I was working my way through the Nebula list and some short fiction from Tor, all online fiction, when I left for Omaha. Since I have neither a mobile computing device nor eReader (which wouldn’t have helped that much), I switched to physical books and started the Holmes-a-thon.
I read Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories when I was pretty young. I’m not a huge mystery fan, but I always liked the logic and ratiocination of Sherlock Holmes (and Poe as well when I found out Poe did it first). That logic could infallibly solve crime appealed. Those stories made an impression on me. Unconsciously, I write somewhat like Doyle. I have a soft spot for the Sherlocks, the Spocks, the Austin Jameses of the world (as many women do). I’ve watched many Sherlock Holmes adaptations and liked most of them. In a manner similar to comic book characters, there’s something malleable about the background and continuing exploits of Sherlock Holmes. Strangely, I haven’t read any of the mammoth quantity of Sherlock works by different authors. It never occurred to do so. Okay, I have read Saberhagen’s Holmes-Dracula Files and maybe one or two works were Sherlock Homes, John Watson, or Arthur Conan Doyle were characters. But really nothing *about* Holmes. I had acquired some books, but not read them. Therefore, I decided to have a two month Holmes-a-thon.
First up, Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind (Book #6). I had not heard of this book until Elizabeth Bear mentioned it in her review of the recent Sherlock Holmes movie. It sounded good to me.
Considering recent events in my life, this book was a hard read. This Sherlock Holmes is 93 years old and dealing with slight dementia, an old body, and all the questions that might come at the end of a man’s life. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be the man that has the answers when he asks questions. What happens when he doesn’t? This is a novel firmly within the literary "genre." We’re examining the inner life of a character, not terribly concerned with discrete events of a plot. I liked this book; it will undoubtedly stick with me, but I can’t say I found it enjoyable. I read most of it in airports and airplanes while traveling to possibly say goodbye to my grandmother. (I had a similar problem with Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres — not reading material when you’re family is going nuts.) Stories are told and retold, both in this book and in my life (and in several of the short works I read).
Of particularly Holmesian things, the novel does not have Watson, drug abuse, or Irene Adler. It does very much have an apiary. I’m noting this because I think it will be interesting what authors decide to focus on or not. Obviously, my next selection, The Seven-per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer, is covering the drug abuse angle. I’ll probably have more to say about these things after I’ve read a few more texts.
Short fiction I also read since February 20th:
- “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster
- "Spar" by Kij Johnson
- "A Memory of Wind" by Rachel Swirsky
- "The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles" by Kij Johnson
The best English course I took in high school was called "Stories and the Human Experience". It taught me more about writing than most writing classes. These stories, along with A Slight Trick of the Mind, could be used an alternate syllabus. (Btw, that was the class I read Jane Smiley for.) All of this fiction is about the stories that we tell ourselves or about ourselves and what stories are told about us by our cultures and societies. It’s made for a slightly claustrophobic experience. I really want a popcorn book at this point. Maybe instead of Meyers, I’ll hit my mom’s shelves for a Star Trek novel or something.