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Knickerbocker's History of New York Paperback – 3 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: BiblioBazaar (3 Jun. 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 1110490895
  • ISBN-13: 978-1110490899
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,285,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Using the pseudonym "Diedrich Knickerbocker," Washington Irving (1783-1859) published this satire at the start of a career that would produce such classics as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. When the twenty-six-year-old lawyer published this humorous blend of history and fantasy, it immediately established his reputation as an American literary celebrity. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review is of the two-volumed Pelican/Firebird Press edition of Washington Irving's perennial classic quasi-history of the early Dutch-led community that established and governed New Amsterdam before its takeover by the English in 1667.

Whilst intended as a diversionary literary exercise, in fact the sequence of events contained within and the characterisations given to the sequence of Dutch governors and associates do have a relationship to real history. And I was often wondering whether, once I had completed reading the book, I should file it in my library under history or literature. But the comedic elements are ever-present, either explicitly in the nature of the events described or in the descriptions of the charcaters in the play. Of course, the whole exercise is a witty send-up of New York and its claims to greatness. Witness, for example, the first of the seven books, which concerns itself with the creation of the world and its peoples and New York's part therein.

But this is not rip-roaring, thigh-slapping comedy; rather, it is discrete, playful, wordy and mocking. I did, however, chuckle to myself on more than one occasion, and I never lost interest in the style of writing and the play of ideas. And whilst I might chuckle at New York City's expence, in fact the city has the last laugh, as its subsequent history shows.

The two-volume edition appears to be an actual reprint of the original; it does not seem to have been reset. This adds to the authentic feel of the text, but it is a shame that there is no introduction to explain the background to its writing and to place it in its historic-literary context. Neither is there an index.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
American Fiction, Humor, Starts Here 4 Jun. 2002
By The Wingchair Critic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Washington Irving's 'A Knickerbocker's History of New York' is the single funniest book in American literature.

Despite a weak and too-lengthy opening segment on the origin of life and other awkward philosophical questions (the merits of this section are addressed by the author in volume two), once the Dutch colonize the ancient island of "Manhattoes"--present-day Manhattan--Irving hits a rollicking gallop at full speed and doesn't stop until the dubious William the Testy is vanquished at the first volume's end.

"Diedrich Knickerbocker" was inarguably the greatest of the several personae Irving adopted during the course of his long writing career. 'Diedrich' penned 'The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow' and 'Rip Van Winkle,' as well as short stories 'Wolfert Weber,' 'The Devil And Tom Walker,' 'Kidd The Pirate,' and 'Dolph Heyliger.' Irving achieved magic whenever he wrote, but when he steps into Knickerbocker's antique Dutch shoes, the combination of humor, history and folklore that results is unique, sweeping, and highly entertaining.

Few writers could or would dare to write the kind of poetic sentences Irving could, such as "the inhabitants were of primitive stock, and had itermarried and bred in and in, never swarming far from the parent hive."

All lovers of American literature and history, and of Americana generally, should know this delightful, warm and amusing book. Too often today, when addressing the origins of American literature, names like Hawthorne and Poe are raised, but Irving came first and was in fact the first American writer ever to be taken seriously by Europeans (it was Hawthorne and Poe that paid lip service to Irving, who was born a full 21 years before Hawthorne and 26 years before Poe). Some historians and critics go so far as to credit Irving with the creation of the short story as a literary form; he was also the U.S. ambassador to Spain, a world traveler, a biographer of George Washington, and at one time requested to run for mayor of New York City (an invitation he kindly declined).

Thanks largely to Irving, the New York City and Hudson River Valley areas have a thriving plethora of myth and folklore all their own. America owes the dynamic, magnanimous and prolific Irving a great debt, which decade after decade it neglect to pay or acknowledge.

'Knickerbocker's History of New York' is not difficult reading, though it is too advanced for children and most teenagers. However, any young adult or adult with a love of American history, particularly with an interest in the founding of our country or the American Revolution specifically, will find it fascinating. Humorists will find it a page-turning delight, and send their volumes of Twain back to the library post-haste.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"How the town of New Amsterdam arose out of the mud" 16 April 2005
By D. Cloyce Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 1809 Washington Irving published "A History of New York," the work that make him instantly famous. Conceived as a parody of Samuel L. Mitchill's guidebook "The Picture of New York" (1807), Irving's "History" purports to be written by the fictitious Diedrich Knickerbocker. It was, perhaps, the first American book to be embargoed by the publisher--that is, it was published in Philadelphia to keep its contents secret from the press in New York. Before the book was published, Irving and his friends even coordinated a hoax through the local papers, publishing a series of notices advertising Knickerbocker's inexplicable disappearance: "there are some reasons for believing he is not in his right mind," and "a very curious kind of written book has been found in his room."

The book was such a success that Irving revised it repeatedly during his lifetime, and readers should note which edition they are purchasing. Most recent editions reprint either the original text or the last revision, which are so different that they may as well be considered different works. By the time of the Author's Revised Edition of Irving's collected works, published in 1848, Irving had completely rewritten over a tenth of the book, added about 7,000 words of new material, softened the sarcasm, eliminated the mocking references to Jefferson's presidential administration, removed many risque passages and double entendres, and polished the overall style. The barbs are more personal in the earlier edition; Irving aimed his parody more broadly forty years later. In sum, while the earlier edition was considered more scandalous--even "naughty"--and cheekier in its wit and tone, the last edition is certainly more polished and "mature"--and might be considered by many as noticeably easier to read. (The remainder of this review focuses on the 1809 edition.)

The book's conceit is that the fictitious Knickerbocker, a Dutch descendant, nostalgically mourns the passing of Dutch hegemony on the island of "Manna-hata, Manhattoes, or as it is vulgarly called Manhattan," and he offers a rousing defense (read: mock hagiography) of the Dutch governors. But Irving's satire is aimed not simply at the long-dead colonists of New York; his depictions of various Dutch leaders evoke many of his contemporaries. Thus, Wilhelmus Kleft seems an awful lot like Thomas Jefferson, and Jacobus von Poffenburgh recalls General James Wilkinson (who was caught up in Aaron Burr's allegedly treasonous schemes against Jefferson's government). The "hero" of the book, however, is Peter Stuyvesant, whose glorious qualities are manifold--even if his rule was considered authoritarian and his last act as governor was to rebel against his own king, who had ceded Manhattan to his brother, the duke of York.

Irving, as Knickerbocker, also mocks the pretensions of historical scholarship. He offers philosophical justifications for the obesities of city leaders ("Who ever heard of fat men heading a riot?") and praises the well-honed Dutch civil defense against Yankee encroachments ("Never was a more comprehensive, a more expeditious, or, what is still better, a more economical measure devised, than this of defeating the Yankees by proclamation."). He interrupts his narrative several times with admonishments to the reader or faux biographical meanderings, and, near the end of the book, he acknowledges that his tone has changed from that of a "crabbed cynical, impertinent little son of a Dutchman" to a "most social, companionable regard." Of the many readers that began his book, "some dropped down dead (asleep) on the field; others threw down my book in the middle of the first chapter, took to their heels and never ceased scampering until they had fairly run it out of sight . . . Every page thinned my ranks more and more."

This last self-deprecatory joke is certainly the case for modern would-be readers: Irving's archaic prose can be a slog, and his historical and literary references will perplex even the most arduous. But not all the humor is dated, and quite often patient readers will be rewarded by a comment or pun that may even cause them to laugh out loud.
Five Stars 15 April 2015
By phillip s loomis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
GREAT !!! Thank you.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Long-winded 25 Sept. 2011
By Joe Plantamura - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Perhaps 100 years ago, readers considered this to be a great book. However, today, the average reader will find it to be long-winded. The introduction is actually the first 5 chapters, at least. I gave up after chapter 5.
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