February 20, 2010

Mostly serious Sherlockians

Leslie S. Klinger, editor of The new annotated Sherlock Holmes and member of the Baker Street Irregulars, has contributed this comment on last month's lighthearted Books in the City post on the wide world of Sherlock Holmes fans:

"You've got your facts slightly wrong about the Irregulars. Actually, we're a mostly serious bunch, with a fine journal (the Baker Street Journal). There is no "dress-up" involved in the BSI's activities (other than a dinner in formal, usually contemporary, attire). For more about the BSI publications, check out www.bakerstreetjournal.com. The "Bloodstain" is a gathering of a small group of Sherlockians who are also fans of P. G. Wodehouse and is not affiliated with the BSI."

Books in the City replies:

Dear Mr. Klinger, I am honoured to hear from you.

I apologise if it sounded as though the Baker Street Irregulars dress up outlandishly, rather than formally. Perhaps a little dancing man kicked the comma off the page. "Unlike the Americans comma and the Brits with their propensity for panto-style high jinks..."

I assure you that my delight in the BSI’s whimsy and in their appreciation of a fine Madeira in no way diminishes my respect for their scholarly achievements. Originality and passion are two of the qualities I prize most where literary appreciation is concerned.

During my investigation (if I may use the term) I did look at the BSJ website, and it appeared a fine journal indeed,  “essential reading for anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a world where it is always 1895” as it described itself. Particularly intriguing was the volume “A remarkable mixture”, a collection of the BSJ articles which had won the Morley-Montgomery Memorial Award, ie, the best ones, breathlessly (perhaps a missing comma or two here as well?) described thus:

“From a discussion of Dr. Watson's wives to a reconsideration of William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes to a beatnik version of 'The Blue Carbuncle' to a history of the 1940 BSI Dinner to the location of Baskerville Hall, the collection offers treats for every reader interested in the world of Sherlock Holmes. To quote Dr. Watson in a remark that might be shorthand for Sherlockian scholarship everywhere, this volume is ‘a remarkable mixture of shrewdness and of absurdity.’”

What more can I say, except to quote the first half of the famous exchange between Holmes and Dr. Watson in "The Crooked Man":

“Excellent”, I cried!

Just before I close, I'd like to salute Christopher Morley, one of the founders of the Baker Street Irregulars (commemorated by the above-cited Morley-Montgomery Memorial Award), for writing one of the all-time favourite poems of my childhood, the one which begins

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink
That is the finest of suppers I think…

Christopher Morley was also the author of the wonderful book Parnassus on wheels, which I just recently came across in the fabulous basement stacks of Central Library (it is very old). All my life, since I found it in my Intermediate school library (and it looked old even then) and read  it, I had been remembering it as being a story about a travelling library, so you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be about a travelling bookshop instead. Well, I’ve lost one good reason for my having ended up a librarian, but it’s still a beautiful story and maybe one day if I get time I will reread it and write about it for our marvelous Treasures from the Basement page.

Does this make Christopher Morley sound like a quaint old "Mr Chips" type figure? I'll just note that this many-faceted man wrote one of the most scandalous bestsellers in American history -- Kitty Foyle, which way back in the 1940s dared to deal with out-of-wedlock pregnancy, as it was then called; and had a Buckminster Fuller-designed Dymaxion bathroom installed in his house, with a “fog gun” shower which used only 1 cup of water per shower, and no soap.

When he died, his final “message to his friends” appeared in The New York Times:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.

And dress up if you feel like it! (well, I said that).

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30


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