Tag Archives: New York

Thursday’s Tale: Rip Van Winkle

Rip van winkle

Do you ever just stare at your bookshelves, not necessarily looking for anything to read, just enjoying all the spines? I might do it more than I care to admit. This morning, I was looking at some of the kids books we have downstairs and saw this retelling of Rip Van Winkle retold by Kay Brown that my grandma and grandpa gave to me in 1980. I would have been 5 years old.

Rip Van Winkle was written by Washington Irvin in 1819. This version is simplified, making it a good read for children. The original takes place before and after the Revolutionary War, but Brown simply tells us that it happened a long time ago in a village surrounded by the Catskill Mountains.

Rip Van Winkle was a kind man, well-liked by all the villager and especially the children to whom he told stories and played marbles. However, he was lazy and escaped work around the house by sneaking out and going to the inn to meet with his friends and tell stories until his wife found him and chased him home with her broom.

Rip’s favorite escape was to take his gun and climb the mountains. He didn’t care about shooting anything, just enjoyed the scenery. One day, during such a walk, Rip saw a small man carrying a barrel.  Rip helped the man and, when he picked the barrel up he heard a sound like thunder in the distance. After walking for a while, the two arrived at a level clearing. There were seven other small, oddly dressed people playing a game that seemed like nine-pins. While he watched the people playing and drinking, Rip took a drink or two from the barrel himself and fell asleep.

When he awoke in the morning, he was caught in a thorn-bush, his clothes were torn and his rusty gun fell apart in his hands. Rip returned to his village where he found that he recognized no one. He saw his reflection and realized he was now an old man. Finally, he ran into an old friend who told him his wife was dead, but brought Rip’s now-grown daughter and his granddaughter out to meet him.

Rip moved in with his daughter and soon the whole town knew his story. The children he knew before his adventure now brought their children to hear his stories. Many didn’t fully believe him, but nonetheless, no-one was anxious to venture into the Catskills after dark. Even today, when the hear thunder, the villagers wonder if it is the strange little people bowling.

My favorite part of this version is the illustrations by Gerry Embleton. There are so many little details in the picture – gnomes and elves in the clearing with  the strange men, a wizard watching over Rip on his way home and a little gopher delivering bottles of milk to mushroom homes.  Even thought the war is left out of the story, we do see a man in uniform listening to Rip’s tale. Even the clothes the villagers wear change styles from “before” to “after.”

I’ll have to read the original one of these days, but this is the story I remember from when I was a kid.

There are several used copies available on Amazon.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


Review: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man

The Thin Man

Title: The Thin Man

Author: Dashiell Hammet

Category: Mystery

First published: 1932

Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository  | IndieBound

Retirement suited Nick just fine. He had a pretty wife called Nora, a Schnauzer called Asta and a taste for good Scotch.

All it took was a little persuasion. Like four .32 bullets, a blonde, the newspapers, the cops, and a junked-up hoodlam in his bedroom. Nick Charles, former Trans-American Detective Agency Ace, was back in business!

I feel like I should rave about The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. It’s a classic, “a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners,” noir but not. The thing is, I found it a little boring. I can’t even put my finger on why. It has a lot of things working for it, a wonderful, often tipsy, couple who flirt with abandon, both with each other and with secondary characters. The mystery is good, with plenty of clues and a twist that surprised, even though I should have seen it coming. The dialogue is spot on, witty and amusing. The characters are all interesting, even the ones that are odd ducks. It’s got dames and booze and guns – maybe I just read it at the wrong point in time for me. I seemed to be dragging through it, not uninterested but not motivated to pick it up, either.

It might be partly because Nick himself doesn’t really seem to care about the mystery. He’s left his PI career behind after marrying the lovely Nora. He wants to relax, drink, go out, drink. He solves it of course, but I guess I never felt like his heart was really in it. Nora, however seems fascinated by the whole thing.

And the title doesn’t make any sense until 3/4 through the book.

I think I should watch the movie. Maybe it’s one of the few where I’ll enjoy the movie more than the book.

It is a very quotable book though.

“The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two.”

“She grinned at me.  ‘You got types?’
‘Only you darling – lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.”

Challenges: WAYR, VM

Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter

Title: In the Bleak Midwinter  (Clare Fergusson #1)

Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming

Published: March 4, 2002

Category: Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase:  Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

Heavy Snow…Icy Desires…Cold-Blooded Murder
Clare Fergusson, St. Alban’s new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers Kill, New York. She is not just a “lady,” she’s a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody’s fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other—and murder…

It’s a little odd that this is the second mystery I’ve reviewed this year and both have had members of the clergy as the protagonist. What makes priests or preachers such compelling detectives? First, they tend to be trusted members of the community, people others are willing to share their secrets with. Second, they know that each person has faults and virtues, that we are all sinners but, they tend to believe, not beyond God’s forgiveness. And yet neither of the books, In the Bleak Midwinter or Twelve Drummers Drumming have felt “religious” to me. Yes, each of the priest sleuths have strong Christian beliefs and sheare those with their parishioners and in their own thoughts and musing, but I did not feel like I was being preached to.

Clare is new to Miller’s Kill, but jumps right into the community and the plight of the parentless child on the doorstep with both feet. She’s a tough lady, but almost overly caring. She wants to help everyone, which fits her character, but at some points it seemed a little overboard, especially for someone new to the community, who was also preparing for services at Christmas time, making home visitis, attending meetings. She just had a lot going on, but she seemed capable of handling all of it. I’m a little uncomfortable with her relationship with the police chief, Russ. He’s a good guy, don’t get me wrong, and he doesn’t seem happy in his marriage. I can understand him being attracted to Clare, but she’s a priest. Granted, Episcopalian priests are not celibate, but I think she should have been smarter. Don’t worry, they don’t actually get together, but you can certainly wonder if they might eventually.

The setting, upstate New York in the winter, is captured perfectly, or at least I imagine it is, having never been there at all, let alone in the winter. Cold, unforgiving weather, wilderness areas where you could be lost for days. I can see how being out in the weather, unprepared, could be truly dangerous, which is why I wanted to yell at Clare more than once. Don’t you hate when they insist on doing stupid things and just won’t listen?

The mystery was good. After Clare and Russ start digging into the baby’s background, a girl’s body is found frozen, knocked out and left to die. I suspected several people over the course of the story. Looking back now though, I think the final motive was weak. When I was listening to the book, I was caught up in the action, the secrets, the amibitions, but now I’m not sure that the killer’s decisions were feasible. I think the atmosphere and characters outweigh this small quibble though.

I listened to this on audio, which ran 12 hours 58 minutes, and I have to say the reader, Suzanne Toren, did a fantastic job, especially with Clare’s voice. The soft accent kept her from being too sharp-edged and reminded me that essentially she is still an outsider in the town.

Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Series

  1. In the Bleak Midwinter
  2. A Fountain Filled with Blood
  3. Out of the Deep I Cry
  4. To Darkness and to Death
  5. All Mortal Flesh
  6. I Shall Not Want
  7. One Was a Soldier
  8. Through the Evil Days (due June 18, 2013)

Challenge: WAYR

By the way, I changed my review format slightly. What do you think: good, bad, not worth noticing?