Books: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes

I received this set for Christmas last year and am finally getting around to flipping through the volumes (there are three). My Holmes library is pretty large, and I own any number of versions of Doyle's stories as well as an extended amount of other, apocryphal works (some of which I am author). But I'm enjoying the notes in this particular collection, and the use of all the illustrations of the times—Paget, of course, is best known, but Steele had an interesting style as well.

I do think it's funny that so many insist on the fantasy of Holmes and Watson as real people, for whom Doyle acted as some kind of literary agent or liaison. I mean, I get it; that is, I understand the fun in it. But . . . I don't know. For a writer, someone who lives and works and profits by imagination, there is yet a boundary here I am unable to step over. Maybe it has to do with my upbringing. I get all my Holmes interest from my father—it is his library I've inherited, though I've certainly added to it—and he never showed this brand of involvement, this desire to pretend that Holmes and Watson were anything other than literary characters. Or maybe the Asperger's drives me to a hard stop on this point. But for whatever reason, my rational mind refuses to take that step, even in fun.

The notes, too, are amazing in that they reveal how much investigation and energy others have put into Holmes. They've searched out real places and people that the fictitious Watson may have been masking, they've calculated speeds of trains and distances and routes, pouring over train station timetables and schedules and such. They have all become armchair detectives in their own rights, as if to prove something to themselves . . . Like they might be just as good or better than Holmes, or at the very least better than Watson (might they all wish they could be Holmes's faithful companion?).

I don't mean this at all in a disparaging way. I realize it's difficult to take tone from a blog post, but I am genuinely astounded at the work that has been done. Oh, I own some of these books that are referenced, have even read a few of them, but to see it all laid out in the notes of this collection brings home how thorough the Holmes community can be. It's delightful and awe-inducing.

For now, I'm simply enjoying revisiting these tales, many of which I haven't read in about a decade. I slip a story in, now and then, during my writing breaks. They are the perfect size and shape to fill the gaps, and though the books themselves are large and unwieldy, I am thoroughly enjoying having so much context for each tale at my fingertips. A worthwhile read and invaluable reference.

1 comment:

M said...

Okay, but just to address one of the notes in "The Missing Three-Quarter," it is absolutely possible to grow up surrounded by a sport and know nothing of it. I am proof. I grew up in Texas and up 'til a few years ago would not have been able to tell you anything about football aside from the fact there's something called a "quarterback." I know a little more now. A very little. But people like me (& Sherlock Holmes, yes, I'll put myself in his company), so involved with other things . . . Can shutter our minds to things that bear no interest or meaning for us. It can be done.