Sunday Morning: The Princess Bride (the book version)



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

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar atomickristin says:

    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.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    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.)Report


    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.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    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.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      I guess my question is, do you like other Rob Reiner productions? And specifically This is Spinal Tap?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        That is about his only good movie. The rest are pretty damn saccharineReport

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          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.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.)Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              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.)Report

    • Avatar Fish says:

      I agree with your footnote in part. Nostaligia culture certainly lifts up a lot of stuff that doesn’t warrant the attention. I really enjoyed both the book and movie versions of TPB, though.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      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.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      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.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The book is really good, and really fun.

      I’m one of those lucky enough to have read it before the movie came out.

      That’s a treat that I’m not sure anybody old enough to read after 1987 will ever again be able to experience.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      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.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Culture matters.

        The culture of the Princess Bride is the culture of the meme. “Jokes” repeated endlessly and quotes replacing analysis.Report

  5. Avatar Fish says:

    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!Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      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.Report

      • Avatar Fish says:

        I thought the same thing when I saw that Caine was playing Fowler. I’ll let you know my thoughts once I see it.Report

      • Avatar jason says:

        I read the book after seeing the movie. I pretty much agree with you, Aaron.

        While not remarkable, it is one of those movies I can sit and watch if I catch it on. I’m not sure why.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).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.Report

        • Avatar Fish says:

          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!Report

          • Yikes, you’re right about the no politics, so I won’t follow through. But I think you make a good point.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            No politics indeed. I have attempted to get Jaybird to create a MindFULL Diversions upon occasion where we can talk about things like this.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Eh, so long as we don’t veer into culture war, it should be fine.

              Something like “I believe that the character was intended to be X” is perfectly fine.

              “The CIA was that dumb, is that dumb, and the reporter who discovered that the CIA was selling cocaine in the US to fund a secret war was shot twice in the head and it was ruled a suicide!” would not be.Report

  6. Avatar Aaron David says:

    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.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.Report