Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

This is one of the most excellent pieces of craftsmanship I've ever read. All right, if you haven't read the book, none of what I'm about to say will make sense, but here it goes anyway. I was completely fooled. I bought into every word of what he'd written. I actually tried to find other books by Morgenstern or at least some biographical information about him to get some baring on where he was writing about. And yes, I did feel like a fool when I found out, though the feeling only lasted for about a minute. And then it came rushing over me: I'd just read a masterpiece. I have the updated version of the book, so I even went online and looked up the Buttercup romance scene just to if it was really there. And sure enough, there it was.

Goldman must be somewhere past brilliant. I've never seen a more well thought out ruse. I was astounded. I read again. I was just as captivated. It was perfect. The book is better than the movie, though Goldman was the brainiac behind both and for all intents and purposes the movie is practically perfect once you drown out the 80's keyboard soundtrack. Also, I would recommend watching the movie first and deciding if the story is really the thing for you first, and then reading the book whether you liked the movie or not. In either case, you'll appreciate the game Goldman plays with you unless you're a stuffy know-it-all who always has to be right and can't take a joke. If that's the case, go find some other blog. This is really not the one for you.

Anyway, Goldman wrote flawed characters flawlessly. Buttercup is a bit of a numbskull even if she is a good enough person that you want her to have a happy ending that she hasn't worked hard enough to deserve. Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini are a hilarious trio whose flaws seem to completely contradict their strengths and lead to their own undoing in the early stages of the story. Westley is a bit too reckless for his own good, even though he seems virtually invincible in every way. Just to make it interesting, Goldman did give him a sense of fear that was curiously omitted from the movie and buried deep enough in the book that it only comes out when the story experiences a lull in the drama. Even the beguiling Morgenstern is just enough of a longwinded headcase to turn his masterpiece into a bloated fairy tale in need of a serious pruning by its most diehard fan, Goldman.

All in all, it's a love story, a good love story. It's not afraid of falling victim to the genre's cliches as it points them out one by one. That's gutsy, and even I can respect that. Oh, and William Goldman totally fooled me with the whole thing, so he wins.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nightlight by The Harvard Lampoon

Okay, I guess it's time to answer the question that everybody has to answer at one point in their lives (if they were alive and literate since Stephanie Meyer started writing). Am I team Edward or team Jacob? Yes, my fiancee convinced me to read the Twilight series. No, I don't understand everyone assigning themselves to teams like we were going to play some kind of Forks Super Bowl. If you're lucky enough not to know that Forks is the setting for a lot of the Twilight series, lucky you, but we don't have a lot in common in this regard. So, anyway, back to the point. I'd have to say that more than anything that I'm team anti-Bella.

I don't see what Edward and Jacob saw in that pathetic pile of shallow introspection. By far, she is the most boring dimwit in the series. The two of them could really do better. I'd really expect better out of Edward in particular since he's had the better part of a century to overcome teenage hormones and get his head on straight. At least Jacob is just getting into his blinded stage of life, not that I'm all that interested in his perspective either.

That's why I loved Nightlight. I'm not sure that it's the best parody ever written, but I think my frustration with the slowness of the series it's based upon really helped to elevate it in my mind. My fiancee was a fan as well. Belle Goose was so roundly oblivious and self-centered that neither one of us could help laughing. Edwart Mullen wasn't so much a shot at Edward Cullen as an accentuation of the self-involvement of Belle Goose (Bella Swan). Some of the jokes were a little highbrow, but all in all a good browbeating was exactly what those books needed.

Not unlike the moderately well done movie parody, Vampires Suck, the book was just the same basic joke done to its farthest extent without becoming tired. Basically the punchline in both cases was, "Get a grip, people! There are a lot of very convenient holes here. We're better than this." All in all, it was good for quite a few belly laughs even for a fan of the series in its original format, a fan like my fiancee.

The Wind Singer by William Nicholsen

I don't recommend the entire "Wind on Fire" series that this book comes from. I didn't enjoy the second or third book nearly as much, but the Wind Singer was different. It was an excellent piece of fantasy. I already wrote about my favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth, in an earlier post and when I read this, I was reminded of that story. Both stories are great quest tales. Their plots aren't that similar, but they each have that something special in common. I really feel that I learned something from each of them, Mumpo included. Actually, Mumpo the most.

One of the charms of this story is that despite the constant peril for the characters, the author never falls in love with killing off characters. Unfortunately, he does just that with the rest of the series. However, The Wind Singer is practically perfect. I heard from another reader that they didn't care for the 'death chant' of the terrible Zars, but so long as the three of them managed to stay ahead of them and avoid confronting them, I was okay with that.

Now, I don't know if that was just the masterpiece Nicholson had up his sleeve because I was so put off by the books that came after that I kind of went cold on his subsequent series, but even if that was his opus it's fine by me. I loved The Wind Singer. It was a fun read and I've actually done a few rereads and it maintains its charm. That's something that not too many other books can claim.