Book Thoughts: Rip Van Winkle

I recently read Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” and since Sundance currently has a drama based on the story in development, I thought it was worth a post. First of all: I really enjoyed the story; I like Irving’s writing style, and this story, like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” was really funny. I’d known the most basic of outlines – that it was about a man who accidentally falls asleep for years – but I hadn’t known about the ghost bowling (until they started talking about it on Classic Alice) or that it was set amid political turmoil – or that the title character was partially trying to avoid his wife and his family responsibilities. And probably my favorite small detail was the way the portrait of George III that is at the local bar when Rip falls asleep has been edited into George Washington by the time he wakes up – but it’s still the same painting.

So how about the show? It’s tentatively called Crack in the Sky and it’s about “a Don Draper-type who falls asleep in 1962 and wakes up in 2012.” In the original, Rip sleeps through the entire American Revolution and wakes up in a different country in a very literal sense; do we think the changes of the past fifty years – politically, culturally, technologically – are of similar magnitude? And what position will the show take in regards to those changes? Will Rip’s Draper-esque values be seen as charming and chivalrous, or backward-thinking? I hope they don’t fall into the trap of completely glorifying the “good old days” of even more inequality and fewer civil rights in the name of style – but at the same time, I always get annoyed when time traveling characters’ worldviews adapt too quickly to their new environments. Speaking of Irving, Sleepy Hollow, which obviously borrows a bit from “Rip Van Winkle,” usually does a pretty good job of dealing with these issues. Hopefully Crack in the Sky, if it happens, will live up to this modern Irving adaptation precedent.