Oct 9 2009

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ichabod CraneBook reading sex-fecta (sounds dirty) for the week? Maybe. Many of the stories I’ve read this past week have been short. Today’s was very short. With the approach of Hallowe’en (I like that spelling), I thought it appropriate to read (possibly for the second time, can’t be sure) Washngton Irving‘s 1820 tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow“.

The story of poor preceptor Ichabod Crane, never gets old. I think most people are familiar with the Disney adaptation (1949) which tells Irving’s tale pretty faithfully. One difference I did notice however, is that the Headless Horseman in the story doesn’t have a jack-o-lantern head, but instead rides with his severed head mounted on the saddle’s pommel. Too macabre for Disney, or just not as theatrical? I also liked the way that Irving weaves the ghost story, finishing the tale with a healthy helping of doubt as to the events which actually occurred, but then admitting that he (the narrator) prefers the version told by “old country wives”. I enjoy ghost stories a great deal, but I think they’re made better when the truth of these events are left to the shadows of the reader’s imagination… that is where they are born and where they belong.

“The pedagogue’s mouth watered as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself lay sprawling on his back, in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.”

4 out of 5

Oct 7 2009

Ethan Frome

Ethan FromeAre you looking for a tale that’s dark, cold, moody, haunting, romantic, and depressing as hell? Look no further! Today I finished Edith Wharton‘s 1911 novel “Ethan Frome“. Wharton is probably best known for “The Age of Innocence” (which I haven’t read, but won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921). After reading Frome, I may be exploring more by this author.

It starts simply with a businessman visiting a bleak New England town called Starkfield. After seeing a crippled, strong, and quiet man named Ethan Frome, the businessman sets out to learn more about him. His curiosity is further piqued upon discovering that no one wishes to speak of Frome’s troubles. After meeting the man, the businessman learns more about his life, love, and trials than he may have wished (though it’s unclear whether he actually learns these things, or if the book simply outlines all the details that he can never know).

This story is unrelentingly bleak and depressing. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t like it because it was depressing but because it illustrates how little we know about the lives of others and how little thought we give to the struggles,  trials, and sufferings others carry with them through their lives.

“I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues.”

4.5 out of 5