Totems, fetishes, charms, talismans, idols . . . all words we tend to associate with "primitive" belief systems less "civilized" than our own. That leathery shrunken figure with the bands of white shells in "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge," which Sherlock Holmes identifies as a voodoo relic, would be a good example of the things typically cast in that category. Step back a few feet from Sherlockiana, however, and it's easy to see that we're as identifiable by our totems as that voodoo-loving cook involved with Wisteria Lodge.
Why else would anyone own a toy Garfield in a deerstalker at this point?
But the gee-gaws, knick-knacks, and tchotchkes aren't the true fetishes of Sherlockian life. 221B sitting room recreations aren't the true holy alters of Holmes-worship. Oh, no.
We're much stealthier in the true faith of Holmes, and build our sanctuaries in the way of a larger belief system, like Mormons being a specialized segment of Abrahamic religion. And that overarching religious style?
Books on shelves become like altars. Those who write books become like . . . priests? Nay, wizards! Of course the most successful of wizards need to summon the elementals of publication to aid their tasks, charming those powers with their incantations of query and manuscript. (This is all metaphor, of course, though I could name a few writers we all know who have some magical cast to their look, and make you wonder about faerie blood in their ancestry.)
And one never knows what might be pulled from the shelf and tossed to a friend without a second thought, that eventually will bless or curse them with inspiration or obsession. And nothing is as much fun as blowing the dust off that long-saved volume that finally comes of vital use after all this time . . . and yet . . . .
There are times when we must rise up and take mastery over these bits of ink-stained wood pulp and realize that their only power over us is that which we give them. Not every book deserves a place on our shelves, and putting a book in its proper place is a biblio-adept's greatest skill, even if that proper place is in a fire. (Oh, yes. I definitely maintain that one has to burn at least one book to show those little bastards who's boss. It's quite freeing.)
Given all of the above, one might wonder why I continue to blog and don't spend more time writing actual books as I did in the eighties and nineties. The internet blog is the ghost of this metaphor, occasionally visible to some, not maintaining a solid presence, sometimes just popping in to elicit a frightful response. As any spirit would surely tell you, the ghostly life holds no responsibilities and offers more freedom to the lazy and undisciplined who can't hold it together enough to participate in the land of the living. And it's more fun than being a zombie, let me tell you.
Working on knocking my Sherlock room into habitable space is really leaving me philosophical and a bit tiredly dreamy, I think. Time to call it a night and see what magical items I need to deal with tomorrow. It's going to be a lonnnggg weekend.
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