The Devil & Tom Walker and Other Selected Stories, by Washington Irving
I haven’t read short stories since I was student teaching back in college. I’m not sure this was the place to start back in again. I’ve owned this for a long time and I’ve always wanted to try Washington Irving, so I convinced Jason to read this one together. There were a few hits, more misses and lots in the middle. I think I’ll just focus on the ones we liked.
We both loved The Devil and Tom Walker, even though his disregard for women was evident in this and other stories. It’s a ghost story where the Devil makes a deal with the ‘hen-pecked’ and poor Tom Walker. The wife was almost as evil as the devil and there was really no sympathy to be found. Only the lesson that the Devil only makes deals that are bad for you.
We also both loved The Mutability of Language. It was about a man walking into a very old and exclusive library where original manuscripts were kept and he takes up a conversation with one of the books. It’s a discussion about the written word and authors and the mortality of both. Very fun story for book lovers. Written in the 1800’s this has even more relevance today.
The Specter Bridegroom was another winner. It had mistaken identity, love at first sight, ghosts, soldiers, and forbidden love. This was my favorite, but then I’m a sucker for a good love story.
And we did enjoy the story of Rip Van Winkle. It wasn’t exactly what we expected and the legend is more interesting in some ways. It was fun to read the original and then try to figure out how it came to be such a hit. I understand there are older similar stories, but this is the one on which our American knowledge is based. Worth a look just for that.
We loved reading this book aloud. Lots of big, new words to try and it was fun listening to each other try to sound them out. If we had marked them all we’d have pages of new words. I looked up a few, but for many of them the context was enough. I did like Irving’s style, although many of these ‘stories’ were really essays about life in England or the traits of Indians and the French.