Thursday, 16 April 2020

Book #31

Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

Touching and comic short stories from the 19th century American master of the genre.

I have had previous encounters with the name Rip Van Winkle, so I knew the rough premise of this story already. As a stereotypical teenager, I’d often sleep till mid-afternoon, and, as my mother saw me emerge, she would exclaim, “Oh, here she is! Rip Van Winkle!”

It was what I expected factually, essentially a guy who sleeps for an inordinate amount of time, similar to my teenage self, but I didn’t expect such a beautiful writing style. There’s something so utterly vivid about his words, from his setting of the Catskill mountains, to the descriptions of the spectral disembodied voice calling Rip’s name through the wind. It was completely gorgeous.

There are different ways of interpreting Rip Van Winkle, but I preferred to read it as a sort of fairy tale, a supernatural quirk of a story. To attach symbolism of such things as American politics would simply reduce the wonder of the story for me.

Also included in my Little Black Classics copy were three other stories - The Wife, London Antiques, and The Broken Heart. Each of them were shorter than their predecessor, and didn’t hold the same magic or engagement as Rip. Despite that, they were profound, well-written, and ultimately thought-provoking, probing the human condition and commenting on our behaviours.

A worthy inclusion in the LBC, again restoring my faith (ever so slightly) in its merits.

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