I rarely read anything twice, much less three or four times. There are just too many good books waiting in the hopper.
But when fall temperatures begin to dip, and the leaves start to signal that they’ve felt it, too, I sometimes find myself pulling a tiny, almost forgotten book down off my shelf.
Thinner than my wallet, and not much taller or wider, it contains just two stories: Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving. It’s a ‘Penguin 60’- part of a collection Penguin released to celebrate their 60th anniversary in 1995.
I don’t do this every year, but I’ve dusted it off a handful of times in the decade and a half I’ve owned it– at least as often as some people pick up A Christmas Carol in the run up to the holidays. I find it’s the perfect lead-in to fall, and a nice way to set the stage for Halloween. As you can see below, it would be hard to ‘out-autumn’ Irving when he’s really going for it. First, from Rip Van Winkle :
“It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble-field…”
And then this, from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow :
“As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast stores of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.”
Taken together, both stories are just shy of 20,000 words. If you’re looking for a light, autumnal diversion, I highly recommend checking them out.
What other books or stories help you set the stage for fall?