Anyone who knows me knows that there is one and only one book that I can truly call my favorite of all time. I’ve spoken of it (many times) before in this forum.
It’s a book I read in high school and I credit it for my ultimately becoming a writer.
You might think it’s something like The Elements of Style written by E.B. White (who is my great uncle) and while, yes, that is a fine book (along with pretty much every other book he wrote) my favorite, life changing book is “The Princess Bride.” (I know, I know what you’re thinking – not again!)
But yes, again. I have to tell you about this book because there is new news regarding this book in my life that I need to share with you. But before that, a little bit of back story.
I used to hang around in high school with a friend named David Kelleher. David introduced me to such delights as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. That bizarre kind of humor would have me absolutely rolling on the floor. I got British humor. I think a dead parrot is hysterical. Each Sunday night, David and I would grab a Rolling Rock and sit crowded together in front of his family’s TV (stashed away in an alcove to make it less desirable to the kids) and laugh at all the British comedies.
So when David told me that I had to read a book called of all things “The Princess Bride” I only hesitated for a few minutes.
“The Princess Bride” I asked. “Really?”
“Really.” was his reply.
I went out and bought myself a copy.
Didn’t look like much. It had a red cover with a painting of a castle on the front. I wasn’t a princess kind of gal but on David’s recommendation, I read the book.
And then I read it again.
And again and again.
All the time, I kept saying to myself “wait, you’re allowed to say stuff like this in a book?” I couldn’t believe that the author, William Goldman, could inject so much humor into a story. That he could stop mid-sentence to come out of the story in order to address the audience. That he could imply so much with his hit-the-nail-on-the-head dialog.
Goldman had turned a story about a princess, something I would have never picked up on my own (a princess? Yuk!) into a stunning, intelligent, piece of art. It was a set of wings.
As a direct result of reading this book, I started to write a little differently. I began to inject humor, observation, and personal statements in my writing (to the point where when I submitted an essay FILLED with so many parenthetical phrases that you couldn’t tell the essay text from my own thoughts, my only feedback from the teacher was “for the love of God will you just shut up and write?!”)
My teacher was wrong. I didn’t need to shut up and write, I just needed to harness that energy and focus it a bit more. I had to use the force but with direction. My voice belonged in my writing.
I would have never gotten to that point or even that realization if I hadn’t been inspired by The Princess Bride to even try.
College instructors started telling me I had a unique voice in my writing. They started telling me that my writing style “worked” and was “effective” and that my voice was “authentic.” Pretty heady stuff for a young kid. It turns out my voice had been there all along, it just took a book to let me know I had the freedom to use it.
Back story is over.
So why am I bringing this up (yet) again?
It’s because I have dozens of editions of this book, ebook, 10th anniversary, movie tie-in, one on my phone, a copy with an updated forward by the author, and even a copy in French (mais oui). I have copies all over my office. They speak to me, they inspire me, they tell me to keep it real.
But what I didn’t have was a first edition of “The Princess Bride”. Mine had been lost in my many moves and I just never had the money (first editions can go for up to 500 dollars) to replace it. The book had become a dream lost, vaguely remembered impossible to fully recall.
This fall my son was preparing to leave for college, what better gift than a copy of the book that had given me an author’s freedom? I ordered a used copy for $6.94 so that I could tuck it in his bags. A gift of inspiration from mom. Use it well.
When I received the package in the mail, I frowned just a bit, it was a little thicker than the edition I had of the first reprint of the first edition, new publisher (it’s the closest I’d come to the Holy Grail.) I slowly opened the envelope and like Charlie with his Golden Ticket, as soon as I saw the corner of the red cover, I knew what I was holding in my hands. I knew that I had won.
I was sold a first edition of “The Princess Bride” as a used book. I literally jumped up from my seat. “Oh callooh callay!” my heart sang.
The book now sits in a prominent position in my office (I gave my reprint of the first edition, new publisher to my son). I’m looking at it right now. It reminds me of my youth, of my evolution as a writer, of good times and even better times. It is my muse, my inspiration, and my raison d’etre.
I’ve already read it (did you think there was even a chance I wouldn’t have dropped everything around me to sit down and read?) and look forward to reading it again (and again). Welcome home, old friend, welcome home.
The Holy Grail
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).
And yes, the movie is good but read the book, it’s even better.
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