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24 January 2010 @ 11:56 pm
Sherlock Holmes -- funnier than I remembered  
I know I am not the only person on my flist who is re-reading Holmes now. Conan Doyle was a great favourite of my youth, but I seem to have forgotten a great deal of detail. Probably because my youth was some time ago. This time I am reading the books in order of writing, which is definitely to be recommended! You notice more things that way ...

* There are MANY more jokes than I had recalled, including slapstick. And the character surprises, such as McMurdo revealing Holmes's boxing prowess, are handled more deftly than I had recalled.

* Watson is by far the gayer of the two. In A Study in Scarlet, he is rescued in Afghanistan through 'the courage and devotion shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a packhorse and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.' while in The Man With the Twisted Lip, he can identify a gown of mousseline-de-soie. Let us not speak of his obsession with Holmes.

* Conan Doyle is a cheerful rebooter. Not only does Watson's Afghanistan wound migrate from his shoulder to his leg, but, in A Study in Scarlet, he describes Holmes as completely ignorant of literature and feeble at politics, and says: 'On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.' The very next story, The Sign of Four, opens with Holmes injecting cocaine, and it is implied morphine is also used when he feels like it. A few pages later, the great detective quotes Goethe (not for the only time), and in The Red-Headed League, he quotes Flaubert writing to George Sand. He is also able to recognise the King of Bohemia on first sight, and can tell you how sundry political intrigues inter-relate, though he won't, in A Scandal in Bohemia.

* Conan Doyle loves the narrative possibilities presented by the Colonies, or, just as likely, is keenly aware of the publishing markets available in each. They receive intriguing representation, though. The Subcontinent is a place of Deep Mysteries, from whence come both deeply honourable men and scoundrels of the darkest nature. Sikhs can be trusted to abide by their word, but the white man can go very bad in the hot climates. America is far, far worse, though. While the good men and women of the United States are thoroughly decent, they are surrounded by the blackest of criminal conspiracies, all motivated by money, be they religious in nature (the Mormons in A Study in Scarlet), or from a secret society (the KKK in The Five Orange Pips --  and I recall at least one other where there is a criminal gang arrayed against A Noble Hero, but have not re-read it yet). Australians are either plucky and resourceful, or else dreadful casual criminals, and New Zealanders have invariably made their fortune. I wonder at his peer group, and would love to know if he had types for some of these.

* Both Conan Doyle and Holmes are less sexist than I recall. Women are written as being more reliable, less emotional and more sensible than men on the whole. While Holmes makes a few patronising decisions, such as not revealing to a woman that her missing 'fiance' is in fact her devious stepfather, he is far more patronising to members of the police force, and for less kind reasons. On the whole, women -- and not just Irene Adler (BTW, those of you who have read A Scandal in Bohemia, do you think 'the late' means no longer Adler, or that she has died by the time the story is written?) -- come out well in the Holmes stories so far.

I am now wishing I had made notes as I read through, because more things occurred to me at the time, only to be forgotten. Still, I am less than a sixth of my way through all the stories, so I am sure I shall blather on more at a later point. If you've not had the joy, I thoroughly recommend him.


 
 
 
AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on January 24th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
This is just as fun as watching the movie for the 4th time.
Watson is by far the gayer of the two

Thank you.

And I've been having a hard time choosing which Holmes story I should re-read first and I've decided to start with A Study in Scarlet.

I eagerly await your next, er, blathering.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 24th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
Re: This is just as fun as watching the movie for the 4th time.
I totally recommend doing it in order, it's fun seeing Conan Doyle having fun! And FOUR times! I have to see it for a second time, I think ...
AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on January 25th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)
Re: This is just as fun as watching the movie for the 4th time.
In order, yes, that was my first thought. But sometimes I just want to skip right to the slashy parts. But, OK, I'll try reading in order first. :P
silent hallucinationalex_s9 on January 24th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
I liked the women in "Black Peter" most so far, especially the daughter who expresses her feelings without hesitation and they're not nice, to say the least (also, there's a line that Sherlock utters to Watson about enjoting birds and flowers for few hours that makes me giggle; I'm easy, i know :D.) I didn't think of sexism while reading the books at all. For example, Mary Morstan is far more reliable than Mr Sholto in the matter of emotions. As I recall, she only shows any signs of stress in presence of Watson and I think it is because she trusts him and woes him at the same time, while Mr Sholto is emotionally unstable.
Of course, while women are considered, you have to take into account their place of origin. If a woman comes from Latin America, she is far more fierce than the one from England (I recall two examples of that so far: Beryl from "The Hound of Baskervilles" and "Thor Bridge".)
ladyjanevaladyjaneva on January 24th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
I read a lot of his books as a child and teenager, and last year heard some as audiobooks. But I never read/heard them close enough after each other to discover the 'mistakes' or rather inconsistencies that you found.

Fascinating!

I also have an old paperback back at my mom's that is not by Conan Doyle, but also a Sherlock Holmes case: the title goes 'Sherlock Holmes and the Cocaine', or similar like that.
anna_wing on January 25th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
I believe Irene Adler got married and therefore changed her name.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)
Yes, she is married during the course of the story, but the more usual phrase would be along the lines of 'Irene Adler as was', or similar. Actually, now that I reread it, I think she is definitely dead: 'and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.' Which is terribly sad, really, as the narrator pitches his story only a few years in the past, and I like to think of Irene as becoming a cheerfully roguish grandmother.
κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα: deathandthemaiden_inbetween_ on January 25th, 2010 09:49 am (UTC)
I made notes on every single story ie. ranted to my poor self how "misoginy" simply had meant that he wasn't a sex-crazed skirt-chaser, since he respected and helped a lot of women. I still don't really manage well to cope with infuriating directors, writers and fen spouting off incorrect crap, bad me ;)
grey_hunter on January 26th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
I've never read Sherlock Holmes when I was a kid. I've seen some films and of course references were unavoidable. Finally, I've decided to read the books last year, around the time when I was deep into the CSI fandom. You can probably guess that the combination wasn't beneficial. :D I think I will start again at a later time. (And with real books out of real paper this time.)

But. As far as I've got in Study in Scarlet, I agree that Watson did seem like the embodiment of the classic "confused/doesn't yet know he is actually gay" slashfic stereotype. :P