The Princess Bride

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Princess Bride: S. Morgensterns Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, by William Goldman

I grew up watching the movie so I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Princess Bride. But two things about the book surprised me: (1) its author and (2) its audience.

The real author is William Goldman, a successful screenwriter who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and many others. He uses a literary convention of discussing a fictional book to tell a story about a fictionalized version of himself. As such, it's really a book for adults, not kids. There are a few things that kids won't appreciate (like the humor) and a few things that they hopefully won't get (like some mild racial slurs and the author briefly considering an affair in the preface) but mostly its a story about a grown man in a cold marriage and a grinding job, who still longs for the ideals of a childrens' story: true love and high adventure. But fictional book and the real one both reveal that however wonderful romance and adventure are, life isn't fair.

The author tells the story of being a lonely boy obsessed with sports who has no interest in books until his father reads to him the Princess Bride by "S. Morgenstern". The young boy is so enthralled with the story that he becomes a writer as an adult.

Years later when his own son could care less, the author reads it for himself only to discover his father skipped the boring and sad parts so his son would enjoy it more. To hopefully make his own son love it as much as he did, the author decides to abridge it and get his editor to publish it. We the readers end up with a story with running commentary on the story. The gimmick works: the Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern could stand on its own, but the Princess Bride by William Goldman will stay with me.

Here's some dialogue, which might be familiar to you if you saw the movie.

'She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time,' my father said.
I looked up at him. 'What?'
'You looked like you were getting too involved and bothered so I thought I would let you relax.'
'Oh for Pete's sake,' I said, 'you'd think I was a baby or something. What kind of stuff was that?' I really sounded put out, but I'll tell you the truth: I was getting a little too involved and I was glad he told me. I mean, when you're a kid, you don't think , Well, since the book's called The Princess Bride and since we're barely into it, obviously, the authors not going to make shark kibble of his leading lady. You get hooked on these things when you're a youngster; so to any youngsters reading, I'll simply repeat my father's works since they worked to soothe me: 'She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time.'

100 Cupboards

Monday, May 18, 2009

100 Cupboards, by N.D. Wilson

I've been reading N.D. Wilson's short stories and articles in the theology magazine Credenda Agenda for over a decade. He's matured from writing weird stories with off-the-wall observations to kooky stories with insight. I believe that writing, like any craft, takes much practice, and I'm glad it paid off so handsomely for him in this great story, 100 Cupboards.

The plot is this: twelve year old Henry goes to live with his relatives in small town Kansas after his parents disappear. He discovers secret cupboards in his attic bedroom, which turn out to be portals to different worlds. His understated uncle is more than originally assumed, his deceased grandfather's bedroom door is impenetrable, posted letters from other worlds deliver ominous warnings, and Henry finally plays baseball with other boys. Even though it is technically a children's story, it had me hooked from the beginning. I was completely spooked for the last half. (It probably didn't help that I was reading it in the dark, while nursing in the wee small hours of the morning.) My only quibble is there's no resolution to the story: this is only the setup for the next installment of the series, or what my husband calls the Tim LaHaye school of writing.

Here's an example of the engaging perspective Wilson brings to his story--constellations above watch Henry and marvel at his lack of imagination.

Above him, the stars twinkled with laughter. Galaxies looked. Nudged each other. Chuckled. He didn't even know about secret cities," Orion said. "His mother never told him."
The Great Bear smiled. "Did his dad tell him about forgotten doors?"
"Only having to do with science projects or bicycle trips."
"Mostly topographic, or the kind that shad countries in different colors based on gross national product or primary exports."
"Nothing with 'Here be dragons' on the edges?"
"Never. He found a hidden cupboard with compass locks, and do you know what he thought was in it?"
"A unicorn's horn?"

PS: While browsing through other bloggers' reviews of this book, I noticed that we all seem to have the same reactions: (1) Wilson's writing is so good that we can't help but quote excerpts and (2) it's spooky!

Reviews and ramblings....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh my word, I'm so far behind.

Far behind on laundry, thank you notes, housecleaning, potty training Violet, and all that lifey stuff that gets thrown to the wayside when there's a newborn in the house. Although, I'm not sure if Faith is a newborn anymore--she turned 6 weeks old this week! It's a milestone I really enjoyed with Violet, because it seemed mark the transition from newborn to baby. (This time, I hope I will be awake enough to appreciate it.)

So in addition to all the other things I'm backlogged in, I'm also quite behind in blogging. As I very gradually figure out how to be a mommy to two little girls, I hope to catch up with all the books I've read these last few months. I'll start with a double review of two mysteries I recently finished.

Arson Plus, by Dashiell Hammett
I enjoyed reading a few Dashiell Hammett novels in high school. I hoped that this short story would be a fail-safe good read, but was disappointed. The characters, especially the hardboiled detective who solves the case, have nothing compelling about them and the story it ended up having the emotional impact of a newspaper. It could be from my sleep-deprived state, but I had to go back and read the first part of the book again after I finished it, because I had no idea who the bad guy was. That should only happen in Russian epics or Dickens' novels .

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
Why isn't Dorothy Sayers more renowned? She was brilliant and surprisingly well-rounded. Her friends and peers seem to have stolen some of her thunder, but her crime novels are on par with Agatha Christie, her love of medievel times was as reverential as CS Lewis', and her essays are just as obtuse as GK Chesterton's.

This mystery was a great counterpoint to Dashiell Hammett's, especially how the story revealed the characters' humanity--both good and bad. It played by the classic rules of mystery novels: the baffling crime, the interesting setting, the crime-solver and his sidekick, and the objective truth, deduced by both logic and awareness of man's capacity to do evil.

If the story has any faults, it's that it is dated. Here's an example of some dialogue:

"Bunter," said Lord Peter, "I beg that in the future you will restrain me from starting two hares at once. These cases are gettin' to be a strain on my constitution. One hare has nowhere to run from, and the other has nowhere to run to. It's a kind of mental D.T., Bunter. When this is over I shall turn pussyfoot, sorswear the police news, and take to an emollient diet of the works of the late Charles Garvice."
What? Nevertheless, it's a good story.