Sunday, November 6, 2016

About Sixty . . . Battling into the night and a hard morning after.

There was this long intermission in the About Sixty tournament last night that involved a bunch of actors and a "cuuch" . . . luckily, Sherlockians are used to tales "for which the world is not yet prepared," so I don't have to go into detail. And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch on Saturday Night Live. And when it was all said and done, your commentator was left in a rather shabby shape to commentate.

Ashley Polasek had "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires" charging into the ring with the strength of four stories instead of one. Peggy Perdue brought out "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" like she was a generous billionaire tossing valuable Sherlock trinkets to the audience. But all of those merits of those tales' performance in this literary kumite (pronounced "koo-mitt-ay" for those of you who don't follow Jean Claude Van Damme films) were lost on my benumbed brain, and I wasn't even sure who was winning any more at the point I passed out.

When morning broke, I found Margot Robbie . . . er, Northcott . . . sorry, still shaking off the sleep . . . had somehow gotten "The Adventure of the Resident Patient" into the Battle Royale and was trying to make do with a contestant she admittedly knew wasn't up for this, having a transplant from another entry and a general medical weakness. But she provides a few laughs, so her efforts redeem "Resident" somewhat.

This tournament has taken a dire turn this morning, as About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best starts to approach its literal Reichenbach. "Final Problem" is coming, and Bill Mason is well aware of it as he promotes "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter." It has some moves -- the "Mycroft" being a real humdinger (Whoa . . . "humdinger?" Twenty-three skiddoo, that's dated.) -- the words "nothing remarkable" from its proponent make one realize "Greek" just isn't going to win this.

When "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" shows up, I think it's a little drunk, as Bonnie MacBird has made a cocktail of it that hulk of a story. There is some philosophizing by "Naval Treaty," as one often gets from someone who's been at the bar a little too long, and, while good company in this fashion, the tale just doesn't seem to want to battle for supremacy, which is what we're here for. I suspect it started drinking because it knew "Final Problem" was coming.

And here comes "The Final Problem." Even just the name says this one is going to be trouble for the other contestants in our bookish Battle Royale, and I'm interested to see what tactics Jim Hawkins (not the one from Treasure Island) will have "Final" using. And he has it hitting the ring with its full impact, the "adventure to end the adventures." This story has a "4-D" move that no other tale did, and Jim has "Final" getting down to that move quickly.

The best battles in the About Sixty tournament have always been, I'm sad to say, the most one-sided. Some of these stories just show up and obliterate the competition, and tossing Sherlock Holmes to his death is a move that just destroys. Destroys the audience, destroys all the stories that came before, destroys hope and light and our belief int he goodness of the universe. (Much like a certain political campaign at present.) "The Final Problem" has come in this morning and turned the About Sixty wrestling ring into a smoking crater.

I need to go have some breakfast and recover.


  1. Hi, sorry for the off-topic, but I was looking for a place on the web to ask a few questions to Sherlock Holmes experts.

    My first question is: what do we know about the production of "The Final Problem"? There are many bits of info on the web but they often seem to contradict each other. For example, when was the story plotted? We have at least two sources (Doyle's interview to Tid-Bits on 15 december 1900 and his autobiography) where he says he decided how to kill Holmes when he visited Switzerland and Reichenback Falls; he doesn't give a date, but according to Richard Lancelyn Green's "Uncollected Sherlock Holmes" (1983), the visit happened in August 1893. On the other hand, as early as 6 April 1983 Doyle wrote to his mother "I am in the middle of the last Holmes story, after which the gentleman vanishes, never never to reappear. I am weary of his name". If the writing of a SH short stoy usually took him about a week, how could he be in the middle of it on April 6 and yet have not decided to use Switzerland and the Reichenbach Falls until August? Did he rewrite the story? Or did he pause it for three month before writing the second half? This would explain why Switzerland is mentioned only in the second half (except for the earlier mention of Journal de Geneve. Do we have manuscript evidence to prove or disprove that mention was added later?) Another mystery is if the Memoirs were always meant to have 12 stories or not: we know Doyle wrote to his mother "Under pressure I offered to do a dozen for a thousand pounds" and the publisher accepted it, but Green in his introduction to the Return wrote that "The second series at first consisted of eleven stories, and the last, 'The Final Problem', was an afterthought which McClure retained for use in his own magazine (which he started in June 1893)". How confusing. Also, when Doyle has Watson writing in FINA that he intended the series to end with NAVA, I wonder if this can be taken as an inside joke between Doyle and his publishers, just like the similar claim in SECO (that he wanted ABBE to end the series) is in my opinion an inside joke because Doyle briefly figured ABBE would be his las SH story.

    Thanks for your attention.

  2. Uh? Was my question too difficult, too uninteresting, or is this the wrong place to ask off-topic questions? I'm glad my comment passed moderation since it means it was read, but I thought the blog's author and most of its readers were Sherlock Holmes experts who could give me their opinion on this matter. Maybe I should wait more than one day for these kind of questions?

    1. It's not a very simple question, really, and one even an expert would take some time to dig into. Speaking for myself, I'm struggling just to find time to make it through this blog series just now, and figured on coming back to it in a week or two when life settled down. I only know a scant few Sherlockians who could give you a reply off the top of their heads, and am never sure when or if they check in on these pages (or if they even hit the comments).

  3. Ah, ok, I apoligize if I seemed impatient. Still, I'm a little puzzled by the fact that in 2016 it is so hard to trace the production history of FINA, despite the fact that it is one one of the most famous stories of one of the most famous (and studied) fictional characters ever. I'll keep reading your blog.

    (Incidently, I guess I should proofread better: the "thought" at the end of the previous message should have been deleted, and in the message before I wrote Tid-Bits instead of Tit-Bits).