After a goodly life of Sherlockiana, there will always be a few accomplishments that impress me, having seen what it takes to get there. In athletics, there are endurance tests, like marathons, where those in a field push their limits and see how far they can go. Achievements that not everyone is willing or able to pull off, goals that, once attained, are on your "permanent record" and give you the ability to say, "I did that," and feel satisfied in the thought.
Coming up with your personal chronology of the Sherlock Holmes Canon will always be a marathon in my mind. A long, long path of collecting details, making choices, testing your limits of just how far you'll go to make the damn thing work and complete all sixty. Not many Sherlockians have both the drive and willingness to push through to such a really, truly pointless goal. Most folks will pick an existing timeline of Holmes close to hand, be it in Baring-Gould or on the internet, and use those dates for reference, not excitedly skim Amazon to see if a new take on that old science is about to be published so they can pre-order. The Sherlockian chronologist, like a long-distance runner, must be content in the experience itself, and the feeling of just having done it.
But today I was reminded of another Sherlockian achievement that always impresses me: Reading Winwood Reade's The Martydom of Man, cover to cover. It's not a hard book to find, reprinted many times. But it has the rare distinction of being the one book that Sherlock Holmes whole-heartedly recommends you read.
"One of the most remarkable ever penned," Holmes tells Watson in The Sign of the Four. Watson sits down to read it, but he's thinking of a cute girl and just can't get into it. And there's the challenge of it. The Martydom of Man has its moments, but over the long haul, it's not an easy read. Going through all of human history, not once, but twice, heading back to work through creation itself . . . there's a lot of ground to cover there without wandering off and thinking about dating or Clark Russell's sea stories or any of those other Watsonian or non-Watsonian interests will conjure
While not the marathon of a Sherlockian chronology, I'd definitely place Martyrdom as the first leg of a Sherlockian iron man literary triathlon. What would the other two parts be?
Well, the writing segment would have to be there. Write a book? Too general. What kind of book? A Nanowrimo novel in November? Some other sort of month-long endeavor on Holmes?
Speaking of month-long endeavors, the John H. Watson Society Treasure hunt just ended at midnight last night. Whilst I hate to suggest any sort of quiz or test as a part of a Sherlockian triathlon, as fraught with creator subjectivity and other perils as they can be, the JHWS Treasure Hunt has proven to be a pretty solid long-haul search through the Canon itself. Would that be the third leg of a Sherlockian triathlon. Maybe if there were some way to create one without having another human author it. (It always bothers me that the person writing a quiz never has to suffer through taking it. Hardly seems fair, does it?)
Gaining any achievement that requires a gatekeeper doesn't really fit into the free-wheeling world of Sherlockiana, so even choosing three events like this is a bit problematic. Who am I to say what three achievements make for a grand Sherlockian? Of course I'm going to pick things I've already accomplished for myself, because we alway favor those things we love enough to do ourselves. A Sherlockian traveler might pick "visit 221 Baker Street," "visit Reichenbach Falls," and visit Conan Doyle's grave for the three-part achievement, and by those standards, I'm a total noob.
I suspect the best Sherlockian triathlon will never be the arduous task, like getting through The Martyrdom of Man, but the fun ones, like doing whatever it is that make for a great time.
Eat at Simpson's, eat at Speedy's, eat at any Sherlock Holmes based pub.
Attend a concert where they play Chopin's E Major Etude, a concert with Hoffman's Barcarole, and see Les Huguenots from a box seat.
Find three books mentioned in the Canon in bookstores without using the internet to see where the book is in stock.
So many options out there, and why make it "ironman" hard anyway. (Iron Man literally burnt himself out in that last movie. Don't burn yourself out.)
Congratulations on doing whatever you've done! Maybe we should just all create our own using whatever we've accomplished and call it done . . . or set some new goals? Hmm.