Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year's Eve, Sherlockian and Six Hours Early

Sherlock Holmes didn't have any New Year's Eve stories, now did he?

It's kind of hard to tie him to New Year's, other than he starts thinking about buying a new almanac for the new year each year. That much we know about him.

But this year, the Sherlock Holmes and New Year's Eve wires crossed in my head in a way I can't unsee.

What were we looking at as the powerful opening chords of the BBC Sherlock theme came on to our TV screens? The London Eye ferris wheel.

And what was the centerpiece of Britain's New Year's Eve midnight explosion of fireworks, a greater fireworks show than anything I can remember? The London Eye ferris wheel.

Click. Click.

New Year's Eve and Sherlock Holmes clicked into place. London was Sherlock's city. He loved that town, loved how well he knew its streets, hidey-holes, and inner workings. Sherlock Holmes had that sort of torried relationship with a city that meant he had to remove himself from it completely whenever he needed to rest or retire. This year, vis CNN and the good Carter's channel selections, Sherlock Holmes's city's midnight festival of skyrockets and lightshows turned my new year six hours ahead.

Sure, Times Square has some ball that had six hours to drop. Sure, Times Square had that big-ass confetti that then had people write on this year. I've been to Times Square post-New-Year's and seen remnants of it still blowing around over a week later. Yet Times Square, it's light ball, its confetti . . . all suddenly seemed so provincial and old-timey next to the show put on by its much older urban cousin.

I texted "Happy New Year's" to my best British pal, since it was his midnight. (Yeah, of course, it was Paul.) And then I just sat in wonder as the London show went on for a full fifteen minutes.

As American Sherlockians, we do tend to Anglophilia, the Holmes stories giving us a great interest in the lands that Sherlock Holmes walked. But we're still very American, always trying to prove Watson was from here, or that Sherlock went to college over here, both of which I've done. But I swear, I actually think I may start celebrating New Year's on London time after this year.

It is easier to manage after all, for us older sorts. And damn, do they put on a good fireworks show.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

John Watson and Taylor Swift have something in common?

 Some of us can't shake being a Sherlockian, even when the topic at hand is far from Holmes.

Listening to my standard Saturday morning podcast today, I heard the discussion turn to Time's Person of the Year, Taylor Swift, and just went, "It's John Watson" all over again.

It's their sexuality, you see. Both have a large contingent of fans that accept them as gay. Both have public evidence of being in a heterosexual relationship. And both get a measured, "Okay, they're bi," from those of us not invested enough in either side and willing to accept duality.

Governess Mary Morstan and NFL tight end Travis Kelce are characters almost as far apart as two people can be, but they find themselves in the same role: Unlikely love interest standing in the way of fans hopes for their significant other. While Taylor Swift doesn't have a Sherlock Holmes dominating her life, creating a relationship rival for Travis Kelce, there are still qualities she shares with Watson that have put her in this space.

John Watson lets his writings speak for themselves telling their stories. He's made the choices for what stories he records, but still comes off as an everyman in the telling, remaining back just far enough to let the reader imagine they're present for the events happening around him. Taylor Swift seems to do the same, letting her songs tell their stories, not distracting from them by putting any personal distractions out front. 

Have there been any articles in The Baker Street Journal or The Sherlock Holmes Journal, the two traditional pillars of Sherlock Holmes fandom, digging as deeply into John Watson's sexuality as topics like which trains he rode where? Something that goes in without an agenda and examines his reactions to both men and women, his moments of emotion, and definitely goes deeper than dwelling upon "an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents." (How often we forget the "many nations" part of that quote.) I'm very forgetful about what I've read over the years, so I'll need to be reminded if there is such a piece.

While Taylor Swift will one day probably reveal her truths, in a memoir or candid interview, we're definitely not going to see that from John H. Watson anytime soon. Like the chronology of his cases or the extent of his wounds, we will just have to keep posing the questions and working out our own answers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Five Weeks Until The Dangling Prussian, But Let's Talk About Poe

 Five weeks out until virtual pub night at the Dangling Prussian, our little virtual soiree for those left adrift on the night of the New York dinners in honor of Sherlock Holmes. We know the limits of Zoom, which serves up neither the intimacy of a party, where even in a crowd you get little breakout conversations, or the proper audience feel of a theater where you hear all the reactions of your fellow patrons, laughing and clapping together. But we still gather and make do as best we can.

Why the "Dangling Prussian," that hypothetical inn proposed by Sherlock Holmes after the threatened lynching of Baron Von Bork in "His Last Bow?" 

Because it's Sherlock Holmes being imaginative and clever, and, c'mon, there's a bit of a bawdy way to look at that pub name as well. And if one is claiming a pub night can exist on Zoom, hypothetical is completely it. And it's a bit like the box holding Schrödinger's cat, isn't it? We don't really know if Von Bork was alive or dead after that trip back to London, now do we?

So, he wrote, about to change the subject, I finally pushed my way to the end of The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix tonight, just because it needed to be done. Grim, dark, weaving Poe's story bits into a modern tragedy of wealth and power, it was all about reminding you of what Edgar Allen Poe is most famous for.  The reliably solid Carl Lumbly (I watched all of M.A.N.T.I.S. back in the day.) plays a character named C. Auguste Dupin, who bears the same name as Edgar Allen Poe's detective, once called "a very inferior fellow" by Sherlock Holmes, but The Fall of the House of Usher is no detective story.

The darkness of Usher, representing Poe's work, makes one think hard on the contrast between the works of Poe and the works of Conan Doyle, who was inspired by Poe. Doyle wrote some horror, to be sure, but it was never what he was most famous for, just as Poe was not most famous for his detective. And even though his inaugural mystery, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" delves in analytical reasoning used to solve crime, that murderous orangutan that turns out to be the villain seems quite the horror in his way.

One comes away from a Sherlock Holmes story in quite the opposite mood of a typical Poe horror tale. We want Sherlock Holmes to leave the world in an ordered, sensible state for us when all is said and done, whatever darkness was passed through along the way, be it family demon hound curse or creepy country estate with snakes in the vents. And that's what we hope for from any Sherlock Holmes tale, which makes those supernatural Holmes pastiches a little less attractive to some of us.

The night of the Dangling Prussian virtual pub night, we'll be seeing a Sherlock Holmes mystery play out, as four recruits demonstrate just how Holmes, Watson, Gregson, and Lestrade might work their way through a murder mystery, Dungeons and Dragons style. And when it's done, hopefully we won't be in as dark a mood as if we'd done Edgar Allen Poe role play. More details and a link can be found here.