Thursday, September 22, 2011

On "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving (7282 words) *****

It's surprising how well this old tale holds up. When I was a kid, I once saw the first half of a movie about old Rip--basically, up until the point where he fell asleep. I was really disappointed to have to miss the last half--being just a kid, my parents had to haul me to the store with them that Sunday.

I don't think I actually read the tale until I was in college, as part of one of my American literature classes, and I hadn't read it since. Irving does some neat things with the faux historicity of it, including notes and affirmations by locals regarding authenticity. And the tale itself is, in part, one about a miserable marriage that Van Winkle works his way out of by disappearing for a couple of decades. Also of note is the way that the very nature of the surroundings in which Van Winkle lives changes over the course of that time, as if to point to the glories of the new country.

I reread the story largely because it was sent to me by Scout Books, which offers a set of short stories in small single volumes. Each one is illustrated, this one by Bwana Spoons. A size no larger than a wallet, the small books would make for nice small and cheap gifts--the kind of thing one might hand out at a function where all are to receive a small souvenir or that one might include as part of a package of larger gifts. The illustrations are cool, though there aren't very many (only about three to five in each volume that I have seen), and the print is tiny, but at less than five dollars apiece, they're seem great for a mass purchase and giveaway. Read the story here, then check out the Scout Books version here.

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