I’m reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on my Kindle right now—can you imagine I never read the text before?—and I am telling you, this shit is hilarious. It’s awesome because Washington Irving’s writing is just so wonderfully transparent. It’s a short story, and yet it puts a lot of word count into telling us about Ichabod’s romantic endeavors with Katrina Van Tassel. “There was an 18-year-old girl in Ichabod’s singing lessons, named Katrina, and he wanted to marry her because she was rich, but it was tricky because first of all, she was a bit of a tease, and second, he had to deal with this other guy who also wanted to marry Katrina, and the other guy was a big bullying buffoon.” There is a considerable percentage of the story’s total word count going into telling us this much.
Now, I’m sure that, to a guy who has to live in a different family’s house every week because he doesn’t get paid enough to have a room of his own, the thought of inheriting Baltus Van Tassel’s assets is the very height of romance. I’m sure that, at the time, a schoolteacher who disciplined his students based on how well they tolerated the switch (as opposed to…you know…how they conducted themselves in class?) was considered a man of considerable discernment and compassion.
Granted, I’m only halfway through the story now. After the marathon that was Pride and Prejudice (the phrase “finally convinced me to care about Lizzy Bennett” comes to mind) and the exercise in dizzying erudition that was Dangerous Liaisons, the dazzling lack of self-consciousness on display in Sleepy Hollow is really quite refreshing. However, since I am only halfway through the story, it is entirely possible that Ichabod’s excitement at seeing all the pigs and ducks run around the Van Tassel farm is significant in a way that isn’t yet apparent. If Irving surprises me later, this post will be evidence of how he lulls the reader into a false sense of security.