When I participated in the 30 Day Book Meme on my blog, I was worried about not being able to fulfill Day 20, which was supposed to be about my favorite romance book. I didn’t have a favorite romance book, so what’s a girl to do? I had The Princess Bride in mind as soon as I saw the question. It’s one of the few overtly romantic movies I can watch without wanting to gag, and the only one that was based on a book. I hadn’t read the book before getting to that question in the meme, so it didn’t feel right answering just based on my impressions of the movie (and I do a pretty spectacular impression of the minister in the wedding scene).
Actually getting my hands on Goldman’s book was an adventure unto itself. I found a copy at the library with one of my least favorite words on the cover – abridged from S. Morgenstern’s original. Yuck. The librarian said that the abridged version was the only one available in the system, so I opted to buy my own copy. Surely a bookstore would have more copies available than the library.
Yes, the bookstore websites I checked all had dozens of copies of The Princess Bride, but it was always the abridged version, something Goldman calls the “good parts” edition. Dammit, what happened to the unabridged version?
It turns out, there’s no such thing as the unabridged version. What you see is what you get. The good parts or no parts at all. The running joke is that William Goldman was writing a new and improved edition of a long and fairly boring story by Florinese legend S. Morgenstern. The version we can buy in the bookstores (or get for free at the library, whatevs) is cobbled together from what Goldman’s father read to him when he was a little boy; basically, he skipped over all the boring passages about Florinese history and only read the interesting bits with adventures and sword fighting and sometimes some kissing.
Keep in mind, there’s no S. Morgenstern. There’s no Florin. Goldman is making it all up. Think about all the scenes in the movie with cute little Fred Savage and his grandfather, who so lovingly skipped over all the boring stuff in the book. That’s basically what we’re dealing with. Frankly, I thought the joke got stale very early on. Goldman did a better job trimming it down when he wrote the screenplay.
Speaking of the movie, I mentioned earlier that I based my decision to choose Westley and Buttercup as my literary prom king and queen on how they were portrayed by Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. I was honestly a little disappointed by the versions of them in the book. Even with all of the hubbub about Buttercup being the most beautiful girl in the world despite being a dirty anti-bath farmer’s daughter, she was a huge brat early on and I almost didn’t care if she got her happily ever after. Westley was Westley, but I think Cary Elwes breathed a lot of necessary life (and wit and charm and handsomeness) into the role.
Clearly, the true stars of the book were Inigo the Spanish swordsman and Fezzik the Turkish giant. Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant had a pretty fantastic rapport in the movie and their characters’ friendship was elevated to true bromance status in the book. In my mind, Goldman created such compelling backstories for Inigo and Fezzik, from their family histories to their shared desperate need for friendship, that he managed to overshadow the love story. Unfortunately, this didn’t carry over to the movie, which was clearly the Buttercup and Westley show.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If Goldman had included all of that information, we would have been so far removed from the actual plot that we’d all be wishing those scenes had been cut. The one thing I really wish had been left in the screenplay was a scene in which Fezzik, as a member of the Brute Squad, was clearing out the Thieves’ Quarter and was deeply concerned about being separated from Inigo for so long.
When he finally found his friend, he was so sloppy drunk that Fezzik had to nurse him back to health. To pass the time, Fezzik played a rhyming game with himself, something he had done since childhood. He knew Inigo was back in fine form when he began to play the game too. It was a really sweet moment in the book that was reduced to the “Anybody want a peanut?” scene on the ship early in the film. Not quite as poignant.
Between the two, I prefer the movie. I think it moved at a much more enjoyable pace since the narrator’s interjections were kept to a minimum. As much as I loved the expanded characterizations of Inigo and Fezzik in the book, Goldman made some smart choices in how those characters were portrayed on screen. When it comes to the book, I don’t think the highlight of Inigo and Fezzik being more fleshed-out characters is enough to save the reading experience from Goldman’s self-indulgent interruptions.