Author: William Goldman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner Books
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.
Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.
What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.
In short, it's about everything.
This book deserves full marks of all the stars in the entire uuuuUUUUniverse! Now I know who the inspiration for Zorro was.
Yes, this is one of those classic damsel-in-distress waiting for her knight in shining ardor—I mean armor books. I wouldn't have given this book a try if that was written in the synopsis because I love heroines who kick ass and likewise, throttle heroines who are lame-ass. But I had this book because some people assured me that this is a classic adventure fantasy type of book somewhat similar to The Count of Monte Christo. Besides, this is one of those Phantom stories.
Who wouldn't be thrilled with a phantom in a story? Oh, that painful anticipation to see the face behind the mask (even though you already know who that is). As an outsider, even if you do know the face, you would still imagine it to be handsome. And wouldn't he be more gorgeous with a hint of danger? With the face covered, your attention will be naturally drawn to the physique which is usually tall and well-built and... hmmmm.... Okay, books don't mention that but when I read things like shrouded man in red cloak, man in black, the masked man, such come to mind. Well, save for bandits and prospect hostage-takers. And the phantom of the opera (novel).
Mortgenstern's narration is very fluid and engaging. When you get to the part "Chapter One. The Bride," I swear that you will never leave your eyes from the book. This book is the funniest one I've read since Angelfall by Susan Ee (I'm sparing Tangled by Emma Chase for the humorous genre because I don't like the heroine there and I wasn't smitten by the male protagonist either). Believe me, everything in this book is comical:
"Strange things are happening," Buttercup's parents said, and off they went too, bringing up the rear of the cow-feeding trip, watching the Count, who was watching their daughter, who was watching the Countess. Who was watching Westley.
And deeply moving too. Expect a lot of heartbreaks while reading. Don't worry, the fight scenes will get you distracted and hooked. Just so you know, my heartaches don't include the heroine who is the very title of this book. I love to throttle girls like her, remember? I already implied that she's a lame-ass. My heart is all out for Westley. And this book is all about Westley, not that stupid girl. Life is unfair. And expect deaths. Did I really just say that fast? Anyhow, if I didn't, Goldman will.
The book I read is a "good parts" abridged version of S. Morgenstern's (whose sole purpose is to tell the history of the Florin monarchy) by William Goldman. This is where I could say that the original book is meant to be read in school for an up-close scrutiny. (You know that usual discourse about books in literature classes? Right!) So much for an author to create a lovely story about true love whose real motive is to tell real history. The original book was in Florinese which was later translated to English.
Morgenstern was Florinese who later migrated to America. And the author who cut up parts of the book is William Goldman who came upon the story of Princess Bride through his father (a Florinese who gambled his fortune in America just like Morgenstern) who read to him the book while he was in sickbed, battling pneumonia at ten. His father only relayed to him the good parts and skipped on the real-life historical parts that William Goldman discovered in his horror a week after his own son turned ten.
That's when he understood why nobody (I mean only a few) was reading it. And right then and there, he decided that he's going to abridge it, to share it again to the whole wide world because it was his favorite book of all time (though he has never read it) and focus on the "more important" things like:
Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.
Yes, there will be fencing and fighting, giants and brave men. Now that I have mentioned Westley— my love (ahem!) and the Princess Bride aka Stupid Girl heroine named Buttercup (okay, it's my first time mentioning her name), I will have to introduce Inigo and Fezzik for I will expound things with them later for some argument. They are relevant characters. After all, a chapter had been dedicated to each one of them alone. I will do it fast.
Inigo (a Spanish swordsman) and Fezzik (a giant Turk), motivated by personal issues, go arm-in-arm with a Sicilian hunchback in a quest to become the most notorious criminal company. They're on a mission to kidnap stupid girl and do things with her. Things happened. And they will come back again for more action. Things got uglier. Death. Pumping for more action. Uh, I hope you are not misled by that...?
But I had to admit, Buttercup is not entirely stupid. It's just that... I hate her for some girly reasons.
Before we get to the story of the Princess Bride, we get a taste of a little bit of biographical story from William Goldman. I already told you a bit of it. It was really fun and entertaining. Now I'm considering reading biographies (only if the author is humorous). His purpose was to make people understand how this book came to abridgment. Now I don't care about his purpose. All I know is that I'm enjoying every—like every tiny bit of it.
And back to the story. I love all the side comments— Morgenstern's parentheses although they are not particularly accurate when it comes to historical chronology (as Goldman pointed out). But I know they were intended to be comical. And I did really have a good laugh for every one. The narration goes like,
"All aboard," the Sicilian said. (This was before trains, but the expression comes originally from carpenters loading lumber, and this was well after carpenters.)
Morgenstern kept saying things like "This was before something. Blah blah about something. " They don't fail to crack me up nonetheless. Morgenstern's usage of anachronism really works in this book.
Can this book be any more nutball hilarious?
This one is a scene where Inigo was ordered to kill the man in black. They were in the Cliff of Insanity where the man in black was pursuing Inigo's company. Since the company's leader had let go of the rope that they used to climb where the man in black used to hang to, the man in black was forced to climb the remaining of the cliff brutely. And inigo, true to his swordsmanship, was just waiting for the man in black to reach the top of the cliff where they could proceed their swordfight. If he was any other man, he would have flung a rock below the cliff to kill the man in black. But since he's a swordsman, he would love to defeat his enemy with his sword skills.
Forty-seven feet to go now.
"Hello there," Inigo hollered when he could wait no more.
The man in black glanced up and grunted.
"I've been watching you."
The man in black nodded.
"Slow going," Inigo said.
"Look, I don't mean to be rude," the man in black said finally, "but I'm rather busy just now, so try not to distract me."
"I'm sorry," Inigo said.
The man in black grunted again.
"I don't suppose you could speed things up," Inigo said.
"If you want to speed things up so much," the man in black said, clearly quite angry now, "you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find some other helpful thing to do."
And for which Inigo very much obliged.
A little bit of appreciation:
**Alert** Toggle for spoiler (a really deadly one):
Now let's get serious.
I'm just going to say that I noticed at least 6 other books who copied or drew inspiration from Morgenstern. And I have to agree with William Goldman here that Morgenstern is pitiable (Goldman didn't write it but he inferred). I do feel sorry for the man. His book isn't that famous (back then). Oh come on, only a small number of people know it had it not been for Goldman's abridgement in 1973. Considering that the original book was published shortly after WWI, it should have made a big name and made it to children's classic books and I would have heard of it. But I didn't! Compare it to J.R.R Tolkien's world of Middle Earth which was released in the 50's and certainly made a cult following in a short number of years after publication. God, as a kid I had come across 3 horror books (one written during 70's and another at 80's) that had made references to Tolkien's works i.e. Nazgul and Legolas.
Of course, I'm not expecting that this book will have a following. It's just a single book after all. But it did clearly not make a huge circle of fans or readers. Goldman had had a hard time getting a copy for his son in his time and paid a wad of cash for it to be possible. When it comes to adventure books for children, my father was even able to produce a copy (maybe because it was already in the 90's and all kinds of media had improved a lot) of Treasure Island when I was 7 although I didn't understand a thing about it at all. It was just so hard for Princess Bride. Though I'm grateful now that an ebook copy of it is purchasable.
And to think that so many big authors had copied Morgenstern's style (or styles) and they were given credit for it in which case, the originator—Morgenstern was not. Which was also his fault as Goldman had remarked:
Morgenstern wasn't writing any children's book; he was writing a kind of satiric history of his country and the decline of the monarchy in Western civilization.
Of course, I don't expect authors to say somewhere in their book that they had copied his style in the same manner others made references to Tolkien's creations. I'm just sad that in most cases, there is no way that new readers will be able to smell that some authors copy his style. I wouldn't have been able to sniff some if I haven't finished reading this book now. And it would have been all at the privy of some Columbia University experts. Save for other readers of course.
You could say that Morgenstern started so many tropes (or what is similar in a sense that so- many-people-use-them-like-a-standard nowadays in the internet as meme, just for those who don't know; and damn me if you don't know what meme is either). Or say that he developed literary styles or devices—that would set the mood for readers— that are used by a lot of contemporary authors and even just after his time. And I would be sorrier for the man if these authors don't even know that they're following Morgenstern's style and are only aware that they're simply following the things that are already laid out in the table (writing style from older authors who actually took inspiration from Morgenstein).
Would it be possible that George R.R. Martin also copied S. Morgenstern through Inigo? It's that thing about avenging a loved one and telling the pursued nemesis about his background and his reason for vengeance. The avenger will only be using that one line of speech everytime he gives a blow to his opponent. He will keep repeating that single line over and over for every strike and parry (which I'd indicated in bold below) to the irritation of his enemy, perhaps to taunt him, make him remember of his transgression and be conscientious about it.
S. Morgenstern's Inigo to Count Rugen:
Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die.
George R.R. Martin's Prince Oberyn Martell to Ser Gregor Clegane (A Storm of Swords):
I am Oberyn Martell, a prince of Dorne. Princess Elia was my sister. You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.
Furthermore, a thing that Goldman noticed which is of utmost importance (!) and this involves the Wizard of Oz:
There is some action stuff which I cut, which I never did anywhere else, and here's my logic: Inigo and Fezzik have to go through a certain amount of derring-do in order to come up with the proper ingredients for the resurrection pill, stuff like Inigo finding some frog dust while Fezzik is off after holocaust mud, this latter, for example, requiring, first, Fezzik's acquiring a holocaust cloak so he doesn't bum to death gathering the mud, etc. Well, it's my conviction that this is the same kind of thing as the Wizard of Oz sending Dorothy's friends to the wicked witch's castle for the ruby slippers; it's got the same 'feel,' if you know what I mean, and I didn't want to risk, when the book's building to climax, the reader's saying, 'Oh, this is just like the Oz books.' Here's the kicker, though: Morgenstern's Florinese version came before Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, so in spite of the fact that he was the originator, he comes out just the other way around. It would be nice if somebody, maybe a Ph.D. candidate on the loose, did a little something for Morgenstern's reputation, because, believe me, if being ignored is suffering, the guy has suffered.
Yeah, I'm really that bitchy about adapting one's style. And I insist to think that some authors do pick up Morgenstern's. Fezzik love to rhyme words hurled at him in his head. Say if you tell him about 'bother'. He would think 'father'. You tell him that he's a 'coward', his brain would utter inwardly, 'towered'. And he would do something like that in his head always. Likewise, it's not about rhyming but having a knack for words in his head. Caleb Drake of Love Me With Lies by Tarryn Fisher loves to say people's names in reverse. If he couldn't tell someone about it, he'd express it in his head. Say the narration talks of a man named Thomas. He'd think Samoth. Always, so long as he is given a name of a person.
This one observation is from the Saw series films: Leigh Whannel (story writer) must have taken his Saw Machinery inspiration from Count Ty Rugen aka six-fingered swordsman. Okay, I'm not serious about that. But if you are a fan of Japan's Cinderella Monogatari aired in 1995, let me tell you that the last episode has that same feel for the the climax in this book: Rescue the princess. Savior in mask. Fencing. Help from a motley crew of friends. White Destriers.
Another thing that Goldman noticed of the ending (no spoilers unless you know what he meant):
That's Morgenstern's ending, a 'Lady or the Tiger?'-type effect (this was before 'The Lady or the Tiger?,' remember). Now, he was a satirist, so he left it that way, and my father was, I guess I realized too late, a romantic, so he ended it another way.
I felt unfortunate that I hadn't come by with this book in my childhood days. I love classics then that I grew up with Peter Pan in Neverland (though he didn't grow up there), Mary in her secret garden, and Alice in her Wonderland. Though it is fortunate enough now that I have a solid mind to see things in a wider perspective my kid-self would not be able to. Anyhow, I felt so fulfilled having to experience this book. It's overly satisfying to discover things that are deplorably overlooked by some people and I become a witness to all that though kind of late.
There is so much to learn from this book. And I would really like for this one to be introduced to kids at an early age. The movie adaptation on 1987 by director Rob Reiner is equally as awesome as the book. Though the book is much funnier.
UPDATE! MAY 2014
The book being presented as an abridgment by William Goldman was his own joke. The book was indeed written by William Goldman. And I didn't know that The Princess Bride movie was so famous on late 80s.