Plot Junkie: Stardust and The Princess Bride

103. Stardust, Neil Gaiman

I saw the movie (Stardust, 2007) based on this book when it came out, and I really really really liked it. I’m a sucker for fairy-tale/fantasy type movies, and I just loved the three old hags (Michelle Pfeiffer was hilarious) and the flying lightning-catching ship (and Robert de Niro is awesome) and I’ve been a fan of Claire Danes since she shot herself on Leo’s chest (sniff.)

The movie is great—and I’ve loved everything of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read (American Gods, Anansi Boys, Good Omens, Fragile Things, Neverwhere) and Stardust was no different. I love his imagination—he seems to draw on the things that connect everyone—fairytales and fantasy, or myth (in the case of American Gods or Anansi Boys), or religion (in the case of Good Omens)—and reforms those familiar landscapes into something new and strange (and possibly a little darker than you’d previously thought.) He reminds me a little bit of Gregory Maguire—that whole remaking something known thing. Anyway. The book, Stardust, (you know, the book I’m supposed to be talking about here) was great. There’s a little more background information than the movie (more stuff about the relationship between Wall and Faery) but the visuals in the movie were just so amazing that it’s hard for me to say the book is absolutely superior. Still, quite good.

104. The Princess Bride, William Goldman

And another book/movie connection. This is one of the formative movies of my generation—everyone I know can (and does, incessantly sometimes) quote this movie at random times. Things are “inconceivable!”, “captured by pirates is always good” and we all know that the only thing better than true love is a nice MLT when the mutton is nice and lean and the lettuce is crisp. The movie is a classic.

And the book is better. (gasp!) It isn’t fundamentally different, it’s just more. And more of The Princess Bride is always good. Goldman writes much of the book in first person—he tells how his immigrant father (from Florian, naturally) read him the book when he was a sick child; as an adult, he bought the book for his son, realized that his father had read him “just the good parts” and decided an edited version needs to be published. Goldman keeps popping up through the book, telling you what S. Morganstern (ostensibly the “real” Florian author) had put in here (60 pages of the queen packing, 20 pages of court ritual) then skipping to the good parts (fighting, swordplay, revenge, true love). And in between, as the author is telling you what he’s cutting out, he tells a little about his life when he was a child and his father first read this book, or his relationship with his own son and wife, or his dreams about who he wanted to be and the reality of who he is.

I’ve read this several times—as I said, it’s one of my favorites—but always before I’ve kind of skimmed his little asides to get back to the “real” story: Buttercup and Westley and Inigo and Fezzig. This time through, I noticed how much Goldman is actually saying from the sidelines. It’s about the story, sure, but it’s also about reconciling the difference between childhood dreams and adult reality, and being a son and being a father, and seeing your father clearly when you are grown, and making decisions about what would be nice and what is absolutely vital in your life.

Great book. Great movie. Love ‘em both.

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