Yesterday Morton L. Duffy tweeted a very interesting question on Twitter.
Waking up with no memory, in one's own bed, surrounded by the collected paraphernalia of one's life, is a very curious mental puzzle. The bedroom alone would make me wonder several things, like "Why do I have a shelf and a half of what looks like the same book?" "I guess I'm a hat guy?" "Who wears this women's underwear that doesn't seem to fit me?"
Wandering across the hall, though, and encountering the library overstocked with Sherlock Holmes related books, however, would be the true mind-boggler. With no memory, the fact that all these books had that odd name in them would show there was something somehow important about this guy, but how long would it take to understand which books were the original source material, buried in all the works that came along after? Honestly, I think my first reaction would be writing off the entire mystery as way too big to start trying to figure out which one of that legion I should read to solve the puzzle. Besides, I'm probably hungry, having just woken up, and wanting to find food.
Hunger might be the great motivator, but even with no memory, one has to wonder if one's emotional core will still hold on to something that would hold a reaction, even if one didn't know why. Would certain books draw me to them, while others would automatically be ignored?
If any feelings toward individual books remained, Baring-Gould's Annotated would draw me to it, and the exceptionally battered nature of one particular edition might even attract my intellect once I got something to eat. Any book that beat up and still owned must have some significance, and, even now, I think that would be the best primer to bring me up to speed about Sherlock Holmes . . . though about the current state of Sherlockiana? Not anywhere close.
I'd have a hard time logging on to the computer that sits next to it if I couldn't remember my password, but if I made it past that little hurdle, I'd find a browser with an initial quick button that has a little blue bird and says "Twitter," at which point the confusion really starts. But that is where I think I have to start to answer Morton's question: The difference between what I read from Baring-Gould about the hobby of Sherlockiana and what I see on Twitter would definitely be the mind-blower.
The big question, however, would be "Would Doyle's prose work on blank-slate me?"
Some of us had a route to Holmes that started with a movie, went first to pastiches, then back to the original source material. Along the way, I remember blowing past a lot of old Sherlock material that only got more interesting when a whole lot of other Sherlock Holmes input got loaded in first. And my original introductions to Sherlock Holmes came with the developing brain of a thirteen-year-old, and loaded in during the. following years. How would a fully-formed adult brain react?
I'd have to get dressed, of course, and opening the t-shirt drawer might distract me from Holmes immediately, as I'd have to go look up the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Mandalorian, and there's a real danger that I might just become a Marvel Comics fan and not do the long study of the library across the hall for quite a while. Sadly, Avenger's: Endgame might leave my mind numb to the more subtle influences of earlier times.
But this is the world that new Sherlockians are going to come into. So much media out there, competing for time and mental space. And as good as Enola Holmes is, without that gap we used to have between entertainments, does someone follow that back to the source, or just roll into the next Netflix movie? All of the great fandoms were built on wanting more but not getting it quickly enough. Star Wars, Star Trek, BBC Sherlock, even Strand Magazine Sherlock at Reichenbach Falls. Once that fandom is built, and once one finds one's self in the midst of it, it's great place of joy. But waking up with no memory anywhere other than the Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend or 221B Con?
That's a real puzzler. Of course, Sherlock Holmes was all about solving mysteries, so if one gets to that particular key, maybe it won't be so hard to unlock.