Title: The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure: the "good parts" version
Author: William Goldman
Publisher: Ballantine Publishing Group (1998); originally published 1973
Michael (of Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer fame) and I are back with another set of reviews for a book that has been adapted for the screen.
Click here for Michael's review of one of the awesomest movies ever made!
Continue reading below for my review of a book that was published some years back. (Oops! Have I already given away my tepid-at-best feelings toward this book?)
Review: the "good parts" version - The Princess Bride is, basically, a big spoof that works much better as a movie than as a book.
Review: unabridged version - Buttercup has grown up on her parents' farm and has been happily mistreating Farm Boy for many years. (During this time she is also becoming one of the most beautiful women in the world, this is outlined by the narrator as she moves up in the top twenty.) One day she realizes she is in love with Farm Boy. He has loved her for years (no idea why) and wants to provide a nice farm for her so he sets off to "seek his fortune" but he is captured and killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts on his way to America. Devastated, Buttercup swears to never love again. Some time and events pass and Prince Humperdinck decides that Buttercup will be his wife. (Don't worry, she doesn't love him.) In the weeks leading up to the marriage, she is kidnapped by a trio of mercenaries but then re(?)kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts.
A note on the narrator: I've read this book 2 times now and still can't figure what the shit Goldman was thinking with this narrator. The idea is awesome but in reality, well... In brief, Narrator's dad used to read him the awesome Princess Bride story by S. Morgenstern. Narrator wants his son to experience it as well but when they start to read the book on their own it turns out Narrator's dad had edited out all the long/boring stuff (thus, the "good parts" version). So as you read along in The Princess Bride the Narrator often cuts in to explain what he edited out. It's a fun idea, and certainly amusing at times, but the Narrator is such a right, royal jizzwad that he completely ruins the story. Seriously! I'm sitting there trying to enjoy The Princess Bride but all I can think is how I want to poke ice picks into Narrator's eyes. I skipped most of his parts this time around and I suggest that if you are the type of person who can have a story ruined by the proximity of dickish behavior that you skip his parts, too. At the very least, pass up on the introduction.
Ok, on to the book...
I go back and forth between thinking Goldman made a truly fantastic spoof or just a total crap book. "Let me explain. No, it would take too long." (hahahahaha) I'll list a few things I liked and then get on to what it is about the book that grates on my last nerve.
Good stuff -
Inigo and Fezzik
The word "humperdinck"
The Fire Swamp
The presence of the mysterious "holocaust cloak" is explained and it's something I'd always wondered about in the movie.
Other Stuff -
The writing/plot/characterization are completely wooden if you don't understand fantasy/adventure stories (and a little bit even if you do). I want to think this is part of the spoof. The idea here being that you accept all these ridiculous things because you do understand fantasy/adventure stories and it's part of the spoof. The thing is, I love spoofs but something about this one falls hella flat. I spent most of my time being annoyed rather than amused.
Buttercup is the most useless individual alive in the story's two fictional countries - and possibly the world. She may as well have been a mussel for all she brought to the book. Seriously! Why did Westley (our erstwhile Farm Boy) ever fall in love with her? I mean, yeah, the depth of his character was illustrated by the fact that he reads Books* so there's not much to him either but throughout the story we see that he Reads,* has ambition, is a great swordsman, is very strong, is an excellent strategist, is loyal, is funny and Buttercup is... holy hell she's too boring to even come up with a derogatory term. I'd say she's stupid (this is the girl who spent 6 months in "princess classes" and can't even fracking spell divine) but that seems to be attributing more to her character than was intended. Gah! But again, I'm hoping this is the spoof. You have your typical More Awesome Than Awesome hero and your Too Useless to Live heroine. But again again, it's more annoying than anything else.
Inigo and Fezzik are pulled straight from the canon. They are not unique or developed. They both play into caricature types that are meant to appeal to readers on an immediate emotional level. These two and Prince Humperdinck are what work well within the spoof framework. They embody archetypes we've seen done well and done poorly and done ad naseum but they are still likable in their own right and bring much to the story. That's good spoofing.
I made a few notes on this read through with the intention of being a bit more in depth and including examples of why the book didn't work for me but the idea of flipping through to the relevant sections simply bores me (a bit like the book). For whatever reason this spoof/story just does not work for me in book form. Maybe if I didn't love^ the movie so much the book would have worked better but, alas, it's not to be. I will once again leave my movie thoughts for over at the movie review but trust me when I say that the true genius here was Goldman turning this into a screenplay. I wonder if he, too, realized this story wasn't made for a book and a movie was the way to go.
So be sure to skip this book and go straight to the movie, and the movie review by clicking here!
*Books being a generic description of never-actually-named books that characters read when authors are not interested in properly developing characters (these characters are closely related to those who Quote (hat tip: Jed))
^love as in luuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrve with big smoochie xxx's and a giant throbbing heart
rating: 2 of 5 stars
Coming up next:
The Lathe of Heaven
Links to previous joint posts:
A Scanner Darkly
The Children of Men
The Minority Report