04 September 2014

Book Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I don't usually read books by celebrities, much less celebrity memoirs, as I'm leery of the quality of the writing.  Usually with good reason. Thus, I hadn't planned to read the new Cary Elwes book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, but I was lucky enough to meet him at a Simon & Schuster party at BEA earlier this year, and then my sales rep sent me the ARC of it.  Since I'm a pretty devoted fan of The Princess Bride, I gave in and read it.

The result?  Pretty much exactly what I'd expected: serviceable, if often repetitive prose, serving the story, and occasionally the egos of the main players. If you're a die-hard fan of the film--one of those obnoxious creatures who quotes line after line after line while watching (i.e. like me)--then it's probably worth your time to sit down with this book and skim it for the good parts.  If you're a casual fan, I'm less certain about its merits for you.

The book should have been quite a bit shorter--pared down by half would do the trick, I think--and maybe beefed up by including the screenplay, or still shots, or something else.  After all, there are only so many ways of saying (and so many times I can be patient when reading about) how radiantly beautiful and mind bogglingly brilliant an actor Robin Wright was, or how magnanimous a director Rob Reiner was, or large and funny and generous a person André the Giant was. Elwes never tires of singing their praises, which is obviously fine, but like a conversation with my Alzheimer's stricken father, the same thing just kept coming up again and again.

I also got the feeling that Elwes was holding back in some quarters. While I both understand his need for discretion and appreciate it in this tell-all world we live in, it also meant that parts of the book felt incomplete. Like half of the conversation went unsaid, if that makes sense.

Depending on how you feel about footnotes and conversational asides will determine how you feel about the format of this book, which is told in traditional form by Elwes, but full of interjections by all of the cast members, the director, and the writer. I'd estimate that a full half to two thirds of the pages are printed with sidebars so that other folks can weigh in, or corroborate, on something Elwes has just described. Like so:
Most of the time I found this to be disruptive of my reading, but as I was doing some heavy skimming anyway, it wasn't too bad.

There was one thing that I learned while reading this book that I doubt I would ever learn elsewhere, and that alone made this book worth my time:  André the Giant grew up in France, and by the time he was twelve, he was too big to fit on the school bus or in a conventional car, and thus had to quit his formal schooling.  One day, playwright Samuel Beckett bought a home in the same French village and hired André's father, who was handyman/carpenter to do some work.  When he heard about André's story, Beckett offered to drive him to school in his convertible -- the only car in the village that would accommodate the bog. I just love that visual.  One wonders how Beckett felt about driving with the top down in the middle of winter...

So there you have it.  Read/skim this book if you love the movie.  Skip it if you don't.  And whatever you do, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Have fun storming the castle!


  1. I am torn on this book because on the one hand I ABSOLUTELY recite every line of the movie as I'm watching it (and coincidentally I had the movie on yesterday because I got a random urge to watch it) so YES MOAR PRINCESS BRIDE. But at the same time the repetitiveness I'm sort of....eh better not on reading this. That said, I think I really like the idea of all of the interjections. If Elwes is going to keep repeating himself, at least let someone else jump in and say something.

    That said, I will likely just stick to watching the behind the scenes stuff on the DVD.

    1. It's worth skimming if you come across a copy. it's definitely not worth paying the price for a hardcover. curious: do any of your behind the scenes on the DVD have the outtakes from Billy Crystal's & Carol Kane's scenes? Because they were funny to read about in this book and I'd like to see them.

  2. I find niche books like this so fascinating. I enjoy The Princess Bride but I don't know that I'm a big enough fan to push this book to the top of my tbr list.

  3. I LOVE the movie, but am also leery of celebrity writing (unless you're Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, et al) and I find footnotes so distracting (unless I'm reading cases and I HAVE to read them all). So, thanks for reading so I don't have to, lol. Like Alley said, I think I'll stick to the DVD extras :)

  4. Hmmm. I was really looking forward to this, and I reckon I'll still read it - but I think I'll shift it from 'to buy' to 'hello library'. I have the same issues with celebrity autobiography, so I'm always a bit wary, but maybe I'll find that some interesting parts of the content make it worth my while to deal with the writing! Very helpful, thank you... :)

    1. The writing isn't bad, per se. It's straightforward and it serves the narrative. But Mr Elwes rarely grasps the need for the objective case for pronouns in a prepositional phrase.


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