Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Having spent the previous evening reforming the bones of the Sherlock room, which now looks like a blast site, my mind is back on the residue of a Sherlockian life.

When we first came into the digital age and web publishing, many a Sherlockian was quick to go, "These electrons disappear so easily! There's no permanence here!" and extol the virtues of paper. Yes, paper. An EMP or an encryption hack can take out your digital data so easily! Not at all like we didn't have a thing called "fire" before.

Distributed copies keep the data alive in either case, but when dealing with cleaning your actual house, suddenly digital starts seeming like a gift from the gods. You can read this blog every single week if you like, but thirty years from now, you're not going to be burdened with finding something to do with the thousands of pieces of paper that brought it to you. Which is the level of wood-pulp based remains of the seventies, eighties, and nineties that I'm looking at now.

A library is no place for "one time reads" that you have no reason to ever refer to. It should be a place for works you're going to return to. Contemplating the ideal system for storing all our Sherlockian works, one quickly comes back to the method of our old friend Sherlock Holmes. Smart guy that Sherlock Holmes. There are reasons why we've followed him all this time. And what did he say?

"A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it." (From "Five Orange Pips.) Sherlock is talking about his mind and his bookshelf in this metaphor, but look at what he actually uses the lumber-room for:

"Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of the old daily papers with which of one of our lumber-rooms was packed," Watson writes in "Six Napoleons."

The Holmes storage system is plainly tiered "brain-library-lumber-room" in order of decreasing importance. Newspapers are things of the moment, and like scion newsletters or online blogs, those parts that need to be added to the library can be clipped or copied into the library for handier reference. The best bits are added to your mind palace/brain attic from there, but the greater mass of paperwork can be resigned to some form of archival storage, be it attic, CD, or cloud backup -- the true lumber-room in Sherlock's system.

The trick, of course, is keeping up with whatever system you choose as the years go by. Otherwise, you're apt to one day discover you have a whooooole lot of Sherlockian residue clean-up to do.

Which is where I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment