January 16, 2010

The Wide Sherlockian World

Did you know that Neil Gaiman belongs to a group of Sherlock Holmes fans called “The Baker Street Irregulars” who celebrate Sherlock Holmes’s birthday every January in New York City, calling each other “Old Bean” and doing things like holding a “Junior Bloodstain” in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel?

The British also have a Conan Doyle society, but rather than stage events in London in January, what they do is go on trips to Switzerland in the summer where they dress up like Sherlock Holmes characters and re-enact the death struggle between Holmes and Prof. Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls on the Rhine. In fact, I recently spent a week in London and there was no Sherlock Holmes activity at all that I could see, unless you count the article in the paper about some inept thieves in Liverpool who tried to break into a money machine and then gave up and went home, where they were picked up soon after by the police, who had followed their footsteps in the snow. “Police use Sherlock Holmes techniques to capture robbers” trumpeted the headlines.

Unlike the Americans and the Brits, with their propensity for panto-style high jinks, Canadian Sherlockians are quite serious. Their society, The Bootmakers, has for many years been responsible for --  I want to get this right so I'll quote from their website, Sherlockian.net, -- "that relatively rare item, a Sherlockian publication prepared to publish articles which looked at the Holmes stories as literature, with Arthur Conan Doyle as their creator; a tradition which continues to this day.”

And where is the largest collection of Sherlock Holmes artifacts in the world? Why, at the University of Minnesota. Here are two videos from youtube in which a series of tweedy professors with beards, but sadly not with “Fargo” accents, show off some of the 60,000 items they hold in their Special Collections, including an original of the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual where the first Sherlock Holmes story was published, and a replica of Holmes’s Baker St. Apt., including the Persian slipper he kept his tobacco in, and something they call his “Chemistry set”, which I wondered– was that just for forensics, or was it perhaps where he was wont to mix up his seven percent solution of cocaine?

One of the videos ends with a shot of a giant replica of a Peanuts cartoon, in which Charlie Brown is reading The Hound of the Baskervilles to Snoopy as a bedtime story. “Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” he reads, and then it’s lights out. The look on Snoopy’s face is just how I used to feel after hearing about Marley's ghost.




You can read The Hound of the Baskervilles, or any other of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, in the volumes of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, with its over 1000 illustrations and something like 3000 footnotes by Leslie S Klinger, a tax lawyer, one of the world’s foremost authorities on SH and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Breaking news: It seems that some of the Baker Street Irregulars are a bit upset that Robert Downey Jr’s performance as Sherlock Holmes was nominated for a Golden Globe award in the category “Best actor in a musical or a comedy”. It's clearly not a musical, they say, so does that mean someone thinks it's a comedy? Hmmph.






Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30
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