and Buttercup: Goldman shoves all this ridiculous stuff in there, like Buttercup being the 20th most beautiful woman in the world, and their over the top declarations of love for one another . . . but by the time he’s done, you’re actually choked up. All this wonderful, quotable, self-aware dialogue, and it still makes you FEEL things. It’s beautiful, man. And the whole book is like that! Ridiculous and sublime.
**I do have to confess that when I read this the first time, I had NO IDEA that S. Morgenstern was a fiction, as was almost all of the supposed “true story” of Goldman’s life as presented in the novel. When I was reading it back then, I could tell that something was just a little bit off, but I was so naive and Wikipedia didn’t exist yet to tell me otherwise, that I took Goldman at his word. Honestly, it wasn’t until about five years ago when I finally bought the film on DVD that I researched it a little and learned that the whole thing was made up. It made me feel much better about life.
In the end, I think I will write about none of those things, because I have too many feels and am also lazy.