I haven’t blogged in a few days because, as I wrote in my last post, I was attending SANDY’S WEDDING. It was beautiful. See?
Really, a good time was had by all. But then I returned to Houston and had to face The Diss again, which hasn’t been fun, and I am praying that I can just finish this chapter without incident and move on with my life. Because let’s be honest — I cannot spend much more time thinking about fairy tales without becoming a crystal woman who speaks Elvish.
Moving on to other topics.
When Danny was living in Killeen and I was making the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Fort Hood every other weekend, I bought a lot of audio books. I listened to probably the entire collected essays of David Sedaris — who, I think, is much funnier to hear than to read — but while visiting the strangely depressing bookstore near Danny’s apartment I found a three-disc set of Sherlock Holmes stories: “The Five Orange Pips,” “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” “The Blue Carbuncle,” and a few others. “The Speckled Band” was probably somewhere in there, because it always is.
When I had listened to them all three or four times and they were no longer serving their purpose of keeping me awake as I drove through a million small Texas towns — each with its own sad Dairy Queen and some, but not all, with a Wal-Mart — I gave Danny the discs to listen to when he drove to Houston. He remembered Sherlock fondly from his boyhood, when he read quite a few of the stories.
Or did he?
:: dramatic detective music, accompanied by single, arched eyebrow ::
Actually, he didn’t read Sherlock Holmes stories. At least, he didn’t read Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He read some boy-ified versions of the stories, full of explosions and near escapes and general mayhem. Doyle’s stories are (I think) exciting, but not nearly this action-packed. When Danny arrived in Houston after listening to the stories for the first time, he was disappointed.
“All he does is think. They’re stories describing the different ways he thinks. On a divan, smoking his pipe, high on opium. Where’s all the action?”
Personally, I like all of the thinking. The pattern is soothing. Holmes gathers scraps of evidence. The grit on a shoe. The address on an envelope. The direction of carriage tracks. Then he mulls it over until all fits together neatly, a dense and efficient package of a story tied with twine. But I suspect that it is for people like Danny — childhood fans who associate Sherlock Holmes with a derring-do that is simultaneously thrilling and exquisitely, primly Victorian — that the new movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson is made.
I’m not being a movie snob here, because I will certainly go see this when it goes to theaters. And I’m not even particularly snooty when it comes to film adaptations of books I love. Reese Witherspoon in the recent film adaptation of Vanity Fair (one of my favorite novels of all time) did not, in my opinion, even approach the snarkiness and cleverness of Thackeray’s Becky Sharp, but I actually kind of love the movie. And I do recognize that a movie in which the wide-eyed Downey, Jr., simply muses over his dose of opium for a few hours would be anything but a blockbuster.
I do, however, lament the fact that many people aren’t reading Doyle’s stories anymore. And they’re so good! The thinking is actually quite entertaining!
In fact, Doyle is someone I recommend when my non-grad-school friends ask me for a Victorian writer recommendation. (The other I consistently recommend is Wilkie Collins. Everyone should read The Woman in White. Now.) I certainly wouldn’t subject them to Trollope, my nemesis. But Doyle is very readable.
And if you hate him, you can stop after one story. So happy reading!