As I rarely discard a book, it should thus come as no surprise that I have overflowing shelves of novels I’ve once read, enjoyed, savoured and then swore up-and-down-back-and-forth that I was going to re-read someday. Alas, it is someday. I’m spending whole of 2016 revisiting my book collection, digging back into books I read once, but that I haven’t read (or listened to) in at least four years. So, we’re about to find out what was worth reading… twice.
Many people are familiar with The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman (or as I’ll just call it The Princess Bride) as a film staring either Forrest Gump’s girlfriend or that lady who is married to President Keven Spacey. But for those only casually familiar with this comedy classic, it may not be obvious that the 1987 film is actually based on a book written in the early 1970s, a book that struggled to find a director brave enough to tackle the unique comedic timing and (at the time) grand special effects required to turn the beloved novel into a classic and timeless film.
(That guy, by the way, turned out to be the “meathead” who was Archie Bunker‘s son-in-law, and the lesson here is that I apparently spend too much time reading books on pop culture and lurking through IMDB. Who knew?)
I first read The Princess Bride about fifteen years ago, shortly after I discovered the film and had watched it for the first time. I’ve watch that film innumerable times since, and have even made Claire sit through it (at least) twice –InconcEIvabLe!– but sadly (and despite having a copy on my Kindle) I haven’t revisited the novel since my first, hasty read-through years and years ago.
Now, I remembered this much, but noted as I read the first couple chapters: that if possible, the book is even more meta than the film.
The film, as you may know, is the story of a guy named Kevin Arnold who is trapped in his bedroom with a vaguely described illness while Columbo reads him a story about swords and true love and adventure and giants and kissing and stuff. That book (also called The Princess Bride) is the primary story, a story of a farm boy turned pirate, and a beautiful heartbroken farm girl who thinks her true love has died, a jealous prince and a sinister plot followed by a daring rescue, all while Kevin jumps into various scenes to express his pre-teen distaste at “all the kissing parts!”
The book is more meta, you ask? (You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means!)
So, the book is really a book about a book. The author, William Goldman, is telling the story of how as a quasi-absentee father he tracked down a beloved storybook from his own childhood (S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, to be precise) to give to his own son on his son’s tenth birthday. In doing so he discovered that the book was actually a literary mess, his father having skimmed over most of the story, and everything that Goldman recalled having loved about the story had been simply that his old man had (apparently) improv’d best parts as he read to him each night. Mr. Goldman gets frustrated and convinces his employer (fortunately a book publisher) to pay him to re-write and abridge the original into something that a sane person living in the modern era might actually buy and read, and thus narrates the process of doing so as he retells the classic story — tho just the good bits.
And that is the book… or, as I recall it.
I’m thinking it will be a quick read, but having seen the film so often I’m bracing for the many incongruities that are sure to pop out at me as I do so. I’ll wince, and keep reading of course, and have some vague comment to make about the differences (even if it’s just me talking to the dog) the next time I slip the disc into my player and watch it again.
Thus, I read on… Have fun stormin’ da castle.