Sunday Morning: The Princess Bride (the book version)

Sunday Morning: The Princess Bride (the book version)

I read The Princess Bride back in the 80’s. It was before the movie came out so it must have been ’84, ’85, or ’86. I checked it out from the library as part of their “Summer Reading” something-or-other. There were a handful of books I read as part of that… I only remember the book I hated and the book I loved. Princess Bride was the book I loved.

The book had a wonderful conceit:

It’s not the story “The Princess Bride”. It’s the story about the story “The Princess Bride”. I remember that the book had a red cover and so I googled for the images of the book and found this:

Sunday Morning: The Princess Bride (the book version)

Let’s read the cover together:

The Princess Bride
S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

The ‘good parts’ version
Abridged by
William Goldman
Author of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

(Hey! I didn’t know he wrote Butch Cassidy and Sundance!)

Anyway, I went into the book thinking “oh, this is a book with just ‘the good parts’… huh. I feel a moral obligation to read the original but, hey, this is the book the summer reading program gave me and so this is the version I will read in order to get my candy bar.”

And I was so glad that Mr. Goldman abridged the book for me! It had just the good parts. The funny conversations. The Swashbuckling. The characters! And then, when we got to a point in the story where Mr. Morgenstern went off and talked about boring stuff for a few dozen pages or so, Mr. Goldman would write and tell us that he was skipping a bit.

Here’s how Chapter Two begins:

     This is my first major excision. Chapter One, The Bride, is almost in its entirety about the bride. Chapter Two, The Groom, only picks up Prince Humperdink in the last few pages.
This chapter is where my son Jason stopped reading, and there is simply no way of blaming him. For what Morgenstern has done is open this chapter with sixty-six pages of Florinese history. More accurately, it is the history of the Florinese crown.
Dreary? Not to be believed.
Why would a master of narrative stop his narrative dead before it has much change to begin generating? No known answer. All I can guess is that for Morgenstern, the real narrative was not Buttercup and the remarkable things she endures, but, rather, the history of the monarchy and other such stuff. When this version comes out, I expect every Florinese scholar alive to slaughter me. (Columbia University has not only the leading Florinese experts in America, but also direct ties to the
New York Times Book Review. I cant help that, and I only hope they understand my intentions here are in no way meant to be destructive of Morgenstern’s vision.)

Isn’t that great? Chapter 4 begins by Mr. Goldman saying that, when *HIS* father read this book to him, he said “What with one thing and another, three years passed.” When he sat down to do the “good parts” version, he looked at the original and said “holy cow, this part is the longest part of the book! And nothing that advances the story happens! For one-hundred and five pages!” and then so Mr. Goldman summed it up with one sentence: “What with one thing and another, three years passed.”

I remembered thinking, again, “Huh… I should probably read that. Someday. In the meantime, I’m glad I get to skip ahead a bit without any guilt.”

It was *YEARS* before I realized “hey, Morgenstern doesn’t exist! The good parts version is the only version!” (What can I say? We didn’t have the internet yet.)

As good as the movie was, it was a movie that I walked out of thinking “the book was better.”

And it was with that thought that I delighted to see a huge hardcover version of the book sitting on a table at Costco last weekend. It’s this one. But as I flip through it to find snippets to excerpt, I think “man, this is a *BEAUTIFUL* version… but it’s unwieldy. It’s not a ‘curl-up-on-the-couch’ version.”

I bought the hardcover version because it was beautiful and it made me remember curling up and reading a dog-eared version back when I was a kid. So I’d say that the hardcover version is a great gift for someone who loves the book… but if you’re going to give a copy to someone who hasn’t read it yet? Get them a paperback. Something that they can put down open-faced while they run to answer the door or get a snack and they don’t have a bookmark handy. Something that they can hold while they curl up on the couch. Something that they can cheerfully give away to a friend as soon as they finish it and say “Here! You *MUST* read this!”

And *THEN* they can get the beautiful hardcover version.

So… what are you reading?

(Image is “Chapter 30” by Carolyn Langton. Used under a Creative Commons License.)


Contributor
Home Page Twitter 

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

30 thoughts on “Sunday Morning: The Princess Bride (the book version)

  1. Also, if you want to learn about adapting screenplays from books you can do worse than reading All The President’s Men and then watching the movie. Goldman won an Oscar for that and it’s really educational.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  2. I feel that the book is almost a proto postmodern novel. It doesn’t abandon the author function, instead it promotes a war between two “authors”, supposedly “S. Morgenstern” and “William Goldman” the narrative voice of the book.

    The book is full of fourth-wall breaks, and the meta-narrative is about what makes a good story, versus what life is actually like, and a sort of yearning by “William Goldman” for his lost youth, where times were simpler.

    Yes, it’s much better than the movie, even though the movie is fantastic.

    One of my favorite bits in the book is the “lost” reconciliation scene. There is a “publisher’s note” that if you write to them at some NY City PO box, you can get a copy of it. I know someone who did that (in the 80’s, and got a typed apology that the reunion scene was tied up in copyright negotiations and alas could not be shared with them.)

      Quote  Link

    Report

  3. I keep screwing William Goldman up with William Golding (The Inheritors, Lord of the Flies), and somehow they’re conflated with Ira Levin (Boys from Brazil).

    I am reading Eric Wargo’s Time Loops in small bites since it is so dense with information and each page conveys deep concepts. I am picking my way through David Jordan’s Being Colloquial in Esperanto. Also I don’t know if I am becoming farsighted after being a computer (cum [heh] smartphone) user for more than twenty years.

    I should be writing for myself. The Anomalist is fine, keeps me sane, but I have things I wish to convey to the world. Which brings me to a philosophy of writing I’ve been playing with for some time. Write as if you’re writing to a friend. What’s being written is unique and should come from the heart, rather than to entertain. When sometthing comes from the heart, it’s true. When it’s entertaining, the lie had better be good otherwise it will be largely forgotten. Or it must (metaphorically) embody a universal truth which reflects the reader’s soul.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  4. I will be ornery here.

    I don’t like the movie very much. I guess it is kind of cute but there are plenty of other movies at its charm level or better. The movie certainly isn’t high art. The movie came out when I was about seven. I remember watching it as a kid (or bits and pieces of it). Maybe a few more times as an adult.

    A lot of my dislike of the film is how loving the film has become a kind of “virtue signalling.” Liking this film seems to be an absolute mandatory for many people and they look at you as if you have three heads for finding it merely okay. The culture around the film also represents the most despicable tendencies of the Internet nostalgia machine in my view. Namely the sugar-drenched, locking chains of easy childhood entertainments* and not branching out into the complex, difficult, and nuanced.

    The novel sounds more intriguing and much better but my dislike of the cult around the movie that I resist it.

    *I don’t care if this is considered a snooty, unfashionable, and old way of looking at things. I think it is a problem that a lot of internet culture seems to be people (mainly guys) in their 30s and 40s whose aesthetic tastes seemed to stop between the ages of 8-12. That episode of G.I. Joe is not as mindbending as you think and the show was still a 30-minute toy commercial.

      Quote  Link

    Report

        • That’s what I don’t quite get about this opinion. The Princess Bride did the deconstructed fractured fairy tale, piercing the veil of the genre 1) earlier 2) quicker, and 3) I daresay better than George R R Martin would do some ten years later. (and not cinematically until the next century).

          Granted, the end of the movie is ‘sweeter’ than the book, as there is one less 4th wall break – which would have been off from the overall tone of the film (clever & worldly, but not cynical) and difficult to film with Columbo and Wonder Years Kid as the point of view characters.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Not to comment on the movie, about which my opinions track somewhat closer to Saul’s than to those of most of the people here, but I liked the deconstructed fractured fairy tales from Rocky and Bullwinkle and, much later, Shrek, better. But that’s just a matter of taste. I was probably 13-ish when the movie came out, but I saw it only later, in the early 1990s. Maybe I would have liked it better had I seen it in the cinema.

            (That often happens with me. The great show or movie comes out that changes everything, but by the time I get around to seeing it, it seems cliche’d and a caricature of itself, even though it’s what paved the way for so much I now take for granted. Viz, my opinion of The Wire.)

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Fwiw, I only saw Princess Bride for the first time in college in the early 90s, and went into it completely cold, with almost no knowledge of its reputation or even that the movie existed. (it wasn’t until the ‘have fun storming the castle’ that I recalled seeing a TV ad for the movie back when it came out.) (it was also a few years later that I realized my Boy Scout troop leader had quoted the ‘to the death? no, to the pain speech’ a few times on long van trips.)

                Quote  Link

              Report

    • Given your age, I suspect you can’t quite understand how big of a breath of fresh air that movie was when it came out. It really felt like “Oh gosh the movie I’ve been waiting my whole life to see”. I’ll never forget the first time I watched it.

      Now there are a lot of other choices for those of us with more geekish tastes but at the time there was really nothing. It just felt special to realize that lots of other people were into stuff like that. Beat reruns of Simon and Simon that’s for sure.

      But yeah you’re right about how some movies/shows get a following like that and then people act as if you’re a freak if you don’t swear that they’re the greatest thing ever all the time. Firefly, Wonder Woman and even the “Wuv, twue wuv” scene of PB which I personally never thought was even remotely funny come to mind for me. And you’re beyond right about the childish emphasis of Internet culture. Great comment.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • Bill Mahr got into trouble when he made a similar comment to your last paragraph regarding the death of Stan Lee. His essay, called Adulting, basically argued that comic books used to be something for kids and teens that you grew out of when you became adult. The truth is a bit more complicated though.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • You are entitled to like or dislike anything in any way.

      The thing that makes me wonder, though, is that you seem to be very reactionary here. It has nothing to do with the film, particularly, but to the culture surrounding it. In some ways, your description of its cultural embedding is fair, but your reaction seems to be obscuring what people liked about it in the first place.

      I would rather like or dislike something based on a more primal experience, just me and the art.

      I will drive a stake in the ground and remark that a child cannot possibly comprehend all that is going on in PB. It pretends to be a child’s movie, but it isn’t about children at all. It’s about remembering childhood from adulthood.

      Again, like what you like or don’t like. But I think you aren’t understanding PB at all, or why I like it.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  5. I just finished “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene, and now I’m toying with watching the 2002 movie with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser. The movie was originally supposed to come out in September 2001 and it’s release was held dor a year because of the “unpatriotic themes” the movie contained, and I can remember a time when I would have agreed with that (no politics).

    And now I find myself kinda stuck in between books. I’m in the middle of a couple of series but none of them have captivated me to the degree that I want to rush back and finish them. I’m thinking maybe I’ll read some classic X-Men on Comixology until either inspiration strikes me or Jim Butcher publishes the next Harry Dresden book!

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • That is a great book. The movie isn’t bad per se and is wonderfully filmed, but it isn’t remarkable either. My main criticism is that, in my opinion, Caine is miscast. I felt he was too old for that part, as wonderful as an actor he might be. Others might think differently. I would be interested to hear your views on it, as not many others have really talked about it.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • It’s the only Greene I love unreservedly that isn’t one of his comedies, like Our Man in Havana or Travels with My Aunt. And I can’t count how many times I’ve thought about “I never a knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused”, though usually in contrast with someone causing immense trouble with only the worst of motives (no politics).

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I thought the book was good. Not great, but good. For that opinion, I claim no authority other than personal taste. And considering the time period in which Greene wrote it, it was an important early* work on Vietnam.

        The movie, I kind of agree with you. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either. For me it wasn’t so much Caine as Brendan Fraser. I know Fraser wasn’t in the TV show “Friends,”** but he looks like the type of person who was, and I just couldn’t see him as a covert CIA agent. I’m also not too fond of the “typewriter writes headlines so the viewer can know how the story turns out” trope with which the movie ends. Again, this is all my opinion and probably says more about me than the film.

        *Where “early” = only the U.S. matters while Vietnam’s 2000+ year history doesn’t.
        **Actually, I just now looked it up. I thought he was in the show. But I hardly ever watched it so I wouldn’t know.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • I haven’t seen the movie yet, but based on the reading I kind of think that “I just couldn’t see him as a covert CIA agent” is kinda the point. Pyle, representative of American foreign policy, is _the only one_ who thinks he’s a “covert” CIA operative. To everyone else, he’s fairly transparent, and to the Vietnamese (Phuong), he’s a means to an end. Pyle (America) is the only one who doesn’t understand this.

          :-) :-) NO POLITICS!

            Quote  Link

          Report

  6. I have a copy of Pilgrim At Tinker Creed sitting by my side, to be started tonight. I am still working my way through 1Q84, but it is a bit more difficult than I usually find Murakami. Not in a hard to read or understand way, but that it is too slow and long-winded. But, I haven’t put it down for good yet, so we shall see.

    Watched most of a new version of The Moonstone last night, Not too shabby, I have to say.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  7. I’m (still) (slowly) (re)reading Lord of the Rings.

    I’ve just finished reading Crosstalk, by Connie Willis. Not my favorite and not my thing. But it was well-written, though too long.

    I’m kind of reading and kind of not reading* Beyond the Frustrated Self by Barbara Dowds.

    *which means I’ll probably end up just skimming.

      Quote  Link

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *