“He held up a book then. “I’m going to read it to you for relax.”
“Does it have any sports in it?”
“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders… Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”
“Sounds okay,” I said and I kind of closed my eyes.”
The Princess Bride
Call me a philistine if you will (and you may want to after this confession) but last week was my first true encounter with The Princess Bride. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard of The Princess Bride– there are even Dread Pirates in The Sims for goodness sakes- I’d just never watched the film or read the book. Didn’t even know that there was a book. So when I came across the book in Waterstones I grabbed a copy (then paid for it) to read on the plane to New York.
Moving from The Mortal Instruments series to The Princess Bride, what first struck me was the coincidence that both books used the name S.Morgenstern. Then what struck me was that I wasn’t sure where the book started. I spent quite a while flicking through to see if the preface was full of spoilers or meant to be read. I couldn’t fully decide, it was crazy- was I reading a narrative frame or is this a genuine abridgement? Is this man seriously writing about his wife and son like this? Did his marriage end as a result? Absolutely bonkers. I loved it. Totally madcap.
Technically speaking it’s one of the worst narratives I’ve ever read, and yet the execution of it makes it the best. I can totally understand why it’s such a cult thing, even if Buttercup is in the most part a total drip. The thing is, while you’re reading it, you know that it’s highly probable that it is just a frame. You know that Guilder isn’t a real country (don’t you?) so you know that it’s really unlikely that he’s being pursued by the estate of Morgenstern. But then the crazy stuff with Stephen King and the adaptation of Buttercup’s Baby gets brought in and it doesn’t convince you but it genuinely does make you doubt what you know, and that’s where the genius of the book lies. The elements of “real world” coupled with the derision of the academics and an irreverent manuscript style trick you into suspending your disbelief in a way that some of the most highly respected fiction fails to.
Or maybe I’m just hopelessly naïve. Maybe it was a trick of the jetlag. But I like the idea that this book has made me less cynical. I’m ordering the DVD to watch while I’m in hospital next week.