Monday, March 1, 2010

A Study In Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle

This is what I've been waiting for weeks now to read.  Walking my dog one day in mid-January, I happened to look down and see a gift card in a tree box.  I picked it up to see it was for Barnes & Noble and when I got home I checked the balance online to find out it has $25 on it (I subsequently gave $40 to a homeless man over the next two weeks to make up for my good fortune).
Back in 2007, before I started this blog, I had borrowed from the public library the first two volumes of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories.  This set was a revelation to me.  I had not read all of the Holmes stories before, so it was great for that purpose alone.  But when you add the annotations and scholarship included, all written in the "Sherlockian" tradition.  This was all new to me, especially the Sherlockian scholars, which treat Holmes and Watson as real people, and Conan Doyle as not much more than a well educated editor.  It really opened my eyes to how much more complex these stories could be, and it added layers upon layers to the stories.

And the annotations!  I enjoy them almost as much as I do the stories.  Some are more historical, which are helpful, but the real fun comes from the annotations that discuss the various theories laid out by Sherlockian scholars about the meaning of a word, the theory's about why Watson phrased something as he did, etc.  I cannot even begin to express how much I enjoyed the first two volumes of this book dealing with the short stories.
The public library did not, however, have the third volume.  I live in a fairly small one bedroom condo (with my wife and our dog) and we have no book shelves.  I borrow all my books, or I buy them and then usually give them away or trade them in.  So I hesitated to buy the third book back in 2007 that contained the Holmes novels, and I had a long list of other things to read.  One thing led to another, until this fateful day in January when I found the $25 gift card.
I live about 2 blocks from a B&N and considered buying the book there and putting the difference on my credit card.  But that same day I received an email offer from B&N with a big online savings coupon (a sign!) so I decided to buy it online at a big discount with free shipping.  All told the $60 book would only cost me a few dollars out of pocked.
A week went by and the book was finally shipped.  It should have arrived just before the three big February snow storms hit DC.  I was so excited to be inside all day reading and studying this volume.  But B&N let me down, shipping it via the slowest rate possible.  So it was only delayed extra time by the snow.  I received the book almost a full month after I bought it, but once it arrived all anger about the shipping method was gone. 
I did my best to take my time and study both the story and the annotations, taking additional time to re-read some of them that were familiar to me from the earlier two volumes to refresh my memory.  I really enjoyed this first of the four stories to no end.  The first meeting of the detective and his biographer.  The introduction to the method of deduction.  And of course, the numerous annotations dealing with all pieces, great and small, in this wonderful book.
I'm already on to the second story, and will really struggle not to buy the first to volumes now to re-read those.  Leslie Klinger has done a wonderful job with this set, and he's turned me into a Sherlockian for life.  Now I need to figure out how to become a member of the Baker Street Irregulars...


Leslie S. Klinger said...

Becoming an Irregular is a big ambition. The first step is to find out about local Sherlockian groups and get involved. The next step is to get published--write something! Send it to one of the many Sherlockian journals! (You should subscribe to the BSJ at Glad you like the books--they were a joy to write!

Columbica said...

Well hot damn, the author himself posts on my blog. I am not kidding when I say that's a real treat for me, as I credit you with my semi-obession with all things Holmes.

As a librarian, however, I see myself as a researcher, not a writer (blogs aside). So my dreams of becoming an irregular might go on unfulfilled (unless there's an "honorary degree" type of membership...).

(Side Note: Not that you'll come back to check on my blog, but I feel I must explain that I was out of town the last few days or I would have responded sooner.)