24 Following


I like big books.

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet -  Arthur Conan Doyle So, I originally started off with the first volume of the Barnes & Noble Classics version that includes several of the earlier novels and short stories with the intention of getting through about half the canon before series three of Sherlock comes back to the BBC, but that plan quickly fell to pieces. It's been a long, long time since I've read anything by Doyle and with some more serious reading under my belt, I found his prose actually quite compelling. Doyle's command over the English language is a marvel that only 19th century England could produce: controlled, rhythmic, but not pedantic and the story is paced quite ingeniously for maximum serial cliff-hangeriness. Ultimately though, ACD's Sherlock Holmes is an asshat. I mean, he's arrogant and condescending in almost every iteration modern and classic, but at Downey Jr.'s and Cumberbatch's Sherlocks AMUSE you while they belittle the intellectual acuity of every mortal that they cross paths with. I latched on to Study in Scarlet after finishing and enjoying Agatha Christie's [b:And Then There Were None|16299|And Then There Were None|Agatha Christie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316131101s/16299.jpg|3038872], and while the narrative isn't as polished, Christie's yarn is the more engaging.

One of the hardest parts about making the transition between Christie and Doyle is that Christie invites the reader to participate in the solving of the mystery at hand. What evidence to be had is shared with the reader as part of the narrative and you feel "in the know" with the other characters on the island. Doyle doesn't make the reader a participant. Instead, he focuses on dazzling you with the genius of Mr. Holmes as he observes things the reader cannot see and makes marvelous deductions that seem like they're completely out of thin air until the line of reasoning is revealed after the facts have been established.

Still, Holmes has a certain pull to him. There's a flair and pomp that was undoubtedly unique in the annals of Victorian literature and his cold reliance on scientific methods and logic to debunk cases with an air of the supernatural about them is a part of a larger cultural transformation that marked the transition between the age of superstition and the age of reason. It's boldly straight forward in waving away the magical and spiritual in favor of the more earthly and mundane, but sometimes very fantastical, truth. Its part and parcel of a burgeoning European culture bent on cataloguing and understanding a wider world opened to them through telegraph, steam ship and railroad - a mapping of the blank spots on the map that Doyle draws toward London from all across the globe in the snippets of stories that I briefly perused before deciding to move on to some other reading that needs to get done before the school year ends. It has promise, especially in the connected and serial nature of the stories, but not quite what I'm in the mood for at the moment. The narrative structure is also quite unique and well-done - Watson is a genial and sufficiently astonished narrator to keep things interesting.

As an aside, I was pleased to see with new eyes the relationship between Sherlock's "A Study in Pink" pilot episode and this original tale. I think the show takes the best of the spirit of the novel and is equally creative and inventive in keeping even avid Sherlock Holmes fans guessing at where this updated mystery is headed.