I went to Barnes and Noble alone on Saturday. When I go with Mike, I always feel rushed, so I told him that I was going to go the bookstore without him while he slept Saturday morning. He didn’t worry where I was and I didn’t feel like I didn’t have enough time to see all that I wanted to see at the store.
Ok, that’s a lie. I still felt like I didn’t have enough time to see all that I wanted to see at Barnes and Noble. I don’t think I will ever get that feeling of being literarily satiated. Unless I could walk into the store and read every single book that I had a passing interest in before for leaving, I doubt I would have that feeling. I should quit blaming my feelings of being rushed on Mike. It’s not his fault that I cannot consume the entire bookstore in one sitting.
I spent over an hour doing one thing at Barnes and Noble. I sat on a hard wooden chair and read the new introduction to The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It was the 30th Anniversary Edition and it was sitting in the bestsellers section at the front. I didn’t even get to the discount books section this time. I was accosted by a book that I already own.
I read The Princess Bride after seeing the movie and was amazed at how closely they matched. It was one of those rare occasions when the book didn’t ruin the movie for me. They were both perfect and beautiful in their own right. What was even better than seeing the movie was reading William Goldman’s description of the effort of abridging the original manuscript by <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />S. Morgenstern. What a fanciful addition to the classic story.
After reading the 30th and 25th Anniversary Introductions, I started to question myself. Maybe S. Morgenstern wasn’t imaginary. Maybe Florin and Guilder really existed. Maybe it wasn’t a fanciful addition to the classic story. Maybe it was the truth. Sitting there in Barnes and Noble, I suddenly wanted it to be the truth. I wanted there to be a museum in Florin where I could see the sword of the six-fingered man. I wanted there to be lawyers for the Morgenstern Estate. I wanted Fezzik to be a real giant and I wanted to see the mold of his fingers.
After an hour of reading the new introductions to The Princess Bride, I wanted to believe so badly. Mike called me on my cell, wondering if I was ever going to come home (for the record, I might have forgotten to come home until I had finished reading all the books in the store, so it was a good thing that he called).
“Mike, I need to you come here and bring the Barnes and Noble card because I’m going to buy a book and I want to get the discount.”
“What are you buying?”
“It’s the 30th Anniversary Edition of The Princess Bride. I know that we already have it, but this one has all this interesting stuff about Florin and The Morgenstern Museum and stuff. I guess there really was a S. Morgenstern and he’s been having all this legal trouble with the estate. There is a sequel that he wants to abridge, but the estate wants Stephen King to do it.”
“Laura, Florin isn’t real. There was no unabridged book. We’ll get a map and I’ll show you that there is no Florin on it.”
“No, Florin is now some part of Russia, I think.”
I could feel the illusion leaving me. Did William Goldman actually say that Florin was in Russia or was he just comparing their airlines to their Russian counterparts? Come to think of it, there is NO Florin in Europe. But the story seemed so real. Who would make up a story about lawyers? It was madness. No, Inigo Montoya existed and killed Count Rugen in the castle by the billiard table. William Goldman saw the spot in the castle himself. The Cliffs of Insanity are real and Andre the Giant practiced climbing them to prepare for his part in the movie. He was the kind of guy to do that. He was French. They do stuff like that over there.
“No, Mike. I’m telling you. It’s real. There really was some old book that is totally long and boring and William Goldman really abridged it and now he’s having legal trouble because of it.”
“No, Laura. It’s all part of the story. There is no such place as Florin or Guilder. He made it all up. Think about it. If there really was a book, it would be in the public domain by now and there would be no trouble with lawyers.”
“It didn’t come into the public domain until 1987.”
“That would mean the book was written in 1902. That’s a little late for a true tale of medieval history.”
I could feel the truth wash over me. There is no Florin. Inigo Montoya never lost his father to Count Rugen because neither one of them existed. Buttercup never jumped from that castle window into Fezzik’s arms. The Man in Black was never brought back from the Mostly Dead. There is no life-sucking machine in the bowels of the Zoo of Death. It was all a story. There are no lawyers preventing me from reading the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby. For one fleeting hour, I believed it all. I sat on that hard wooden chair and believed that it all had been real.
“I want it to be true.”
“That doesn’t make it true.”
I thought about Andre the Giant placing his hand in Fezzik’s finger mold. I had felt such joy thinking that the sweet man had found a cohort from the past whose hands were bigger than his. It was all gone.
“I still want it to be true. I’m going to buy this book.”
“Ok, I’ll be right over.”
If you haven’t read the two new introductions to The Princess Bride, you must read them. If you don’t own the book, buy it now. If you do own the book, go buy the 30th Anniversary Edition anyway. The mark of a brilliant writer is the ability to transport the reader into another reality. I was taken to a world where revenge really was sweet. I was taken to a world where the hero really saved the damsel. I was taken to a world where all of it and more was true and documented. There was a museum that displayed the sword and the life-sucking machine. Maybe it seemed so real because there were blood-sucking lawyers in that world.
The final nail in the coffin of the fantasy came to me Sunday night. I was still clinging to the desperate hope that maybe it was all real. I was going to write this entry leaving that question open to debate, but Mike insisted that I try to find Florin on the map. He insisted that I try to find Florin on the Internet. A Google search led me to several Florin sites in Russian. For a shimmering moment, I actually believed again.
“See, here’s a Florin in Russian. I told you it was part of Russia.”
“Go to the website.”
When I went there, I found that it was a Russian IT company. I tried The Morgenstern Museum and found one in Germany, but a translation of the website proved that it was merely about shipbuilding. The final nail came when I searched using the phrase, “Buttercup’s Baby.” Toward the end of the first page was a frequently asked questions site on Stephen King’s website. The question at hand was, “In the Princess Bride it says you’re going to write the abridgement for Buttercup’s Baby. Is that true?”
In simple and plain words, my final illusion fell from me. Stephen King wrote, “No, it’s not true. That’s a little joke from Bill Goldman who’s an old friend. I admired his books before I ever met him and as a kind of return tip of the cap, he put me in that book The Princess Bride. But actually I think that that particular baby, Buttercup’s Baby, is Bill Goldman’s and if there’s ever going to be a story about Buttercup, Bill will have to write it.”
We are both men of action. Lies do not become us.
– William Goldman, The Princess Bride, 1973
So, there is the truth. For approximately 37 hours, I held the hope that it was all true in my heart. I’m buying Buttercup’s Baby as soon as it comes out. Get cracking, Bill. Don’t you dare kill Fezzik. We’ve already lost Andre. I can’t bear to lose another giant.