Seriously, if you want to be a writer, or even if you want to want to be a writer, you need to make sure you’ve read the Princess Bride. I’m a big William Goldman fan ever since a good friend lent me the book ‘Which Lie did I tell?’ about his adventures as a screenwriter. On the back of that I fell in love with most everything I’ve seen of his. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remains one of my all time favourite films.
But the Princess Bride, this really is what writing is all about. It’s been nonstop inspiration to me during this months nano, though I’m keeping it in the toilet so I can only read it either on the loo or whilst bathing. That way it doesn’t interrupt too much.
I know, I know, too much information…I’m that way inclined tonight it seems.
Anyway, basically, the whole metanarrative structure just can’t help but make you think about the way the book is written. (For those who don’t know, the story behind the books creation is that it’s actually a abridgement of a historical tale by a Florinese writer called Simon Morgenstern, for given values of the word ‘actually’. Goldman’s father told him the story as a child, skipping all the boring bits, and then, once grown up, he took it as a labour of love to find a copy and abridge it, including inserts on why he cut certain bits, and retelling elements of his own father’s telling of the story).
Everything draws you into to thinking about the writer’s thought process, and, to the wary reader, points out the subtle artifice at play throughout. But it does this without distracting from it. In fact, throughout, the whole thing is littered with little rhythm and rhyme games, little teases and distractions. The rhythm of it is nearly always perfect, which makes it a dream to read out loud. I can’t wait to read it to my kids once they exist. And the ‘truth’ behind the book’s creation emphasises this moreso. By jumping us in and out of the narrative, our eyes our drawn in certain ways. Our attention is gained, and then sucked in, right in, until you’re in so deep that you’re crying or laughing almost steadily throughout. I’m on my third re-reading, and it’s still a thrill (not to mention the fact that I’ve seen the film about eight or nine times, I know the plot inside out). And it’s not even just that fondness of familiarity. It’s noticing more and more the games being played by the text.
I don’t want to start plucking examples out of it, because they work best within the context, and that context is so carefully constructed.
I dream of one day writing something as good as this, it demonstrates a mastery of storytelling on so many levels.
And everytime i read I learn lessons. It is a perfect guide to teaching how to make stories, because it is simultaneously a story about stories, and a story about tellings of stories.
There’s a lot of layers to that onion there. Turtles all the way down.
But seriously, read it, and you’ll want to write a book. In the same way that someone (Eno?) claimed that everyone who bought the original vinyl of the first Velvet Underground album started a band, or whatever rock apocrypha you want to talk about.
It’s inspirational, in so many ways. It’s also about real humans and real emotions, despite it’s fantastical fairy tale world.
And it’s all incredibly nano. The asides, the jump cuts, the self awareness. It’s how I most enjoy writing, and I just wish I could pull it off nearly as well as Goldman.
Whenever people ask me about my favourite book, I hope I remember to include Princess Bride, because it really is, for a whole bundle of reasons.
If you haven’t read it. Go read it. If you live in Brighton, I’ll lend you a copy as soon as I’ve finished reading it again. I’m almost there. Probably just one more bath or so.