Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a collection of 12 short adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The narrator is the iconic Dr. Watson who plays assistant to Holmes during his investigations. According to the doctor, he made notes of the cases at the time and only wrote them up after enough time has passed to prevent anything revealed in the telling of the tales from harming innocent people.

What I think is most interesting about these mysteries is contemplating them from the viewpoint of someone reading them at the end of the 19th century. As a modern reader, it’s very easy to think that much of it is just a matter of forensics, which it really is nowadays. However, for those living back then, it must have all seemed quite fantastic and ingenious. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements, which are still quite brilliant today. Some of his deductions and reasoning is nothing short of genius. However, quite a lot of the magic is dispelled when viewed from a modern standpoint.

The question is, do we really want to dispel the magic? I think the answer to this is fairly universally No. Why dispel the enchantment when there’s so much more to be had from suspending disbelief and thoughts of modern day forensics which destroy the romanticism of the age when it’s much more fun to pretend you’re watching the story unfold with no knowledge whatsoever? That’s the point and the relevance of Sherlock Holmes today, in my opinion. He’s there as a mark of progress and genius of the past. After all, was Einstein any less of a genius because much of his work has progressed passed his own developments? Each successive generation always builds on the past generation and without that past, there would be no future. Ergo, Homes and his tales will always be relevant, even if we do find his methods a bit antiquated.

The only criticism I have is that Doyle does paint Watson as an idiot. “Elementary, dear Watson” isn’t just a saying, it is a fact. He misses quite a lot of elementary elements and simply winds up looking like a fool much of the time. I know Doyle did this on purpose to form a contrast with Holmes and make his deductions seem all the more wondrous, but he very nearly overdid it and wound up with an absurd and incredible sidekick.

I enjoyed reading (or listening to) the stories and they get a 5 out of 5 from me.

Classics Challenge 2010
Marple, Poirot, Holmes Challenge
Typically British

1 comment:

Jeane said...

I remember reading some Sherlock Holmes from my father's collection once. I was really intrigued by how he figured everything out, without the use of modern techniques.