One of my college roommates told me, “You laugh at everything!” It wasn’t entirely true. But I do have a tendency to laugh at all the wrong moments. At a car stopping in front of a speed bump. At my Sunday School teacher’s alliteration. All the way through Miracle on 34th Street (which, to the surprise of those with me, I actually didn’t like).
The currently most accepted philosophy of humor holds that we usually laugh because we see an incongruity of some kind. There aren’t many philosophers interested in humor—which means that either the humor or the philosophers aren’t very interesting. Either way, I think I actually concur (for once) with the mainstream opinion. My problem is that I see incongruities where no one else does. Thus the laugh. My mother has warned me to watch my smirk, which appears at odd moments and might disturb innocent people.
But that odd sense of humor has brought me a lot of entertainment (not to mention a few good friends), so I’m not terribly bothered. Though I am trying to control the smirk. At any rate, there are some books that require a certain sense of humor to be fully appreciated. One of them is The Princess Bride.
It’s metafictional in places—a supposed abridgement of a fake classic where the plot is repeatedly interrupted by complaints about the original author, overbearing publishers, and people in general. There is a princess—who is and remains an idiot—and her farmboy/swordsman/pirate lover, who gets tortured to death. In a place called the Zoo of Death. By a nobleman with a scientific interest in pain. Don’t be afraid, though, because there is a miracle man who can save people who are either “sort of dead” or “mostly dead.” Particularly with the help of chocolate.
I saw the Princess Bride movie–a slightly washed-out reflection of the book–earlier this year, and I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever watched. I have been informed that the humor in that movie is “juvenile” and that it isn’t really funny. If that was your opinion of it, don’t read the book. But if you liked the movie (or, for that matter, if you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) you probably should give the book a chance.
A clarification–whether “juvenile” or not, The Princess Bride is not a kids’ book. So don’t read it to them. If you like quirky humor, however, you’ll get that and more. One of the characters in the book says, “For some reason, I test very high on forgettability.” Fortunately, The Princess Bride does not.