"What do we love about Sherlock Holmes?" the classic question goes. The answers are as numerous as Sherlockians, and even a multiple of that. But if you wanted to round a good chunk of them into one simple statement, it would just be this: "He entertains us."
Sherlock Holmes entertains us. Whether in the original stories, the imitations, the adaptations, or spin-offs, or even in the study, the research, the collecting, and the archiving -- it all is entertaining to someone. Sherlock Holmes himself is of marginal importance to our culture if you remove his entertainment value, as much as we'd like to claim more due to his importance in our Sherlockian lives.
What entertains varies from Sherlockian to Sherlockian, and even the arguing over what entertains us is entertaining to us. (And is practically a genre within a genre in itself.) And this week, we got a treat that will surely cause a little bit of fodder for that genre, the third book from Doyle's Rotary Coffin, the society for the acceptance of even the most out-there of Sherlocks. The book's title is "Sherlock Holmes" is and Anagram of "Snarky Clock" and 327 Other Holmesian Facts, and that title should tell you everything you need to know about the contents: This book is not for the obsessive-compulsive literalist with no sense of whimsy.
"Sherlock Holmes" is and Anagram of "Snarky Clock" and 327 Other Holmesian Facts is, to put it plainly, a hundred and twenty pages of delightful and entertaining lies about Sherlock Holmes and his contributions to our culture. In a hobby that is often too slavishly devoted to documenting minute details, the sheer freedom from sense that explodes from this book is a lovely refreshment in a time when pandemics and societal stresses are wearing us down. When I picked this book up, I smiled, I chuckle, and I suddenly found myself busting out laughing despite all the concerns of the day. Boy, was the timing of its publishing just perfect.
Comedy is hard, as humor is a very personal and often individual thing. (My love of the movie Holmes and Watson has demonstrated that time and again.) Is there humor in the sentence "Contrary to popular belief, the word 'detective' never appears in the Sherlock Holmes stories"? Well, it helps to be familiar with the old trope "The words 'Elementary, my dear Watson' never appear in the original Sherlock Holmes stories." If that trope is well imbedded in your head, the parody in that line comes through loud and clear. If not . . . well, it might be a little baffling as to why someone would write such a ridiculous and plainly false statement. So be warned: "Sherlock Holmes" is and Anagram of "Snarky Clock" and 327 Other Holmesian Facts is chock-full of in-jokes targeting those with a mind deeply imbedded in our hobby. It's also got a few "dad jokes."
But here's the thing: This was the most impressive thing I've seen in the Sherlockian world this year. The sheer onslaught of completely ridiculous statements, page after page, from so many angles and so many corners of Sherlock Holmes culture, could at the same time feed the analysis engines of some future Sherlockian AI, become the chosen holy book of a Sherlockian society based around marijuana edibles, or just be one of those things that makes some of us laugh hysterically while others go "I don't get it." Dare I use the over-used word "genius" in reference to this book, or would that not be high praise enough?
"Sherlock Holmes" is and Anagram of "Snarky Clock" and 327 Other Holmesian Facts should be approached with as open a mind as possible, so don't let my review give any expectations or reason for you to buy it. The fact that it is only $3.80 on Amazon or absolutely free in PDF form on the Doyle's Rotary Coffin website is enough reason to pick up the book. Past that, you're on your own.
Sherlock Holmes still entertains us, after a hundred and thirty years, but at this point he's being powered by some wonderful human batteries. May that Energizer bunny in a deerstalker go on and on and on.
Afterword note: I have been informed there are 497 "facts" in this book. Even the title is a base canard! Be thou forewarned!