Saturday, December 21, 2019

The doll and its maker

"So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle, the doll and its maker are never identical."
-- Arthur Conan Doyle, "To An Undiscerning Critic"

It's a curious thing that something Doyle once said to express that Sherlock's opinions were not his own is something that actually goes both ways. And that's a very good thing.

One of the perils of becoming an ardent fan (or aficionado, if you're all fancy) is that in trying to satisfy your desire for more of a good thing, you might follow the trail back to the source of your happy place and expect there to be more happy there. 

This being the weekend of the grand finale of that trilogy of trilogies that my love of began around the same time as my love of Sherlock Holmes, I'm definitely reflecting on George Lucas and how I always avoided "Making Of" specials. The same has always gone for Conan Doyle biographies -- on my shelf for reference, but not for pleasure, as I avoid them as much as possible. Both men have their fans, but I am happy for the most part to accept the gifts they gave us without paying too much attention to their personal doings.

Of course, neither George Lucas nor Conan Doyle ever came after the place where I lived, either.

Conan Doyle was quite socially active in his day, an ocean and a century away, so it's easy to not get too concerned with any of the things he was about, like trying to convince people that seances were a preferred spiritual practice. If he lived in modern America and took a political stance that I am dead-set against, one that is incredibly stupid and literally destroys lives, and then actually made efforts to promote that agenda?

It might get very hard to look at his work without seeing that shadow falling over it.

Writers create our culture. Whether it's through scripts, novels, speeches, or ad copy, the ideas writers share wind up tying us together or breaking us apart. Of course, we also get to decide which of those ideas we pick up and which we leave on the floor, but this always gets interesting when we pick up a fantastic character like Sherlock Holmes for one set of reasons, and then find all the other ideas of a Conan Doyle being lifted up as well by the strings tying them to that character.

T'were Conan Doyle still an active celebrity, with a reality show tracking fairies like some do bigfoot, getting called out for racist bits on Twitter, and without all his rough edges sanded off by history and the polishing of his memory by his children and fans, one wonders how it would affect our view of Sherlock Holmes. Our predecessors seemed to have dealt with it by demoting him to "literary agent" and making Watson's handy first-person narration give us a nice no-rough-edges author to replace the celeb with. Would that work now? Who knows.

My sympathies go out to all the devoted fans of Harry Potter who are trying to deal with that very thing right now without a Watsonian buffer. I'm still leaving the Conan Doyle studies to somebody else, as well. That guy was weird.

No comments:

Post a Comment