Getting a major project over and done is always a relief, and the start of the next thing can be a lot of fun. But the choice of next thing for me this January was one of those aspects of Sherlockiana that has long haunted me, more of a feeling of obligation to finish something than just a choice for pure fun. Having purged myself of my 1980s demons with a book on the subject, it was time to deal with Sherlockian chronology, what seems on the surface like one of the more boring topics in the entire hobby.
"I find any chronology the stupidest sort of reading among the writings about The Writings," James Montgomery wrote in 1953, and I can't say I disagree with him entirely. Maybe not the stupidest, but the one that's the least fun to read. Sherlockian chronology is not a niche for those whose joy is reading alone. Not stupid in its content, perhaps, but stupid as a choice of reading material.
So why dive into it, assemble chronology Avengers into a Sherlockian Chronologist Guild, and start putting out a monthly PDF newsletter on the subject, which many, like Montgomery, might consider "the stupidest sort of reading?"
Because the fun in Sherlockian chronology isn't in the watching the sport, so much as getting down on the field and playing. You have to have a certain sort of mind, I suspect, one that likes to put things in order and obsess over small details. The serious Sherlockian chronologist is probably not your cocktail party gadabout, as they're probably going to go quiet into their own thoughts at a given moment and leave the conversation. (I'm guessing and stereotyping here, so don't take this as a hard-set opinion.)
But what is any part of Sherlockiana other than an entertainment to take us away from our day-to-day troubles?
This week, I had a little bit of a tooth issue for a few days, and I noticed in that time, I was having some real fun working with the chronology of a couple of cases and all the thoughts on those cases from past chronologies. The chance to deep dive into such a simple part of the Canon, ignoring everything but the line of time itself, was the perfect thing. In an era that stimulates attention deficit at every opportunity, finding a focal point to anchor one's self for a time . . . well, that's a genuine treat.
Walking through the writings of John H. Watson with the slow deliberation that serves chronology best seems. to serve as an antidote to the hyperactive consumption of media that's so easy to fall into, multi-tasking with things like binge-watching a TV show while playing a video game and having a text conversation, all at the same time. And, personally, I find pleasure in that alterative, as Watson might call it.
Sherlockian chronology isn't fun like fun things are fun, if that makes any sense. But there is something joyful to be found there at the right moment. And I seem to be having that moment right now.