Friday, February 22, 2008

William Goldman

The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
Recommended Age: 12+

The writer who brought the world the novel and screenplay Marathon Man, as well as the movies Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, All the President's Men, and A Bridge Too Far, is also the genius behind this wonderful modern fairy tale. Many of us are familiar with the classic movie based on this book. As hard as it may be for you to believe that any book could improve on that movie, I am here to tell you: read the book. It's even better! Much, much better!

The first chapter of The Princess Bride alone makes this book a masterpiece--and it was almost entirely trimmed from the movie. Besides a much more romantic love story, the book boasts delightful side-trips into the stories of Inigo the swordsman and Fezzik the giant. But the main treat is the story of Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world, whose heart is shattered by the death of her beloved Westley at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts. When the heir to the throne of her imaginary country comes a-wooing, she consents to marry him, on the understanding that she will never love him. Thereby hangs a tale--a tale of intrigue, mistaken identity, betrayal, true love, daring deeds, and wry humor.

Embedded in this story, which Goldman fictitiously adapted from a very fictitious book his father supposedly read to him as a child, is another charming story: a madcap story of literary adaptation, covering for a heart-warming father-son love story, full of nostalgia. And even in the midst of the fairy tale adventure come moments of bracing honesty and painful realism, such as: "Life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something."

This is simply one of the most enchanting and funny books I have ever read. I believe I'm on my third copy now, having worn out two before it--or maybe I loaned them to somebody and never got them back. Who knows? Once you read this book, you'll be as hooked as I am. So prepare to buy it again and again...

UPDATE: Since this review was first posted on the Book Trolley, dozens of readers have contacted me, insisting there really was such an author as S. Morgenstern, and such a book as S. Morgenstern's original classic on which Goldman's book is merely the "good parts version." Such is the power of Goldman's whimsy! But I insist, once again, that it is whimsy. If you believe in the existence of Morgenstern, you also have to believe in Florin, Guilder, and Prof. Bongiorno of the Florinese Department at Columbia University!

No comments: