The Princess Bride

William Goldman

Specifically the 25th anniversary edition is probably my favorite novel I've ever read. I never tire of saying, "the book makes the movie look like shit!" And anybody who's seen it knows the movie's great. William Goldman is such a brilliant, funny writer—as far as I can tell, at least, as this is the only book of his I've read before. Twice now, at that.

I really love how this edition's preface elucidates on Goldman's experience with the making of the movie; the nostalgic appeal of this novel is what drew me to it since the film was an enormous part of my childhood, a sentiment that I'm sure much of my generation can relate to. I was very young then, but I still remember to some degree my dad's excitement to have me watch The Princess Bride for the first time. So when I recommend people to read this book (and I do so, very frequently and with urgency) I always make sure to specify that it's the 25th anniversary edition, because it talks about the movie.

In the first "chapter"—really more of a framing preface before Goldman gets to the real meat of the story, I find it interesting how he basically inserts himself into the story under the guise of a fourth-wall break, and decides to portray himself as kind of an asshole in the process. I find it hard to explain why, but I just find his choice to make his own character so unlikeable a really interesting literary choice. Anyways, in this frame of sorts that Goldman builds, there is a hint of unreliability in his narration; it seems to be a blend of "reality"—relative reality, that is, as this is still a work of fiction—what we are led to believe are the events leading up to Goldman abridging The Princess Bride, and of fantasy—Goldman's character's ideal of the life of being a famous, hot-shot author.

I don't count this as a spoiler because in the grand scheme of a book about a story most everyone already knows, this part really isn't all that important but I'm going to talk about it anyway and perhaps I'll get my point across with some degree of success or maybe you'll decide you really just have to read the book for yourself to get it. So, anyways, one moment in this book that strikes me as odd in this sense comes about in two parts, two little one-liners in two seperate scenes. The first moment, on the very first page of the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition consists of Goldman mentioning how his abridgement of TPB fared in the eyes of critics compared to an earlier work of his—he says, "Only Boys and Girls Together got a worse savaging". The next time this title is mentioned occurs during the proper preface of the novel—not the special 25th anniversary one. Anyways, it's brought up again to punctuate the arrival of a drop-dead gorgeous, twenty-something Hollywood starlet, someone who, for all intents and purposes, is probably far out of Goldman's league. And she says, "Pardon me, but aren't you the William Goldman who wrote Boys and Girls Together? That's, like, my favorite book in all the world." She then proceeds to fawn over him.

Goldman includes a lot of these little moments where it's clear he's just engaging in a sort of self-indulgent fantasy to, I guess, make him look or feel more popular than he is, or just to entertain himself or something. It's just so odd to me when you step back and look at what little purpose this device serves in the genral plot of the story. Or maybe I'm missing something... Either way, it's not that serious, it's just a silly character building device in a book I really like.

Something I've grown to love about this book that admittedly really aggravated me for a while the first time I read it was how both The Princess Bride and the unfinished sequel Buttercup's Baby both end on cliffhangers. I guess it kind of ties into this theme of how not everything happens for a reason nor is what happens always fair... there are countless instances of our heroes escaping fate, cheating death, so on and so forth; so many times they come out on top when all the odds were stacked up against them. But the ending—both endings—are ambiguous. They suggest that perhaps fate is finally catching up with them; that Death has finally come to reap his long-overdue souls. Or perhaps fate falls in their favor yet again. Perhaps by some miracle everyone escapes the clutches of Prince Humperdinck as they're cornered during their escape, perhaps no-one has to die, perhaps Westley and Buttercup try their very best to fulfill their promise to outlive eachother, and by some miracle beknownst only to the luckiest couple in Florin, they succeed. This ambiguity here is one scene in which the book and the movie differ. If you've seen it, then perhaps you remember: Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik and Inigo ride off on their five-finger-discounted horses as though Humperdinck wasn't even there. Something about this scene I remembered fondly from childhood having this kind of darker side to it as in the book that wasn't revealed to me until I read it much later on seems to poignantly illustrate the idea that not everything in life is going to be fair. Perhaps the most doting couple in history doesn't get to live out their happy ending. And you, the reader, don't get to hear about it or know either way.

It's this ambiguity that makes up a great deal of the reason why this book sticks in my mind for so long after I read it. Part of me is always wondering... what becomes of our heroes? Which of a thousand possible fates will be theirs?