9.29.2010

Currently Reading: The Princess Bride

Prince Humperdinck was shaped like a barrel. His chest was a great barrel chest, his thighs mighty barrel thighs. He was not tall but he weighed close to 250 pounds, rock hard. He walked like a crab, side to side, and probably if he had wanted to be a ballet dancer he would have been doomed to a miserable life of endless frustration. But he didn't want to be a ballet dancer. He wasn't in that much of a hurry to be king either. Even war, at which he excelled, took second place in his affections. Everything took second place in his affections.


Hunting was his love. Once he was determined, once he had focused on an object, the Prince was relentless. He never tired, never wavered, neither ate nor slept. It was death chess and he was international grand master.

Author: William Goldman

Synopsis: "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles." [Goldman's words, not mine, in case anyone wonders. Sure, that quote is not precisely synoptic—but you've all seen the movie anyway, right?]

Notes: Reading this book, I was pretty sure that William Goldman had entirely made up S. Morgenstern (and most of the information about himself, too). That story is as well told as the "good parts" of the supposed classic, so I had to at least make sure Wikipedia corroborated that belief before committing to it myself.

That little meta-feature—the book's telling a made-up story about a made-up story—worked beautifully. Goldman's asides to Morgenstern's text, including commentary on satirical novels, were often as much fun as the swashbuckling tale itself.

There's often an element of disappointment in reading a book if one has watched the movie first (though perhaps not as often as when the case is reversed). I expected to be disappointed, and wasn't. The book tracks closely enough with the movie for comfort; it just includes more of everything.

Disappointment is also common when numerous people recommend something as absolutely hilarious, especially if they've quoted all the best parts to you in the recommendation. The above snippet, then, is not the one that made me laugh the hardest (although if I had been able to find that online, I probably would have posted it) and I'll try to refrain from expressing just how funny I found the tale. But if you want a laugh, I should think you have a good chance with this one.

Recommendation: Read it in a silly mood. I think that would be hard to beat.

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