Wednesday, August 3

Sherlock Holmes in a Whopping-Big Nut Shell

Thankyou extremely, Tangled Up In Blue, for your comment.  Everyone, new and exciting information has been leaked by our lovely correspondent.  Following on from the topic of The Hobbit and wonderful Martin Freeman, a man we have adored from the BBC series, Sherlock and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we now know that Benedict Cumberbatch, Freeman's partner in Sherlock and the man who plays the enigmatical Holmes himself, has stepped into The Hobbit to supply the voice for Smaug and Sauron.  For all it's worth, this fact has been vouched for by Wikipedia.  I am both surprised and delighted. 

Since we're on the topic, I have a few things I'd like to say about Sherlock Holmes in general - a few misconceptions to clear and opinions to confirm. 

When it comes to the movie, I have to admit that it is one of my favourites, but arguably the characters are only portrayed from their rougher sides.  Sherlock, the BBC series, however, focuses a lot more on the more tender side of them both, and Watson particularly.  After being slightly disenchanted by the hard, grim and gentlemanly poise of Jude Law's Watson, the sweet, slightly baffled, boyishly enthusiastic manner of Martin Freeman's Watson came across as not only more endearing and real, but as an emphasis on the lovely tenderness hinted at throughout the books.  Well done, well done, I congratulated Sherlock

As for the question, who do you like better - Holmes or Watson, the answer is at once both simple and abtruse.  My answer is abtruse because it is Holmes that possesses all the powers of deduction, the mind-boggling (a word I have enjoyed stealing from Hitchhiker's) ease and simplicity to his style at the same time as his eccentricity, frantic quirkiness and theatricality.  Yes.  I know.  Theatricality.  But while Holmes is being quirky and clever, Watson is being just the right sort of background character.  You all know that he narrates the stories, right?  And his narrative style is so characteristic and so humorous.  It's his voice that you learn to love the sound of through all sixty-four short stories and four novels.  He is the one you relate to, rely on, care for.  And you learn to relate to, rely on and care for Holmes through him.  Holmes is like the strange best friend.  Watson is like yourself.  He becomes much a part of yourself through the reading process. 

When I finished reading it, and by 'it' I mean all of the stories, I cried.  It was very painful for me.  I think, now, looking back, and I can't be a hundred percent sure, that when I cried, I was crying more over Holmes than Watson.  It was like going to Holmes' funeral.  But Watson is still alive.  He's never really passed on from my imagination.  Holmes intrigues me, frustrates me, delights me, enchants me, but he does all these things through Watson.  It is Watson I am in love with the most. 

(Disclaimer.  This does not by any means actually mean that I do not love Holmes.  His quirks, peculiarities, theatricalities are utterly endearing, and though slightly sociopathic is nature, hints of his appreciation of Watson are worth their weight in gold whenever they pop up.)

As for the books.  Should you read them?  Which ones should you read?  Where should you start? 

Alright.  Here we go.  The deep breath before the plunge.  (Lord of the Rings quote.) 

The first book is a novel, A Study in Scarlet.  That is where you start.  It takes a page to be interested, so reading it will not be hard.  I would just like the say, though, that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does a bit of a funny thing when he writes the novels, (very unlike what he does in the short stories), and that is that he breaks half way through the novel and commences the narrative from the bad guy's point of view, and this is usually a flash way back.  This segment can be very boring, but bear with it, and it will get better. 

If you enjoyed A Study in Scarlet, you will also enjoy the second book and novel, The Sign of Four, but realistically, it is not hugely important to read this book in the grand scheme of things.  If you seriously can't be bothered, don't.  Onto the next. 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and then The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are compilations of short stories, or cases.  It may take a couple of them to really get into the swing, but once you're in it, it becomes positively addictive.  Like coffee, they give you a great buzz that you remember and crave between readings.  Once and for all, it is actually very important to read the short stories chronologically if you expect to enjoy any long term committment, because as the stories unfold chronologically, not only do you get the oppertunity to marvel at the development of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style, you also get to delight in the timorous but joyously fulfilling growth of Holmes and Watson's relationship. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the next book and novel.  It is definitely worth reading, and I think that it's the best of the novels as it is the only one not to diverge into a long drawn-out narrative split midway. 

The Valley of Fear is ingenious but does the diverging thing.  Yeah.  Incredibly clever, though.   

Then The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first case of which is one of the greatest and wittiest of all.  Then His Last Bow.  I think this short story book contains some of the strongest cases of all, but of course, by this time, your judgement is so affected by your undying curiosity and enthusiasm that nothing would deter you now.  The final book is The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.  Contrary to my ordinary philosophy, I would implore you not to read the final case last.  Read the third last or second last case last, because the final case wasn't much of a bang. 

This experience is one of the greatest I have ever enjoyed.  If you allow yourself to become immersed in the plots, enamoured with the characters, even give yourself allowance to try and figure out the case before Holmes reveals the ending, this succession of stories will give you something that feels like a lifetime.  It is so valuable and so worthwhile.  I am beginning to crave it again!

1 comment:

  1. You're totally welcome! I love the BBC series, too. And I cant wait for the second season to begin. I'm especially curious about how that last episode from the first season really ended. And of course, how Irene Adler shapes up in this version.

    The feature film with Robert Downey Jr. was rather fun, but it was too slapstick and in-your-face I thought. This was far more subtle and of course, I love Watson's character in this for all the many reasons you've put down in words so well.

    Watson is supposed to be the mediator between the unnaturally brilliant Holmes and the ordinary reader. Otherwise, we'd just think he was this really odd cipher of a man. You hit the nail on the head when you say, Sherlock Holmes is the strange best friend! :D And Watson is us. I love how in the tv series there's a line where Sherlock calls John an idiot, but he's not really insulting him, he quickly says most people are idiots anyway. :D That's so adorable, I thought.

    As for the stories, there's some I still havent read. Its like I dont ever want them to end. So, I read one new story a year. I know that's like crazy weird, but what to do now?

    Atleast there's Sherlock to look forward to, and The Hobbit, of course!

    Oh, and lovely post! :)


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