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Thread: Random Thoughts on Washington Irving

  1. #1
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    Random Thoughts on Washington Irving

    Over the weekend, as a Halloween or Autumn gift or maybe because she was just being her own sweet self, one of my daughters gave me a new copy of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."

    As a writer, Washington Irving (1783-1859) was enormously popular in his own lifetime, a literary superstar of the day. His influence on American culture has been under-rated. For instance, the American customs surrounding the celebration of Christmas can be attributed as much to Irving's description of the holiday spent abroad in an English household as to our appreciation and nostalgia for the Victorian customs described in Dickens.

    Irving made great contributions to the American language.
    Few if any of the fans of the New York Knicks NBA team realize that the term "Knickerbocker" came from one of Washington Irving's pseudonyms.

    Washington Irving is a favorite in my neck o' the woods. Though born in New York City, there are sites and various tourists attractions ("traps") in the Hudson River Valley capitalizing on Washington Irving's fame
    There really is a geographic place called "Sleepy Hollow," near Tarrytown, just north of New York City. There are other places in this corridor. He had a home near Kinderhook, NY, also the birthplace of one -- though clearly not the best --of the American Presidents, Martin van Buren.

    There are at least two schools that I know of around here named in honor of Washington Irving. Since the publication of "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the name "Ichabod" has been associated with a cowardly, perhaps ineffectual teacher, a "pedagogue." But apparently did not stop a nearby school district from adopting the name Ichabod Crane. A minor character in that story, "Katrina" has now, so sadly, a name that will forever be associated with abject tragedy, the horrible Gulf Coast hurricane of 2005.

    The 1999 movie "Sleepy Hollow"

    bears little correlation with the original story, save for the main character's name (played by Johnny Depp) and the general geographical setting. I'm not a great horror movie fan, but the movie isn't all that bad. It's not Washington Irving's original story, though.

    Joyce Carol Oates-- who the last I heard teaches at McGill Univ. in Canada-- has written numerous, I mean plenty of novels, but I prefer her critical writing to her novels. I bring up Joyce because she once edited an anthology of the greatest American short stories and included "Rip Van Winkle" among them. She writes of Irving's characters: ". . .so deeply imprinted have they become in the popular imagination, they strike us as mythopoetic figures -- timeless, archetypal, transcending the circumstances of their own creation."

    Amen to that.

    Aunt Shecky

  2. #2
    & her nihilistic epithet Ona's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    the legend of sleepy hollow is a favorite of mine.

  3. #3
    Modernist Nemo Neem's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    New Jersey
    Irving is more of a historian than a literary artist, but I still like his work. "The Devil and Tom Walker" is my favorite Irving story.
    Favorite authors: Poe, Kafka, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Kosinski, Faulkner, Crane, Fitzgerald, Cervantes, Joyce, Dickens

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