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As You Wish: On Losing William Goldman

William Goldman gave me the adventure of a lifetime. I was in high school when my older brother insisted that I watch something called The Princess Bride. I, like all stubborn teenage dirtbags, resisted like hell, until he finally convinced me that I had to watch it. My sole reason for putting it off was, “Ugh, it sounds weird.” (I was, and still am, incredibly stubborn.)

But I eventually sat down and went on an amazing adventure, full of pirates, sword fights, a giant, and oh my god, true love. It was a kissing book, and I was here for it. That movie made its mark so deeply on me. If you mention the word “peanut,” I’m going to start quoting it. I named one of my dogs after Miracle Max. I can recite the “to the pain” speech from memory, whether or not you want me to (you warthog-faced buffoon). It’s probably my favorite movie in existence. I can’t tell you how many times I watched it—so many, but never enough.

I am, and always have been, a sucker for a good love story. Not just good, but the kind that defies all the odds and triumphs over the impossible so fiercely that not even death can stop it. Because love does that, right? The impossible. It careens down a hill, endures The Machine, and manages to turn being kidnapped by pirates into something glorious. Don’t misunderstand: there are so many brilliant aspects to the film, from the revenge plot of Inigo (please don’t ask how many years I spent thinking his name was Indigo) to the ROUSs. But who doesn’t want the look that farmboy gives Buttercup, when he says, “As you wish?” It’s a pure, sweet, brilliant stubborn love. The bond between Westley and Buttercup can’t be broken, not with a thousand swords, right? And that’s what gets me: it’s that strong, even beyond all the things that might’ve diminished or vanquished it.

Goldman wrote with a very deft magic, whether it was the screenplay of The Princess Bride or its source material of the same title. Imagine writing an amazing book, then taking that book, adapting it for another medium and (dare I say it?) making it even more brilliant? Because, yeah, he did that. He took something awesome, tossed in Fred Savage and Peter Falk, and made it more awesome. His screenwriting credits are astounding. Just look here. Hell of a legacy, right?

But for me, I can’t think of Goldman without a yearning to learn swordplay or recalling my crush on Cary Elwes. I still cackle, thinking about how Iocaine is “odorless, colorless, and tasteless,” but Humperdinck immediately knows what the power is. (I may also be able to do a fairly good recitation of Wallace Shawn’s goblet rant, too, btw.) The point is, The Princess Bride is a huge part of who I am, my personality. If I can quote from it, I do—often without thinking. It’s that much of a habit, an instinct.

What I learned from the film is this: be open to new things and know the importance of pure motivation, like Inigo. And equally important, I learned coward bullies always get their due and love does the impossible even when all hope is lost. And okay, also, probably avoid the Fire Swamp, because no one wants to drown in lightning sand or get chomped on by a large rodent.

William Goldman was a vibrant, singular talent. I doubt we’ll ever see his equal. Thank you, sir, for your brilliance, for bringing a pirate love adventure into my life. That sound you hear right now isn’t the shrieking eels; it’s my heart breaking, because the world is just a bit dimmer right for this loss. I could only ever end on this: “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

Good night, William. Good work. Sleep well. We’ll miss you, sir.


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