Monday, January 16, 2012

Last Round of Reading (for fun) For a While

I'm currently steamrolling my way through The Collected Sherlock Holmes, Vol. II.

Vol. I is history, already.

I read an interesting study of Arthur Conan Doyle's relationship with Harry Houdini (the two were, at one time, very good friends and regular correspondents), and it roused my interest in good old Sherlock Holmes. The last SH story I read was probably in middle school, and it was The Adventure of the Speckled Band. It was a good read at the time, and thinking back on it, I decided to explore some of the World's Only Consulting Detective's work.

I duly went to Barnes & Noble and bought Vols. I and II of their in-house published Collected Sherlock Holmes. Two volumes, over 1600 pages, for $16. Not bad. And not as horribly proofread or copy-edited as I'd expected (except I have a hunch that that one "sonic" should have been "some", and their scanner messed up).

I'm thoroughly enjoying good old Sherlock's adventures. I'd forgotten that they were told from Dr. Watson's point of view.

I'm also remembering some of the kerfuffle that sprang up when the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie came out a couple of years back. Some people were up in arms because Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock is a bit more rough and tumble than that of Basil Rathbone. Downey/Holmes is a more flawed, more frenetic character than that of suave, sophisticated, cool and calm Mr. Rathbone.

The thing is, the Sherlock Holmes in the stories is not so much a gentlemanly guy. He's essentially incapable of normal human relationships because of his genius (one of the reasons he clings to Watson so desperately). He boxes for fun, and with fellows who aren't of his social caste. He shoots up cocaine because he's bored. And Watson describes him as going into something of a frenzy when he's on the scent.

It's interesting, because I found Downey's version of Holmes much more interesting then Rathbone's. Good to know that Mr. Ritchie brings out the ferociousness of Holmes better than his predecessors.

All this being said, I enjoyed the first volume more than Doyle's later stories. It's understandable, I guess, since ACD was sick and tired of writing Sherlock Holmes mysteries - which he viewed as literary trash - and went so far as to kill off Holmes in one story, hoping that his publisher would quit hounding him for more stories. He eventually brought Holmes back to life, but the stories afterwards lack the joie de vivre of the earlier works, before ACD grew completely disgusted with the monster he'd created.

The best thing about the Sherlock Holmes stories? They're interesting, but not too interesting. They hold my attention enough that I'm not throwing the book across the room in disgust, but they're not so compelling that I stay up past "the point of no return," sleep-wise. I don't try to soldier through my exhaustion (as I so often do), but instead take a more "ho-hum. I'll see if Holmes survives, tomorrow" approach.

Excellent bedtime reading.

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