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on May 31, 2016
I looked out over the edge, down down down, and across the great Florin Channel. And, as I did, I wondered at the pure physical strength it would have taken to scale this rocky precipice, as one man with nothing but a rope, but also as a giant with three passengers strapped to his back. It happened though, as history is quick to point out, improbable though it might seem. I looked back at my two friends. I posed and made a funny face as the writer took my picture. Gerhard rolled his eyes and made a face back at me, snarky, but only in jest. Show some respect, that look seemed to say; these are the Cliffs of Insanity after all!

This is my review of The Princess Bride; the book; not the original, mind you, but William Goldman’s abridged version of S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure:

The way Gerhard always referred to The Princess Bride; the movie, you would have thought that it was a religion to him. He referenced it the way some people quote the Bible. It was amusing, but also annoying. I pointed it out to him one time, after a few drinks.

“Inconceivable!” he replied, mimicking Wallace Shawn as Vizzini; the Sicilian.

“You keep using that word,” I replied, as serious as I could be. Summoning my inner Inigo, I continued, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” My demeanor cracked then, and we both laughed. I admit, I am nearly as much a fan as he. I remember faking sick as a child, so that I could stay home from school and repeatedly watch the movie on VHS (this was after the invention of the television, but before DVD), over and over again, until I could recite, verbatim, the final confrontation between the Spaniard and the six-fingered man (“Hello,” I crooned, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”).

And so it went, and when it was suggested that the three of us – the writer, Gerhard, and I – take a trip to Florin (or modern day Germany, if you prefer), for the re-opening of the Zoo of Death, I was an easy sell.

{This was back in 2009. At the time Gerhard was working as a Prep Cook. The economy was good. He had some savings in the bank, and it was not hard at all for him to get the time off work, even on short notice. As for myself; as of yet, I was not even a figment of his imagination, so it was not a problem for me either – same went for the writer.}

Gerhard pulled up an old map online and, excitedly, we traced Westley’s journey and compared it to the trek that we were planning for ourselves. We compared it to a modern map that the writer had purchased and marveled, both at how much had changed over the centuries, but also at how much had remained; been preserved, from Morgenstern’s time. We booked our entire trip using Expedia, marveling at how simple the internet had made everything. We took advantage of a last minute sale, and prepared to leave the following Thursday.

{It is worth noting that, although I had seen the movie, The Princess Bride, so many times that I could recite much of it by heart, I had not yet read the book. I was well aware of the positive reviews it had received, when it had first been published (in Florenese, of course), as well as in ’73 when Goldman produced his abridged version. That being said, given my love of the film version, I worried that the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations. It surprised me though, to learn that neither of my would-be travel mates had read it either; Morgenstern Virgins, one and all.}

Exhausted, we arrived around noon, two weeks later, in Florin City. Although we had been in Europe for four days already (We had landed at Luxemburg Fidel Airport, after a three hour layover in Paris), we were still jet lagged – As busy as we’d been, we just hadn’t been able to give our bodies the chance to catch up. We had come in through, by chartered bus, what would have been Guilder (but was now the mostly unacknowledged no-man’s land that bordered Germany, France, and Luxemburg), beginning at Fezzik’s Cave, stopping briefly at what was left of The Fire Swamp, but was now nothing but a tacky tourist trap (At the diner we ate at, we were greeted at the door by a scruffy, barely pubescent boy, dressed “Inconceivably” in a rubber rat suit. Undeniable, he was the least frightening R.O.U.S. imaginable). The food was good, but the ambiance left much to be desired. After visiting the souvenir shop, we considered, though not seriously, staying at a Bed and Breakfast there called, “The Buttercup”, but chose instead to press on, as planned, to The Cliffs of Insanity, which were even more sharp and imposing than I had anticipated, not realizing that the film had substituted The Cliffs of Moher; probably to save money.

“There is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world,” Gerhard laughed, and playfully jabbed my, more-prominent-than-I would-like, man-boobs, as we made our way back to the bus that evening. “It would be a pity to damage yours.”

“Eff off,” I replied, only mildly put out; half-laughing. I knew that I had put on a bit too much weight recently but, as of yet, I wasn’t too concerned. It had been a long day though, and, as acrophobic as I am, I was not looking forward to the next day’s adventures. The writer laughed then, as though reading my thoughts. “Both of you!” I added, repeating, “Eff off!” (This time with an Exclamation Point!) - glaring, meaningfully in his direction.

We stayed the night in Guilder (or Luxemburg, if you prefer), at a hostel down the road. We had a beautiful view of the plains that lead off towards the town that still bore the name, Guilder, from our bedroom window. The ruins of the original castle were illuminated by the crescent moon that hung awkwardly in the sky. We paid our dues – “Good night. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” And also: “Rest well, and dream of large women (both sayings of which I later discovered, much to my disappointment, either did not exist in the book, or were severely altered for the movie)” - and turned in.

We had already prepaid and booked transportation for the next day. We were to be lowered by gondola, down down down, to be delivered to the pirate themed ship (The Revenge Cruise) that would take us to our final destination.

That first day in Florin City, we visited Morgenstern’s Ancestral Home, The Thieves Quarters, the castle proper, and the re-creation of Miracle Max’s Hut (which had burnt down in 1889, only to be rebuilt 100 years later at the request of Andre the Giant, who financed the whole operation). For day two, we were saving The Morgenstern Museum and The Zoo of Death (or the Pit of Despair, as it was renamed in the movie, neatly eviscerating the first four levels of the zoo, leaving Prince Humperdinck as a shadow of the man he was in life). It was a good day for touring; both days. The weather was nice; cool, but not damp, as is often the case, unless it is raining or too hot – so we were lucky, I suppose. We were in good spirits, all of us, and, whenever Gerhard or I suggested we do something, the writer simply replied, “As you wish.” Only he said it more like, “Aaaaaasss… Yoooooouuuuuu… Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiish…”

We were having a marvelous time.

On our last day in Florin City, we visited Buttercup’s Farm, which had been preserved as a ‘Site of Interest’ by the Germans (who, luckily for us, seem to preserve everything), and a fee was charged. We all agreed that the price was rather steep, but we had come this far and every guest received a free (Special Edition!) copy of Goldman’s abridged version of The Princess Bride, which was bound in leather and embossed with the Florenese flag, with the words “HAVE FUN STORMING THE CASTLE!” printed beneath it in gold lettering.

{I remember how, as the bus drove us out of the city, I committed the landscape to memory; the rolling hills, the ancient trees, the quaint homes and their even quainter occupants, with all of their rural European quirks; everything. I made a few notes in a pad of paper that I kept with me, knowing, if not consciously, that I would eventually write it all down, if only to share the journey with a loved one, perhaps in the form of a letter or an e-mail (this was after e-mail, but before phones were also computers), never imagining how long it would actually take me to ‘put pen to paper’.

{Seven years later, I find myself drawing on those memories (and notes!), as if they happened only yesterday. I am reading The Princess Bride, again, for what must be the sixth or seventh time; halfway through – I will probably finish the last 200 pages this evening. It was my Mother who encouraged me to share my adventures, if not directly. She mentioned my writing, as of late, and how it came across as overly dark – and she was worried about me. Of course, I admitted, I am in a very dark place; I still do not have a full-time job, and life is expensive - Still, even if I weren’t ‘in a very dark place’, what else could one expect from a Blog titled ‘Very Unhealthy’ ( It is intended to be a schizophrenic social commentary, which it is, and I told her so.}

{My Mother though, didn’t see my point. And so it was for her that I went back in time, beginning at The Cliffs of Insanity, which happened to be the highlight of our trip; for me, at least. Even though I was afraid, I looked down! And so it is that I am postponing June’s originally intended post: A Brief Look at Suicide and Euthanasia, in favor of something lighter. And so this piece of writing is for her. She is not a witch, she is my Mother. And I do so hope that she likes it. There is nothing that I have written that has given me as much pleasure.}

I read my Special Edition of The Princess Bride, for the first time, on the flight back home, while the writer and Gerhard chatted, drank wine, watched movies, and finally slept. In some ways, the book was disappointing, as I knew in advance: The Man in Black was Westley all along! So the mystery was gone and the surprises were spoilt. And of course, in my imagination the Channel of Guilder would always be infested with shrieking eels, regardless of Morgenstern’s (and reality’s) sharks. And yet, I read it, with great joy, compulsively; unable to put it down. In the end, the book was completed before we were even two thirds of the way across the ocean. It left me wanting more (Here’s to hoping that Goldman finishes his abridgment of the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby, sometime this century!) and so I flipped it over and began again, from the beginning. It is just thank kind of book!
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on June 23, 2004
A witty and elegant subversion of the fantasy genre.
It astonishes me that some of the reviewers below never figured out that the book of which this one purports to be an abridgment /doesn't exist./ There never was an S Morgenstern, nor were there kingdoms of Florin and Guilder (the names of medieval coins, not countries.)
/The Princess Bride/ is a novel about the relationship between a sick boy and his grandfather. The grandfather emigrated to America as an adult. During the boy's confinement, the grandfather reads him their fictitious ancestral country's national novel, cutting and reworking as he goes to transform it into a straightforward adventure story the boy will enjoy. The problem of teaching a child born in America to identify with his national heritage is a difficult one; after all, people from the old country smell funny, eat weird things, talk with accents, and don't know anything about baseball. I imagine that Goldman himself comes from an immigrant family. In that light, this book is in part his response as an adult to his memories growing up, and it is warm and engaging.
But Goldman manages not to let this turn into treacle by combining it with an adventure story so good that they made a movie out of it. The scenes with Fred Savage in the movie are not extraneous, they're vital to the book's unique quality: naive self-consciousness. It's a book that's basically about someone reading a book (take that, postmodernism,) but it uses the metatextual conceit to add to the story by giving it a deeper social significance rather than to detract from it by making it the object of games with meaning. We accept both the realistic world of a boy coming to terms with his family and heritage, and the fantastic world of ROUSes, Holocaust Cloaks, and Humperdinck's life-suctioning machine.
You can read this book simply for the adventure story, which is what many people appear to have done, but in my opinion, there's a better novel written around the adventure story than in it. Whichever you prefer, I suppose.
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on November 26, 2014
Let me explain this book to you!

The Princess Bride novel formed the basis for the film of the same name. The book is very tongue-in-cheek as it pretends to be an “abridged” version of a fictional longer version by a totally made up author called “S. Morgentern.” The real author is William Goldman, who is also a screenwriter. He served as screenwriter for the Princess Bride film. The fairy tale in the book/film is a humorous adventure/love story about Buttercup and Westly in the fictional land of Florin.

The film starts with a grandfather reading “S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride” to his grandson. In the film, the fairy tale is punctuated by moments between the grandfather and grandson as they talk about Buttercup’s story. William Goldman’s novel is different. Instead of a grandfather/grandson set-up, Goldman has 2 Introductions and 1 epilogue (as well as many interjections in the middle of the fairy tale) whereby he describes his “life” (all made up) with his psychiatrist wife and son. In real life, Goldman has 2 daughters. There is also lots of made up stuff about fighting with Morgenstern’s estate. None of this is true, it’s just there for fun.

So now that you understand the set-up, here’s my review of the book, in a few points:

1) Buttercup’s story is similar in the film and book, but there is more backstory for the characters and some elements that are not included in the film (e.g., Prince Humperdink has a “Death Zoo” in the book but not in the film). These additions are fun, and if you liked the film you’ll probably find this to be an enjoyable read. There is also an epilogue/chapter on Buttercup's Baby but I'm sad to say I didn't enjoy this part as much.

2) The book was written in the 1970s from a male perspective. The only major female character is Buttercup and she’s extremely beautiful and not that smart. Women are judged on their beauty in the book, and men are judged on other merits (with the exception of a wife of a Miracle Man). If this bothers you, skip the book and film. I understand the book/film as products of their time, and it’s funny enough that I could appreciate it regardless. But I did notice the difference between this and more modern fairy tale stories.

3) The two introductions, epilogue, and moments of interjection about Goldman’s (fictional) life and backstories were not so interesting to me. They are meant to be funny, and some people may enjoy those parts, but I just wanted to get back to the awesome fairy tale. Luckily, the fairy tale is most of the book. I think these interjections are, in part, a literary device to make us impatient for the fairy tale, and in this way they’re successful!

4) The book is not expensive, and it’s a good value.

In sum, it’s fun and silly and has lots of original characters. I read it while I was sick (just like Fred Savage in the film) and it was perfect for a light read. I’d rate it high for entertainment value.
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on December 22, 2003
This is an excellent book, as long as you don't go into it wanting a conventional fantasy novel. At some points during the reading, you will realize that Goldman did not write the book intending for it to be a pure fantasy, but perhaps more of a satire of reality. His entire point in writing it was to show readers that they are in the real world. The characters and happenings are so far fetched because Goldman wants us to realize that life isn't a fantasy.
If you've seen the movie, read the book to get more out of the story. If you haven't seen the movie, read the book and then see it. If you've already read the book, why are you looking at reader reviews?--I mean--buy the movie.
Oh yeah... there are plenty of reviews here saying that this book is so horrible because Goldman cut hundreds of pages out of S. Morgenstern's original Princess Bride. Do not pay any attention to these reviews... these people have been misinformed. S. Morgenstern was a fictional writer invented by Goldman. He is just a character in Goldman's story. This story is not abridged, as it may seem(The 'Good Parts' Version). It is just a tale that Goldman made up, or maybe his father made it up, or maybe his father's father... the point is, the tale was never WRITTEN anywhere else until Goldman came along, so you are not missing anything in reading THIS version. Please do not go and try to find S. Morgenstern's original... that would be an impossibility, as well as a waste of time.
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on June 27, 1997
And I'm taking this book with me when I go! I was a huge fan of the movie for years, before I came across the novel, and now my favorite film is far and away my favorite book as well.

(Unfortunately, I gave my blue copy to a guy that turned out to be a real jerk...but that's a different story all together...)

This fairy-tale is the perfect blend of romance, farce, adventure, fantasy, humor and character development. Indescribably wondermous.

I beg you in the name of all sacred books, *PLEASE* get yourself a copy of this book! Read it to yourself, read it to your significant other, read it to your children, read it to shut-ins, read it to strangers on the street! It doesn't matter...just read it! Share the joy that *is* the Princess Bride. Share the joy of Westley and Buttercup and Inigo and Fezzik and Vizzini and Prince Humperdink and Count Rugen and the Fire Swamp and Miracle Max and Valerie and the white horses and the Pit of Despair...

This is what people mean when they talk about wonderful stories. And after all, what girl isn't looking for her Farm Boy to simply answer "As you wish."?
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on August 2, 2008
The Princess Bride was released in '74, way back when I was 14 years old. My father tossed it to me after he had finished it and told me I would like it. I liked it so much I was one of the many (suckers) who sent away for the reunion scene between Westley and Buttercup that Goldman offered on page 153 of the paperback. Heck, I was 14, I wanted more of the story, and if all it was going to cost me was a stamp....
I'm 48 years old now, and I still read this book every once in a while; it never gets old. Sometimes I find myself skipping ahead a little, then I remember Fezziks logic "fool, fool, back to the beginning is the rule."
No matter the genre of books you prefer, be it horror, mystery, sci-fi, and no matter your age, you must, MUST read this book. It has been in my top 10 since I was 14. My 8 year old son wants to read it which I think is fantastic, because he'll have 6 years on my first reading it.
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on June 6, 2004
A lot of people have seen the film The Princess Bride and would know of the book from the film. The movie has for long possessed a cult-like status, being seen as funny, warm, irreverent and full of classic "love and adventure". All these things are true about the book, only more so. Like the film, the story follows the strife of the love between Westle and Buttercup, as Buttercup is set to marry the prince of Florin and all the circumstances in the world seem to be set against the true lovers from being reunited. The book has all the adventure elements of the movie such as the Cliffs of Insanity and the Rodents Of Unusual Size. It has more detail though and adds much more to the story, sepcially in the Zoo section of which the movie only took bits from as well as the backstories of the characters. The other major difference is that the wrapper story, instead of a grandfather reading to a sick grandson, is that the book is Goldman's abridgement of a classic Florinese work.
The Princess Bride can be looked at from some kind of post-modern tribute to adventure stories, full of deliberate and often humorous anachronisms. But I think it's so much more than that. It seems to be the only book I've read that's both a great member of a genre (the cloack and dagger, adventure-filled, swashbuckling romance) as well as a parody of the same genre. It's amazing how it's pulled off - on the one hand it's cynical about happy endings and the classic elements of adventure stories and sends them up in an amazingly funny way and yet reading it, you still feel a part of you yearning for those classic elements and finding them marvelously present in the book.
And of course, the characters are truly larger than life, from Inigo the Spanish swordsman who has dedicated his life to finding the man who killed his father to Fezzik, the slightly-slow-witted giant with a brand heart, sense of humour and love of rhymes.
Many readers in the reviews were annoyed by Goldman's whole wrapper of the book being written by Morgenstern as well as the 30 page intros and digressions into his fictional struggles to get the book published. An unbelievably high number of people fell for the whole thing and are currently hunting for the "unabridged" Princess Bride by Morgenstern! Personally, I enjoyed the digressions very much. I think without them it might have just ended up as a more conventional adventure story and not the cult classic it is. There's something about the whole appeal to an older/"greater" writer as well as some mockery of the world of publishing and manuscripts (and Morgenstern's digressions!) that adds to the cynical-yet-not-cynical nature of the book. I think the reason is that the book is a story and it's also about stories and storytelling and because it has so many layers, all of them warm and filled with Goldman's quirky visions, that everyone can get a lot out of it. So don't expect a regular, uninterrupted narrative!
Finally, this edition has Goldman's recent and brief return to the book, the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby (as Goldman was only allowed to do one chapter due to legal reasons, read the book!). In it, he picks up (sort of...) where the story left off and presents some fragmented visions of the characters from both past and present. I guess it's understandable that some fans wouldn't be happy as they might feel emotionally attached to the classic, which also feels like a complete-in-itself work. However, I read the whole thing for the first time (including Buttercup's Baby) over two days recently and it was actually quite good to get that little bit extra about the characters. I think if people saw the book as the classic but the supplement as quite a meaningful addition to our knowledge of the characters (especially Inigo) then it wouldn't seem so "sacriligeous".
This is the favourite book of many people and while it's not my absolute favourite, I think it's beyond superficial rank claims - just a really special novel.
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on December 28, 2003
With over 500 reviews already on the board, there is probably very little to be added in praise for this wonderful book, so I will try and keep it short.
This is one of the ten best books written in the twentieth century. You may think such a brash and monumental statement to be somewhat inconceivable, but it is true. There have been few books better in the last hundred years.
This book has one of the best plot devices ever conceived (an abridgment of an older, and entirely fictitious, work allowing the author to interject himself into the story at will), one of the best romantic speeches ever written (Buttercup to Westley pgs. 51-52), one of the best and cathartic action sequences ever penned (Inigo vs. Count Rugen with that amazing "My name is Inigo Montoya..." line for punctuation), one of the best concluding lines of any novel ever (I'm not giving it'll have to get to it for yourself) and, finally, one of the most quotable and heartrendingly true quotes ever put down on paper, "Life is pain, anybody that says differently is selling something." (Spoken by Westley to Buttercup in the movie, but by Fezzik's mother to her gigantic son in the book).
Somewhere along the way we all grow up and lose that innocence childhood affords. The myths give way to harsh reality and the fantasy is buried by the real world. The genius of "The Princess Bride" is in acknowledging this fact rather than glossing over it and moving on through to the other side. And it does so in such an engaging and entertaining way that a little bit of that wonder is returned, even in the midst of the darkest fire swamp. So if you, like many of your fellow wanderers on this earth, find yourself mostly dead, you owe it to yourself to read or re-read this marvel of modern literature and regain a little spark of laughter and life so precious in these precarious times.
As a last note, the 25th anniversary book contains new material that you missed the first time around and is just as sensational as the original book itself.
Like I said in the opening, one of the ten best books...And I Mean It...
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on June 21, 2003
In reading the novel form of The Princess Bride, rather than Fred Savage, we are treated to bits of William Goldman's childhood, his woes with his editor, and in the foreword and afterword, his family life. I really would have liked it better without, at the least, the bits of the editor and his family.
Goldman portrays his wife and son in less than flattering... perhaps even less than loving... manner. In fact, at times he out-and-out insults them. I found myself wishing I could smack him on the head and tell him to get on with the story. The rest of the text was somewhat tainted by the unflattering portrayal of Goldman that he brought upon himself in these areas.
In another section, we're informed that Goldman's editor forced him to cut out a large part of the adventurous text, where Inigo and Fezzik are journeying to gather the materials necessary for Miracle Max's potion to heal Westley. This bit of text seems little more than Goldman being rather hissy towards his editor, like a child who has had a toy taken away, and only serves to call that much more attention to a loss of text that nothing can be done about.
Personally, I think that "The Princess Bride" needs a 'Really Good Parts' version... as told by someone other than Goldman.
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on April 18, 2016
Okay so....The Princess Bride movie was my all time favorite movie as a child. So this is why I picked up the book to read in the first place.

I could picture and hear the cast of the movie as I read which in this case was actually a good thing.

This is my one and only time that I found a movie way better then a book.

I enjoyed the book a lot, but ONLY the actual story. And I decided against reading the Buttercups baby portion, and I wasn't fussy of the William Goldman stuff that he inserted here and there and in fact skipped and skimmed over a good portion of his writings in the beginning of the book so I could start right in where the story (from the movie) actually starts. I find that Goldman rambles way to much in the book taking away from the actual Princess Bride story.

I think the book would have been better written as an actual story instead of Goldman adding all the inserts and stuff. I understand what he was doing but was not my style of writing.

BUT with that being said, I picked up the book for the Princes Bride story so I just skipped the Goldman abridged parts and all was well in the world again.
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