In The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1820-21), Irving explores the uneasy relationship of an American writer to English literary traditions. In two sketches, he experiments with tales transplanted from Europe, thereby creating the first classic American short stories: "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".
Washington Irving created the quintessential dark American fable in The Headless Horseman. Irving thought deeply about history and the act of writing. He practiced writing in many styles. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon is a collection of Irving’s various trial runs and musings. His career-defining works are framed here. Irving’s fictions can be romantic, funny, gothic, supernatural, or satirical. For present day audiences the stories have an antique quality; they are period pieces that invite you to travel back in time. Narrator Brian Troxell does something unusual: He reads Irving’s writing in a brisk and modern tone. Troxell’s quick and easy delivery makes Irving’s writing seem far less mannered and dated, although the fantastic and haunting images still come through without distortion.