Friday, November 30, 2012

Crayons and Knickerbockers

I decided for my term paper comparing H.P. Lovecraft and Washington Irving that I really needed to read the entire Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, the series of essays and stories among which "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" originally appeared. Geoffrey Crayon is a persona Irving adopts in order to write essays about fictional circumstances--I'm six pieces in and while the two most famous stories are definitely superior to the others I've read so far, Crayon's voice is extremely charming--ostensibly highly moralistic with each piece containing a conscious lesson about life but with a subtle self-mockery, presenting Crayon as being almost but not quite the authority on human nature he presents himself as. The sentimental piece on the divine nature of housewives, "The Wife", is subtly undercut by "Rip Van Winkle" immediately following with a tale of Rip being most pleased by his long sleep when he learns his tyrannical wife had died during his slumber, described as bursting a blood vessel while yelling at a salesman.

Aside from the generally humorous tone, I'm finding more in common between Irving and Lovecraft than I'd originally suspected. Irving's tale of William Roscoe, an English writer forced to sell his vast library due to financial difficulties couldn't fail to remind me of Lovecraft's real life descent from a comfortable living situation in his youth to poverty, prompting a nostalgia for youth so often romanticised in his books in loving descriptions of libraries and individuals attempting to reclaim their childhood.

And, of course, both authors are raging anglophiles, which I feel somehow is appropriate for two authors used to write a paper on the nature of American literature. I wish I could take my time with The Sketch Book, it has such a relaxing charm, but considering the other materials I want to read for this paper, I'll probably want to finish the book this weekend. I really am putting way too much work into something only my American Lit teacher's going to see. I guess I'll probably post it here, too.

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