Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Orginal Knickerbocker

One of America's forgotten literary geniuses is Washington Irving. After 50 or so years there's finally a new biography of him. I have the last one, published in the 1930s (forget the author), A new one by some Burnstein character, has just been published.

The blurb on Amazon goes through the usual, stupid but fashionable speculation:

. Burstein speculates about Irving's inner life: was he gay? Possibly, but Burstein

Let me finish this sentence for Burnstien. - you're an idiot or this is just a cheap shot to sell more copies I've read Irving through and through, and have collections of his letters and diaries. He was romantic, who's first sweetheart died of TB when she was 18, and for the rest of his life, although he put out some half hearted proposals, that tragedy was always with him (he was buried with her bible and locket ). It continues:

thinks it more likely the writer was simply a bachelor, a respectable role in his time and place.

So why put it in in the first place?
Can Burnstien subject to the pressures of modern publishing, ever truly understand Washington Irving, and will simply try to re-interpret him for "modern readers' ignoring those traits that don't fit in.

I have visited the church where he was a vestryman and saw his personal effects, his home in sunnyside, the Alhambra in Spain that so inspired him, our bloodlines are similar (Ultster Scottish) and religion and have a stack of his journals and everything he wrote. Okay this may seem weird...but when I look at his picture its almost as if I could speak to him.... (no I don' t do drugs or drink too much) Does Burnstien see him that way? Well I will have to read it to find out. Presumably if he's publishing a book about an author who's all but forgotten, I can assume he does.

I do hope the book helps bring back Irving into being something beyond the guy who wrote that Halloween story because he is much more- there is clear evidence that he influenced Dickens (the style of writing is similar) and was respected enough by Sir Walter Scott for Scott to take advice for Ivanhoe (Irving suggested the character of Rebbeca, based on an actual Jewish woman he knew in Philadelphia).

Well shortly it will be added to my Irving collection so we'll see.

Fun side note. Knickerbocker is derived from St. Nickolaus - and meant 'do-gooder' as in someone who did good deeds for the city.


bluet said...


bluet said...

"the writer was simply a bachelor, a respectable role in his time and place"
EXCUSE ME? And people like this DARE to say a word about a writer's work? how ignorants!
They are lucky my mother -a literature professor- is far from here because other way she would be trying to find these guys to cut thier tongues and me, in my "respectable" role of bachelorette of course would help her.