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.

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