The Book: William Goldman, THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Del Rey paperback reprint, 1992 (36th printing). Very good condition; pages are slightly browned, spine is creased and slightly cocked.
First read: 1987
Owned since: 1993 (this copy)
The first copy of this book I read belonged to my then-boss, Keith Ellis, who recommended it as one of his favorites. I'm pretty sure I'd seen the movie by then, but I might not have.
Great as the movie is, it's a very different experience from the book, which is an adventure in the nature of storytelling as well as an adventure in its own right.
Goldman's conceit is that he is not the author of THE PRINCESS BRIDE. He is merely the abridger of a much longer book by S. Morgenstern, a great Florinese writer whose original book was a tedious political satire with some really good parts. In an extended foreword, Goldman explains that his father had read him THE PRINCESS BRIDE when he was a child, and it was only when he went looking for the book as an adult that he realized his father had skipped all the boring stuff and just read the good parts.
The good parts, as Morgenstern claimed, are a story of True Love and High Adventure. Buttercup, the most beautiful girl in the world, falls in love with the farm boy Westley. To earn their fortune, Westley sails for foreign lands, but is captured and killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts ("no survivors!") along the way. Heartbroken, Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck -- and there the adventure begins. Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of hapless outlaws, the Dread Pirate Roberts himself saves her, and nothing turns out exactly as planned -- but everything happens just as it should.
Goldman sums it up in his introduction: "I believed in that once. I thought my life was going to follow that path. Prayed that it would. Obviously it didn't, but I don't think there's high adventure left any more. Nobody takes out a sword nowadays and cries, 'Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!'"
For myself, I wouldn't be so sure. Yesterday I found out that I will, in fact, be in New York for the month of September, on an adventure that feels downright reckless. I might need to practice my sword skills.