The Silent Gondoliers
by William Goldman
*As told by S. Morgenstern
All right, you didn't believe me when, in my review of The Princess Bride,
I said there was no such thing as S. Morgenstern. But even though this book
dispenses with Goldman's conceit of merely editing an abridged, "good parts"
version of a Morgenstern original - indeed, it claims to be Morgenstern's
work from start to finish - it still has William Goldman's name on the
spine, the front cover, and the copyright page. The nature of this
"collaboration" is even more transparent than those involving Lemony Snicket
and N. E. Bode; and yet I am sure to receive several emails denouncing my
ignorance because, surely, S. Morgenstern really lives!
Morgenstern himself (if you will) makes a delightful argument for his own existence in a
letter to the publisher, printed at the beginning of this book.
You say in several places [in the 'good parts' version of The Princess Bride] that I
am dead. As I sit here and watch my fingers form this note, I am forced to
believe that you are in error. I am old, but alive. Perhaps as you age, you
will find the two are not mutually exclusive.
Nevertheless, I congratulate Mr. Goldman on the revival of his charming
alter ego, who in a few brisk chapters (gorgeously illustrated by Paul
Giovanopoulos) spins a tale of romance, humor, irony, magic, and destiny -
all along the most beautiful street in the world, the Grand Canal in Venice.
Our hero is Luigi, an aspiring gondolier with an incredible gift for
seamanship, but a tragic lack of singing ability. His story of heartbreak,
heroism, and hope is, on the face of it, merely Morgenstern's explanation of
why the Venetian gondoliers - long famed as the beautiful singers of the
world - now punt along silently or, at most, to the accompaniment of hired
accordion-players. And why, almost beyond belief, the silencing of so many
glorious voices is actually not a tragedy at all.
Luigi lives in a world in which elements of fantasy, romance and magic mix with
earthy characters and concrete reality. A world in which even a happy ending
may be bittersweet because not every hope is fulfilled in the way one
originally expected; a world in which suffering, danger, and humiliation are
landmarks on the hero's journey, in which the ridiculous marches
shoulder-to-shoulder with the poignant, and in which deaf opera coaches,
projectile vegetables, PG-13 language (hesitantly translated from Italian to
English), and beer served by a guy named Porky VIII can form part of a
timeless, heartwarming fable.
If you enjoyed reading The Princess Bride, you will definitely enjoy this
leaner, tighter, less discursive cousin - even though it is set in something
more like the real world. Goldman's writing has a wonderful directness, a
kind of street-wise poetry so that, even when he inevitably digresses from
his point, he does so in prose that reads effortlessly, tickling that
nameless part inside you that only laughs out of pure joy.
Recommended Age: 13+
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