gb_lindsey: (ring the bell)
"Great Scott, Holmes!" I ejaculated. "This is when my Jezail bullet migrated from my shoulder into my leg!"

Title: The Sign of Four
Status: First time reading!
Spoilers in this post? Yes

Ah, The Sign of Four. One of the most popular of the mysteries, and not having read it grew in my mind like a giant "WTF, you call yourself a Holmes fan??" until I was convinced I was missing a zillion pop culture references because I HADN'T READ IT. Turns out, I was right and wrong: I had missed references. But thanks to pop culture, I knew all the Holmesy info in the story already, as evidenced by the...

Memorable quotes:

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" (For the record, he says it two times in this story alone.)

"My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere." (aka, should I ever become truly bored, THAT is when you should press the red button.)

"In an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents..." (Watson, you dog.)

"It is cocaine, a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?" (Holmes, you dog.)

"No, no: I never guess." (Three points if you know who says that.)

.......

While The Sign of Four has not displaced The Hound of the Baskervilles as my favorite of the Holmesian novels, it does, as its main character says, have its points of interest. For instance, in a beautiful case of evolving language, it is here in Ch. 6 that Sherlock Holmes gives a demonstration and John Watson first ejaculates.

Verbally. Shame on you, get your minds out of the gutter.

It is also here that Sherlock Holmes utters the following words: "Ah, of course. I had not thought of that."

Seriously, take a picture. It won't happen again until we get to Norbury. And finally...

IF YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT WATSON'S LIFE STORY, SPOILERS AHEAD.

.
.
.
.

This is the one where Watson gets married!!! Yay, what a momentous occasion! Finally Watson has found the one person that he-- what? Three marriages? And that's not including Sherlock, right?

John "Three Continents" Watson (and thank you, fanfic writers, for that beauty of a tag) had not one, not two, but three legally recognized spouses. One might wonder why Holmes didn't ever investigate the Case of Watson's Disappearing Wives. Perhaps it was too close to home. Perhaps he'd already solved it and rated it 'dull.' Perhaps that was an unpublished draft, crammed into an accordion folder next to The Case of the Doctor's Traveling War Wound.

First in the shoulder, now in the leg. I love this canon.

On a more sober note, The Sign of Four takes place when Great Britain still owned just about everything, and London had become a hub for people and practices from all over the world. Additionally, we're working within the Victorian Era, when exploration was cooler than sliced bread and there was a thirst for any kind of newness: in science, in literature, in industry, everywhere. Darwinian theory was huge. People didn't have to travel to see the exotic: it came to them in expos.

There are, therefore, some less than PC characters and references in this novel. The most notable is of course the inclusion of a pygmy man from a cannibalistic tribe off of Myanmar, who is described in appearance as almost inhuman. However, there are also several prominent colorblind relationships and loyalties portrayed, which was a pleasant surprise.

It is interesting to note that the criminals seem to be the ones of the enlightened mindset here. Nobility and loyalty are not strictly relegated to the white male characters trying to catch the murderers.


Quotes that should be memorable:

"You can... never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what any average number will be up to." (Holmes to Watson, spot-on description of mob mentality.)

"Like all humankind, they flitted from the gloom into the light and so back into the gloom once more." (Watson's PTSD isn't ever named as such, but it comes through pretty clearly in observations like this. He has seen a lot of evil and a lot of death, and still he strives to be a good person. His character is really very well and subtly developed in these stories, thanks to Doyle's lovely writing.)

"So we stood hand in hand like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us." (Beautiful and poignant.)

"You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid." (Holmes, obviously, to Watson, obviously, on the merits of descriptive writing, obviously. I cackled out loud.)

"Holmes declares that he overheard me caution [Mr. Sholto] against the great danger of taking more than two drops of castor-oil, while I recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative." (Again with the laughing out loud. Why Watsons should never be distracted by pretty Marys and, again, why Holmes should seriously have investigated those vanishing wives.)

Next up: On to the stories!
gb_lindsey: (tree)
Remember that time when John met Sherlock???

Title: A Study in Scarlet
Status: Read it already
Spoilers in this post? Nope

Memorable quotes: We can thank A Study in Scarlet for the following popular Holmesian phrases...

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence."
(Holmes, warning Watson not to make an ASS out of U and ME.)

"I have made a special study of cigar ashes--in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject."
(Holmes, challenging Watson to write a more gripping read than he does. Gauntlet=thrown.)

Now. Quotes that should be memorable. (This is the section where I expound upon what did not go viral but maybe should have. I'll be doing this for every story.)

"You sum up the difficulties of the situation succinctly and well." (Holmes to Watson)

I chose this quote because it is, in a single line, the crux of this partnership. Notice I do not say the crux of the friendship. We'll get to that. No, this is the foundation of Holmes' appreciation for Watson, not as a detective, but as a lens through which the raging torrent of Holmes' observations line themselves up like nice little school children. Watson may not have the chops to solve the case himself, but he can frame the miasma properly so that Holmes sees straight through. Love it. ILU ♥

"There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life."


Guh. WHY did you not go viral. Whyyyyyyyy.

"There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood."

Yes, that was Sherlock Holmes speaking. Another beauty of a line, and quite poetic for a character who doesn't go in for all that romantic drivel.

"What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is, what can you make people believe that you have done?"

This is Holmes, kvetching halfheartedly about certain police inspectors taking public credit for solving certain cases. Going a little deeper, it speaks to Holmes' unique form of sleight-of-hand: misdirection, exaggeration, and physical disguise are some of his greatest tools. But I chose this quote because there is a chilling quality to Holmes' observation. Ponder these words in a world where it's getting harder and harder to find unbiased, unslanted, uneditorialized coverage of anything that goes on. It is so easy to be convinced by what is on the surface, to just believe what we are told by whoever tells it. It reminds me to keep my Critical Thinking Goggles close at hand, and to take a second or even third look at whatever I see.

Next up: The Sign of Four. ^_^
gb_lindsey: (tree)
The other day, Goodreads poked me in the email and said, "HEY. HEY, YOU. Wanna make a reading goal?"

I of course said yes, having a very specific goal in mind. But then I clicked the helpful link and saw that I couldn't do anything more detailed than pick a number of books! How devastating, as my Very Sekrit Goal involves a grand total of...

Two books. Ooh, Grete, there's a finish line to strive for.

But I'm going to do it, in light of last year's successful accomplishment of another specific goal - I walked the length of Hadrian's Wall in Northern England, a longtime bucket list item for me (and who even cares if I'm "too young to have a bucket list"? I say the earlier you start, the more you get done!). This goal was only half realized in one respect, however, as it initially included 12 hikes in 12 weeks, complete with bloggy coverage. On Hike #2, I very ignobly fell coming down the steps from my apartment, overextended some tendon somewhere, and promptly bid goodbye to the 12 weeks part of the goal. I kept to my 12 hikes, but then lost the blogging part as well due to laziness uploading my photos.

Clearly I need to work on some aspects of my goal-setting.

HOWEVER. I did in fact meet the Ultimate Goal by hiking the Wall, a scary, gorgeous, mind-blowing, enriching, and utterly satisfying experience, despite the lack of blogging about it afterward. Ergo, this year I have decided to tackle another very different bucket list item.

I'm a Sherlock Holmes nut. I like just about every version I've come across for one reason or another, but for the average Holmesian, this last decade has been an absolute smorgasbord. We've got the Guy Ritchie films (for the first time, I see an actual VictorianDruggieBumHolmes, and I can't get over the RIGHTNESS of it, plus a kick-ass Watson)... Elementary (if the cases aren't always super clever, the relationship building is top-notch, and of course the gender-play, OH, the gender-play, plus a kick-ass Watson)... and BBC's Sherlock (near-perfect transposition into a modern setting, with hilarious scripting from a few of the most unapologetic Holmes geeks in the world and wonderful acting, plus, you guessed it, a kick-ass Watson).

(Finally, Watson! You are no longer being crammed into the Bumbling Idiot Box! Where you never should have been in the first place! Don't get me started!)

That's not even mentioning the Russian television series, the genderswitch sHERlock series, or the myriad other versions that have been bubbling up. Succinctly put, it's a great time to be a Holmes fan.

Hence, the goal: I intend to read the entire Sherlock Holmes repertoire by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the year 2016. And I intend to blog about it. I have recently gotten my hands on these two beauties,

which include, among other things, a spreadsheet running the lives of Holmes, Watson, and Doyle side by side from year to year (!!!).

But mainly I will be indulging in this compilation:

the books of which house every novel, short story and essay in order of (generally) chronological occurrence, are very pretty, and are much easier to pack into my shoulder bag than those other two.

Being a Holmes fan, thanks to my even crazier Holmes-fan of a mother, I have read a lot of these stories already, but I have woefully under-represented the novels and I intend to remedy that.

So! Two books. Twelve months. 1392 pages. The game, as they say, is afoot.

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