Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wrap it up? No.

This past Saturday night, I was running a 1930s murder mystery night, featuring a lot of improv and certain set plot points. About halfway into what might have been called the second act, a woman hunted me down and stated, "Wrap this up, I have to leave."

I looked around the room at the hundred other people that were playing, chatting, enjoying the music, and gave her a non-committal, "We'll have to see about that." And then let things play out as they were set to.

Apparently, the lady had come to the mystery night with certain expectations, like that it would only last an hour. And she was a little free in expressing them, unconcerned about anyone but herself, and, as a result, came off as rather rude. Her particular expectations, of course, were not something anyone had taken into account in building the evening's entertainment.

I don't expect that the mystery evening got a good review from her, but that's her prerogative. The idea that a whole production should shift gears due to her own personal issues? Not included in the ticket price, which, in this case, was zero dollars.

With Sherlock Holmes, a fellow that's been with us our entire lives, we often come to feel a certain . . . well, "ownership" isn't the right word . . . more like "an expectation of something similar to what we had previously experienced?" Or is it more than that? Do we develop a personal vision of Sherlock Holmes over time that we use to measure every version of Sherlock that comes after? Whatever it is, our inner ties to Sherlock Holmes are as varied as humanity itself.

There are those who are into the historical research side of it, those who are into the fiction-writing side of it, those who are into reading mystery fiction, and those who are into cinematic portrayals . . . though choosing just one path is not something we usually stick to. So much Holmes out there to enjoy in so many ways. And more coming in all the time.

Yet occasionally, you run into a Sherlockian like that elderly lady I encountered on mystery night, who just want to "Wrap this up!" with one particular aspect of the hobby. "This is what Sherlockiana is, this is the way I like it, over and done. Wrap it up!"  It's a little bit like those Armageddon fanciers who think the world should end with their narcissistic lives. But none of us is so important that the world, or even Sherlockiana, will end with what we get to see of it.

Even Sherlock Holmes had a little bit of that attitude as he aged. Remember how no criminal was ever going to top Moriarty? Yeah. It's easy to get short-sighted and miss the big picture, especially when you've beaten that one great master criminal and don't really want to go to all that effort again.

But somebody is always going to be out there having fun with Sherlock Holmes, even after we go home, in ways Vincent Starrett or Christopher Morley never ever thought of.

And that's pretty great.

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