Today I have been mostly reading…
December 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
I admit, I was a late convert. A very late convert. No childhood memories of shared readings with parents, or staying up late to finish just one last story by the light of a torch. My family weren’t fans, you see. And by the time I’d heard of them, I was already far too arrogant and in love with Russian literature to bother with any stupid English detective novels. Psychological depth? Oh please – compared to Dostoyevsky? Sparkling wit – when you have Bulgakov? Madness.
I was totally and completely and painfully wrong.
Because the thing is – Sherlock Holmes is wildly popular for a reason. And that reason is the fact that Conan Doyle’s creation is sheer fucking genius.
If you’ve already read your way through the canon I hope you’ll be nodding your head in agreement. If not – let me break just three simple points down for you.
1) Holmes’ bad behaviour will make you feel better about your own
“Which is it to-day,” I asked, “morphine or cocaine?”
He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened.
“It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”
“What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-coloured houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers, Doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them?”
“You are Holmes, the meddler.”
My friend smiled.
“Holmes, the busybody!”
His smile broadened.
“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”
Holmes chuckled heartily.
…he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction…when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife in the very centre of his wooden mantlepiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too, that pistol practice should distinctly be an open-air pastime; and when Holmes in one of his queer humours would sit in an armchair, with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V.R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.
2) The music
Holmes’ love of the violin is infamous. But did you know of his study into the music of the Middle Ages? His unusual hours of practice? Or his evenings off with Watson at the opera?
3) Holmes and Watson are the most perfect romantic couple of all time. Fact.
Gay Watson? Surely not – he’s obviously bisexual. Gay Holmes, with his “aversion to women” – likely. What happened in private in the bedroom of 221b Baker Street? Unknown. An old married pair? Without a doubt.
It’s an impossible task, to try to sum up that great and enviable relationship is so short a space – but, to sketch the outline…
“The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association. I was alone.”
“Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same…”
His protectiveness – buying up Watson’s surgery under the most convoluted of circumstances so that he has the wherewithal to return to him?
All beautifully summed up by Watson, of course.
It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
Then, when I thought my devotion could grow no greater, Kaite Welsh sent me this link to a little piece of fan fiction – Holmes the child struggling with the limits of Victorian gender norms. If someone ever wanted to write that story up into a full length novel – well – should they ever need an organ donated, they need only ask.
So – go forth – buy the complete collection – make yourself some kind of delectably stodgy old-school English sweet (scones with clotted cream?) – brew up the tea and start reading. You’ll thank me for it. Go! Now!
Did you really think I’d write up my thoughts on all the glory that constitutes the whole of Holmes and fail to include this picture? Shame on you. As Watson himself reports:
Few men were capable of greater muscular effort, and he was undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen…