Thursday, September 15, 2011

Imaginary, My Dear Watson?

Way back at the beginning of this blog I mentioned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may, in fact, be the greatest author ever. Now, I'm not saying this as a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I enjoy the stories, I love the new BBC series , I enjoy the Robert Downey Jr. version and I like the show House (House/Holmes, Wilson/Watson- connect the dots and you end up back on Baker Street), but it's not one of my personal literary obsessions. I still posit that Doyle is an amazing author because of how many people are unaware he exists.
I have spoken to a significant number of people who truly believe that Sherlock Holmes was a real detective, and that either he or Dr. Watson merely transcribed their cases into a narrative format. Much like when an actor loses themself so completely into a role you don't even recognize them from movie to movie, so Doyle loses himself in Holmes. Doyle has managed to imbue his character with so much depth and personality that people forget he's a fictional character.
I even helped one customer who refused to believe that he was fictional, and then looked at me liked I kicked his puppy when I showed him the wikipedia entry talking about Doyle and the character he created. The poor kid was writing a report on Scotland Yard and wanted a biography of their most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. So, not only did I have to explain that people don't really write biographies of fictional characters (and what fictional means), but also that that character was more of an independent contractor than a permanent member of staff at Scotland Yard. It was a long night for both of us.
I also had another customer get mad when she couldn't find any of the books shelved under Holmes in the mystery section. When I explained that we kept the books under the author's name, not the main character's, she informed me that Sherlock Holmes was the author. In fact, Sherlock Holmes was her favorite author. She seemed very subdued when I showed her to the Ds and pointed out the actual author's name. I don't if she was sad because she had to find a new favorite author, or because she was thinking about how many people she had told that her favorite author was a fictional character. I imagine there were some awkward pauses in conversations as people tried to process that information.
So, on that note, I commend Sir Arthur and the amazing longevity and power of his character. Since the public outcry that forced him to resurrect the character from death through the (literally) hundred years of film and TV versions, Sherlock Holmes has never been out of the collective public knowledge. I highly recommend taking a literary trip to Baker Street and revisit an amazing character and his faithful friend. (Then go watch Benedict Cumberbatch bring Holmes to the modern age, because it's amazing.)

BookWench is currently reading Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. If you're a SciFi fan and you haven't read his Harry Dresden series I cannot recommend them enough.

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