The Shameful Book Club: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

img_4205January sucks. It’s cold, everyone is fat and bloated from the holidays, there’s serious financial regret going on, and maybe you decided to stop talking to you uncle for the foreseeable future. That’s why I wanted to make January the month for humor. This January was SUPER hard, ahem, and so I was very grateful for this month’s humorous Shameful Book Club read. The Princess Bride, the film, was a staple in my home growing up. It is one of my all-time favorite movies, and most of the people I know have seen it just as many times as I have. A true classic! And I had heard so much about the book, but of course, never read it. Well, I am super glad I finally did.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The format of it is confusing, and I know people who were so frustrated by it that they actually gave up reading it all together. Why? Well because for a while you can’t really tell if the book is completely fiction or if it’s partly true or entirely true or what have you. If you know me, you know I love this shit. Long-con deception! I frequently tell people that I want my wedding to be so confusing, people walk out unsure if I actually got married or not. So for me, this was two thumbs up. But then there is the constant interrupting, which also bothers a lot of people.

Let me explain, no that would take too long, let me sum up (GET IT I QUOTED THE BOOK): Goldman starts the book talking about his experience with the original Princess Bride manuscript and his father’s interpretation of it. He then goes on to present The Princess Bride in the abridged format that his father used to tell him as a kid, constantly interrupting the story to inject his own interpretations or stories about his father’s readings and his reactions, etc. This make for a very confusing situation for people who don’t know that The Princess Bride is not and never was a real manuscript or book about the history of a far-off European country. That should have been everyone’s first clue: there is no such place as Florin. But hey, there are people who still think the world is flat, so who am I to assume these things. Some of my friends also did not enjoy the tonal shift that occurs sometimes during these interruptions. The style is definitely weird.

I personally enjoyed the interruption. The commentary was absolutely hilarious to me and was a pretty brilliant structural tool for the book. It made me realize that if there is a part of a story you don’t particularly feel like telling, there are ways to get out of it! Goldman’s sarcastic voice is everything I love, and the timing of the interruptions are, for the most part, comedic genius. I also really enjoyed how he wrapped his own “personal” story around the manuscript, bringing it back to his relationship with his own son. But I will say that by the time I got to the additional chapter from the alleged sequel, Buttercup’s Baby, I was kind of tired. I actually blame that on the extra content itself, not the book leading up to it. It was written for the 20th anniversary edition, and you could just tell that he was trying so hard to emulate what he did before with the rest of the book, but it wasn’t really clicking. I actually didn’t finish that portion of the book and decided to be satisfied with just the book proper.

Something very interesting about the book and the unique construction and approach it took to a traditional legend or fairytale is that the careful construction of these stories is made transparent through The Princess Bride. Each bit is handpicked for inclusion from what we are told is a detailed history of a country. But every once in a while there are cracks in this narrative. Usually those cracks are in the form of Goldman’s interruptions, telling us what really happened or what his dad left out here or there. My favorite instance of this is at the end when he details how many “true” endings to the story there are. In the end he settles on the one that makes him happiest. I think that is a very interesting thing to think about when considering our lives and our own stories.

princess_bride_2

I liked a lot about the book, and I honestly think the movie did a wonderful job at adapting it! But there are things I liked more in the book and disliked more in the book compared to the film. I disliked Buttercup a whole lot in the book. She is straight up dumb and not very useful, but I will say that she’s got some spunk and honor. In the movie, those positive attributes are accentuated, perhaps to make up for her being rather useless. She’s not nearly as dumb sounding/acting in the movie as she is in the book. At least the book is honest about her dumbness, however. It doesn’t try to make her something she’s not. What I love more, however, was every fight scene Inigo has. The way his training is described, and his skill, are just so much fun to me! This of course elevated my love for the big fight between him and Count Rugen, the fight to avenge Inigo’s father. It’s done so well in the movie, and both Christopher Guest and Mandy Patinkin are geniuses in it, but the scene in the book includes Inigo’s internal battle as well. It’s amazing.

I also really enjoyed Count Rugen’s character in the book! I was fascinated by him and how he approached things. Along those lines, I also really enjoyed Fezzik’s character in the book. Andre the Giant did a wonderful job in the role, but he’s not exactly what Fezzik is like in the book. And Fezzik’s background is so fascinating and heartbreaking! None of that made it into the movie, but that doesn’t make the movie any less excellent. What I love most from the book, however, is the Zoo of Death! It is so fricken detailed and diabolical! So much fun to read about, and then to follow Inigo and Fezzik through as they try to find Westley.

And Westley! He’s definitely an asshole, but there was one part of the book when he is undergoing torture in the Zoo at the hands of Count Rugen where I actually wrote in the  margins, “I want to be this badass!” The Prince and the Count are betting on what will break Westley first:

“I think the physical,” said the Prince.

“I think you’re wrong,” said the Count.

Actually, they were both wrong; Westley suffered not at all throughout.

So, the conclusion is, this book is a ton of fun. I definitely recommend it if you need something light to escape into. In February I decided to dig into Outlander for romance, but it is long and I’m not enjoying it as much as I’d like. That blog post might be a bit late. March is science fiction, and I was going to read 1984 in honor of our current situation. Unfortunately, my copy is boxed up. So is my copy of A Brave New World, which was my original pick. I’ve ordered them from the library, but we’ll see when they get to me. Which ever one I get first I will do! April is fantasy, and I’m planning on listening to The Mists of Avalon. I’ve been feeling very witchy lately, and I was completed sucked into the miniseries when it aired back in the day, so I can’t wait for that! May is non-fiction, and I plan on reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. Feel free to read along with me and join in my shame!

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