Saturday, March 26, 2022

When Sherlockians gather, at whatever level

 Our little local Peoria library group of Sherlockians found its footing again this month, leaving Zoom behind and meeting in person with a healthy attendance. And it was a great discussion, with some insights on "The Man with the Twisted Lip" that I had never heard before, which is what I really love about our local group.

I didn't understand the value of the local group quite so much when I was younger, and the mad dedication of national-level Sherlock Holmes fans was so entrancing. Those of us who are deep into Sherlockian culture love our community, the familiar tropes, the verbal shorthand we acquire with each other, as in any familiar group. But we also lose a little something when we've all been taking in similar input and going over the same points time and again. There are things you just can't see when you're reading the same story for the sixth, tenth, or fifteenth time that someone coming at it fresh can see.

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" as a tale of male abandonment, for example. Isa Whitney abandons his wife for the opium den. Watson abandons his wife to follow Holmes. Holmes abandons Baker Street to stay at the St. Clair house. And what is going on at the end of the case? Is Holmes abandoning Neville St. Clair at the police station while driving off with the man's own cart and horse? And even if he and Watson are taking Neville with them, all three of them are heading to Baker Street for breakfast when two of the three have wives at home really wondering what has happened to their husbands.

And let's not get into whether Isa Whitney ever actually made it home or not -- "Hey, cabbie! Forget what that guy said, drop me back at the Bar of Gold!"

After our meeting, a few of us went to the local pub to chat a little more, where I got to tell of the recent Dayton conference and explain how such things worked. As a part of that, I extolled the virtues of gatherings of any like-minded set of hobbyists, be they Sherlockian or otherwise, as we come together and focus on that one thing. In a time of bizarre culture wars, opinion lines in the sand being drawn, and team politics, Sherlockians still come together and just be Sherlockians for a couple of days. We get to feel connected, rather than feeling the fortifications of social media algorithms walling us off from the rest of humanity.

And Zoom has helped us keep those connections strong. Some of the best parts of Dayton were getting to hang out with folks I've gotten to know on video chats, and confirm that they are just as delightful in person as they are on a little computer screen. After all this time, it wasn't really necessary, and I think I'd still enjoy their online company as much without Dayton, but it was a nice reminder.

New to the hobby or here forever, online or in person, we are wealthy in what we gain from our fellow Sherlockians. I know I don't have to blog about this as almost everyone who might read this already knows it. But it's just nice to get it out every now and then. On to the next gathering!

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