Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: One

In the first chapter of The Princess Bride, we are introduced to both Buttercup and the wonderfully strange writing style of S. Morgenstern. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Princess Bride.


Even if The Princess Bride is a scathing and hilarious satire of romantic fiction, I can’t deny that it’s adorable.

It’s clear now that in creating the film, William Goldman was able to keep his abridged commentary, choosing to transfer it instead to the grandfather and the sick boy. I can already tell that while S. Morgenstern’s style is immensely entertaining to me, this would not be the same experience without Goldman’s commentary. Then I start thinking about that more, and I realize I am providing commentary on commentary about another book that’s been abridged from the original. Then my brain explodes from a meta-analysis and it’s basically the equivalent of dividing by zero. But for real, can you start to understand why I really love what I’m doing? Again, I grew up watching The Princess Bride often, and I’m slightly obsessed with the idea of engaging with fiction in increasingly nerdy ways.

I have so many feels, and I’ve just started this book.

A lot of the comedy of The Princess Bride comes from its outright acknowledgment of the absurdity of beauty. It’s as if S. Morgenstern knew that being hyper-aware of the tropes he was using would change them into something else, and I’d argue that he’s right. How ridiculous is it that there’s an objective list of Most Beautiful Women in the World? I suppose that it’s also perfect because I love to create lists and give them Really Important Titles Since They’re Properly Capitalized and That Means You Have To Take Them Seriously. Still, that’s what’s funny to me: Buttercup unknowingly ascends some ridiculous list just by existing.

My god, the phrase “As you wish” has already filled me with more feelings and memories than I am comfortable admitting. I am, however, comfortable admitting that my obsession and frequent use of asides in things I write was almost entirely stolen from all of this. I couldn’t have known that S. Morgentstern loved to add parenthetical qualifications to what he was saying, but I recognized the pattern even in the movie. Part of it entertains me because it’s a way to talk about words and what they mean. How did phrases come about? When did they come about? Why do we say certain things when, upon inspection, they make absolutely no sense? Obviously, I’m sure many of you saw the huge influence all of this had on those reviews I wrote of Tolkien and his son Christopher, but I’ve always found it interesting to tear things apart.

I blame a lot of that on my AP Language and AP literature teachers in high school. Not only did they love to break apart narratives and characterization and plot points, they saw that I did, too The most important thing my teachers ever did for me was to encourage this. They saw that I could pull parallels out of separate characters, or I could recognize subtexts they never even considered, and they told me to keep doing it. It revitalized me! This intense desire to spend time with books was so inspiring to me. So how could I not love this goddamn book? IT’S MADE FOR ME.

I remember being shocked how this story started, too. It seemed that this would be a story about unrequited love, that we’d get some huge adventure epic about how Westley loved Buttercup, but was always ignored because he was nothing more than the Farm Boy. It seemed so obvious to me! Yet when the Count and Countess arrive on the farm, it’s the first sign that this isn’t going to go the way I thought. That is what makes The Princess Bride so rewarding to me. Goldman – er, I mean Morgenstern – makes his “classic tale” anything but classic once you think about it. Romance and adventure stories follow such familiar patterns, and in the first chapter of this book, that pattern is completely uprooted and destroyed. Within twenty pages, Buttercup has already realized that she’s truly loved Westley the whole time. Then, she’s rejected. Who rejects the number one Most Beautiful Woman in the Entire Known Universe? Who would do such a thing??? And then, Westley is professing his love to her, and he’s heading to America to make them a better life, and you’re left wondering WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THIS STORY.

It’s beautiful. It really is. Can we talk about this?

But after about two seconds of that she realized that Westley was out in the world now, getting nearer and nearer to London, and what if a beautiful city girl caught his fancy while she was just back here moldering?

I’ve just recently started dating after a two-year spell of nothing but a super racist douche telling me he only dates white guys while on a date with him. I have been busy, so it’s not like I was seeking out the chance to date someone. I had no time! But I decided two years ago after a particularly brutal and painful break up that I needed to be okay with who I am before I ever put myself out there again. Funny enough, I wasn’t looking to date when I met the guy I’m seeing now AND ISN’T THAT A TROPE IN AND OF ITSELF??? Oh my god, I am turning into a living trope. Should I add my story to a TVTropes page? (PS: I adore TVTropes more than most things in the world, and the fact that I have like THREE pages devoted entirely to me is the most flattering thing in the fucking world. I love each and every person who works on that site.)

Anyway, reading this segment about Buttercup’s paranoia is a chance to see my own internal monologue acted out by someone else. Are you in my brain? For real, I do this ALL THE TIME. God, dating is the worst. If you really want to talk about the vacant, irrational absurdity in our godless universe, we need to talk about how dating is the most horrific thing the human race has ever created, and that shit should be destroyed. Mark for President, 2016. I’ll abolish dating and make it a federal crime to leave behind pee on a toilet seat.

So, let’s talk about how this ends. As I said earlier, the entire way this story unfolds was unlike anything I was familiar with. This was supposed to be an epic romance, and now the main love interest was killed by pirates. So… what the hell is supposed to happen next? What’s the point of this story if you just neutralized the only thing that gives hope?

Oh god, I already know what happens next and I’m still unprepared and I love it.

Mark Links Stuff

– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at Harry Potter, Twilight, and Firefly books are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 a piece, and are available in ePub (iBook, iPod, iPad, Nook), Kindle, and PDF files.
– I now have a Lulu storefront, where you can purchase physical copies of all of my previously released books, including a full Mark Reads Twilight book that includes all four sets of Twilight reviews.
– I am going on tour in April and May across the western half of North America! Please check this post for tour dates and to see which cities I still need help finding venues in. You can RSVP for any date by clicking on the city name and using the Facebook page for it, or you can just leave a comment! If you have access to a venue, know of a good book store or coffee shop that hosts events, or would be willing to host an event at your house or work (I DON’T CARE WHERE, I WILL SHOW UP), please comment on that post to let me know. I can also be reached at markreadsandwatches [at] gmail [dot] com.
– I am presenting for three days at Ascendio 2012! Come hang out and have the best weekend ever in July!
– Liveblogs for Game of Thrones season 2 start on April 1st. For the time being, there will be no proper reviews, just liveblogs.
– Since Legend of Korra has now been released, I’ll review the first two episodes over the course of the next week or two; once the show starts back up again, we’ll do weekly liveblogs and I’ll have reviews of it up on Sunday.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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5 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: One

  1. Maya says:

    I love this book so much, I’ve internalized Goldman’s writing style. My writing is so full of parentheses and asides and lists (oh my god the LISTS. This book has my favorite lists of all time).

    At one point I had this whole chapter memorized. Someone tested me on it once. I’ve lost it since then, but I can still manage the first two pages or so before I actually need to look at the book.

  2. Ollie says:

    Holy shit SO EXCITED FOR MARK TO READ PRINCESS BRIDE aka my favorite book and undoubtedly one of the greatest stories since the dawn of time.

  3. theoopsgirl says:

    I love the big pile of snark we’re given here about the ‘objective list of beauty’. Even when I was little and watching Snow White, I was always like, “Oh yeah, Mirror? How do you KNOW???” Hence, one of my favorite parts of the book.

    • mrbaconator says:

      WELL, I believe in Snow White (the Disney version at least) there aren’t many people. (Going by what the movie has shown) And of the handfull of people that do exist The Mirror knows all about them. Since The Mirror magically knows about the only handfull of people in existence from that group of people it is obvious that Snow White is the most aesthetically pleasing. So that’s how the mirror knows.

      • theoopsgirl says:

        Actually, the concept of ‘aestheticly pleasing’ being objective is what I am skeptical about, as it sort of is a matter of opinion. Some women think that being beautiful means being stick-thin, while others prefer curves. Who’s to judge that one is inarguably better than the other? So as far as we know, there’s a milkmaid living down the road from Snow White, also quite beautiful, but in a different way. That makes it just one mirror’s opinion and ranking, which doesn’t automatically make it true…

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