Tuesday Review: The Princess Bride

It is with some regret and sadness and a little bit of annoyance that I must admit that I am rather disappointed with the book The Princess Brides: S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure: the good bits version. I found the writing flat and in the bits in which William Goldman interrupts the story to talk about the bits of Morgenstern's tale that he is skipping, rather annoying and preachy. Peter Falk you ain't.

I realize that this disappointment comes mostly from spending the last two decades watching the sublime movie based on the book and in some cases, speaking the dialogue along with the movie. And in some way it is the flatness of the book, of the characters that lend it so well to become a movie. The actors imbue the characters with...well, character. Cary "As you wish Westley" Elwes is at his slightly sardonic, slightly smirky best. Robin Wright is perfect as Buttercup, so much so that I did not realize that the actress had ever been in anything else. As for the other actors...well, Andre the Giant IS Fezzik, and Mandy Patinkin is Inigo (well, accept when he's being Che or when he's being Rube). The Princess Bride, the movie, reached a level of tongue-in-cheek perfection (Inconceivable!) that Spaceballs only dreamed of obtaining.

Not so much the book. Yes, I know it's a classic. Yes, I know it's part of the list of 50 books that every teen should read. (And, honestly, maybe that's the problem...I'm definitely not a teen, but still...I can read Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series til world's end, and that's on the same list!)

But, ultimately, reading the book left me with the same feeling that I had while reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (and, yes, I can admit that Princess is galaxies far better than anything Dan Brown could ever hope to write): I felt like the book was the great idea for a movie, and that when William Goldman wrote the screenplay for the movie, he finally got it right.


JamTheCat said…
I understand. I read "Catcher in the Rye" about 10 years too late to appreciate it. Instead of Holden seeming a lost, rebellious everyboy, he struck me as whiny and selfish and irritating. But then, I didn't like] "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy till the movies came out and I didn't have to read about Aragorn being so perfect, all the time.
becca said…
never read the book but i love the movie
tamayn said…
Jam - I feel the same as you about Catcher in the Rye, but for the same reasons. It may also have been that I finished it right before my Astronomy exam.

I think it's always hard to really appreciate the books after you've watched the movie. I am of the opinion that one's imagination can beat any movie production team on any given Sunday.
Tim said…
I thought the book was much better than the movie. The book contains much in the way of description than the movie does, and this is quite funny stuff. Westley and Buttercup's history is also explored much more in depth, as is the foolish relationship between Florin and Guilder. I thought the zoo of death was much better portrayed then it was in the film. And almost completely missing from the film was the terrific backstory about Inigo's father -- as was the reappearance of his father at the critical moment. ("What did I tell you to do with a gushing wound???? Idiot!")

One can quibble with the way Goldman (who wrote the book in 1973, although it only became popular in the early 1980s) uses the "satire" of the novel to make commentary on American culture, and the way Goldman himself comments on the "novel." I found the "satire" not very satirical, but I thought Goldman's commentary on the "novel" rather droll. (There's a word you don't hear often.)

I think the novel speaks more to people in college or their late 20s/early 30s than to anyone else. The gooeyness of naive love, the naivete about politics: That sort of stuff is more appealing at that age, I think.
Writer said…
Kyle, I read LOTR in my 20s. I loved Fellowship but found the other two plodding. I'm definitely a character development kinda reader. Give me Downton any day.
Writer said…
Love the movie, becca. :)
Writer said…
tamayn, I typically agree with you, but I have to admit that I love the movie and book "Let the Right One In" equally.

OK: that's a lie. I love the book a little better. :)
Writer said…
Tim, I thought that could be potentially my other problem. I find it so hard to read books intended for teens/tweens. Which is sad given I now have a teen must-read book list. :(

And you're right: one does not hear the word "droll" often enough. :)

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