Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Writing for the Sherlockian few . . . or one . . . or . . .shelf?

 Was it John Bennett Shaw who first paraphrased Churchill by saying, of Sherlockiana:

"Never has so much been written by so many for so few."

That quote raised its figurative hand and waved at me this morning as I prepared to compare two Sherlockian texts and write up my results. Almost none of you have read those two texts -- not due to rarity, just due to lack of interest -- and my essay containing the results might get read by two dozen people if I'm lucky. 

So why am I doing this?

Hey, Sherlockian here!

Do you know how many mountain climbers there are out there, when we have no televised mountain climbing events?

At the meeting of the John H. Watson Society meeting last Saturday there was some discussion of folks who didn't shelve their books until they had read them, and I was dead sure those folks don't buy the same books I do. And even then . . . one has to look at the massive number of thick collected works that are being produced these days and go, "Somebody is reading all of these things cover-to-cover? I don't believe it."

I know of some voracious Sherlockian readers who seem to be able to plow through essay after essay after essay, and I still doubt those folks have read every chronological work on their shelves cover-to-cover. Those fall more into the category of reference books, like an encyclopaedia, though, so I guess we can forgive that. And when it comes to Conan Doyle biographies, one might get the same pass. While not a big fan of the life of the author himself, I do keep a well stocked shelf of those in case he comes up. The ones I've read end-to-end, though? Carr and Stashower.

I have collector friends whom I wonder if they've read half of what they have, but that's an entirely different category, and perhaps why I will excuse some of the "unreads" on my shelves. I have been a collector on occasion. But the fact that I also tend to write things that I don't expect many people to read speaks to a sort of reverse-collector mindset, like I'm just hoping for someone to shelve the data just to make their Sherlockian squirrel brain get a hit of dopamine for hiding a nut.

Fandom is a fascinating world of behaviours all its own, and Sherlockiana doubly so.

Things could be worse, though . . . working in the corporate world, I see many more pointless endeavors every single day. So, at least . . . Sherlock!


  1. I never would shelve anything until I've read it. When the stacks on the floor got too big it was time to tackle it. (Jim V. - I don't know why it says anonymous) And then the cataloging!

  2. This is such an insightful essay, and so spot on assessment of why we write. I also believe it was Shaw’s pronouncement about “so many for so few,” but I will look into it.

  3. "Was it John Bennett Shaw who first paraphrased Churchill by saying, of Sherlockiana:

    "Never has so much been written by so many for so few."

    From Sherlock Peoria, June 2, 2017:

    "Never has so much been written by so many for so few," Christopher Morley once quipped about the 1940s The Baker Street Journal.