“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” Or, I don’t know…something about a bicycle built for two?

All right, I’m giving myself until I finish this post to think of a hilarious bicycle-related subtitle and then I’m just going with the first thing that pops into my head.

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” was first published in, huh. Wait a minute. According to Leslie, it was published in Collier’s on December 26, 1903 and then in the Strand in January 1904. Is this the first time that the States got him first?! I’m amazed. And, according to Baring-Gould, it took place, despite what Watson says, Saturday, April 13 to Saturday, April 20 1895.

The only interesting note I have from Leslie is in the essay on Victorians and bicycling which follows the short story. The Catalogue of an Exhibition on Sherlock Holmes Held at Abby House Baker Street, London NW1, May-September 1951 (I imagine this to be like the Holmesian version of the travelling Harry Potter exhibit that’s making the rounds) included a letter from the managing director of Raleigh Industries Limited, Nottingham which accompanied one of their bicycles included in the exhibition which read:

Dear Lord Donegall,

Referring to your letter of the 20th April, in which you inform me of your present researches into the whereabouts of the cycle belonging to Miss Violet Smith . . ., I am pleased to be able to tell you that on looking back through our files for 1895 and 1896 we have been able to trace a Humber bicycle which we delivered to Miss Smith’s father at Charlington Hall. As you recall in your letter, Miss Smith married and having no further use for the vehicle sold it back to us. Many years later when it became apparent that our earliest products would be of historical interest, it was placed among other examples of this firm’s craftsmanship. It was not, however, until your letter called attention to the fact, that Raleigh Industries Limited realised the very special value of this bicycle, in view of its association with the immortal detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

I know I’m kind of reaching here for anything at all to talk about (and Leslie points out some inaccuracies here, too), but I just love the extent to which the bicycle company played along with the Holmesians here in their contribution to the exhibit.

And the only thing I have to say regarding Baring-Gould is that he seems to be developing a new obsession – not that he’s letting go of his exhaustive efforts to pinpoint dates in the canon – and that is the inaccuracies of Watson’s train timetables. Twice he points out mentions of trains which never existed – even correcting him by two minutes (apparently there was a 9:15 train from Waterloo to Farnham, but not, as Watson says, a 9:13 one). And it only makes me love him the more.

And once again, that’s it! I’d say we’re working towards The Hound of the Baskervilles at this point – things ought to liven up a bit once we get there. Next week, however, it’s on to “The Adventure of the Priory School” – keep your fingers crossed that the Holmesians have some spectacular revelation waiting for us!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

YA Fiction

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

It’s here – it’s finally, finally here! The third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. And I’m going to be good and talk about it under a cut tag so as not to inadvertently spoil anyone!

The short answer to whether or not I liked it is ‘Yes, but…’ The long, spoilery version is…

Continue reading

Nonfiction: Awesomeness

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Okay, I probably should have labelled this Nonfiction: Pop Culture Essays because that would have been more specifically accurate, but when it comes to Chuck Klosterman, I can’t help myself. He’s amazing! I’m afraid I’ve let this review go for too long because I was too intimidated about gathering my thoughts into a coherent manner that would do this book justice, so I really have nothing clever or particularly relevant to say other than that he is a pop culture genius and that you should read the book.

Basically, he takes pop culture (e.g., Kurt Cobain, Alfred Hitchcock, and Abba) and somehow, SOMEHOW BECAUSE HE’S A GENIUS, uses it to make super-insightful inferences about people and society. The one about Hitchcock and voyeurism and reality television is my favorite, I think. That and the Abba one. Oh, and the laugh track one! That’s my favorite favorite one. I would try to explain them to you, but it will just devolve into complete and utter fangirling and, anyway, I’d never be as eloquent and yet concise as he is.

My rating: A

p.s. – Chuck, I totally read the football essay even though you said I could skip ahead to the one about Abba, but I stuck it out! And even though I didn’t understand a word of your supporting evidence for your theory that the NFL and football are actually forward-thinking sports in the guise of old-school conservativ…ism(Is that a word?), I completely bought it and thought it was very insightful. Which I have to admit is not a word I thought I’d ever type in the same sentence as the word football.

Gah!

So behind! I blame Suzanne Collins. I promise to catch up soon! I’ve got book reviews, movie reviews, and even a spider story that I need to share with you all.

Soon!

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” Or, Get your acts together, Holmesians!

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” was first published in December 1903 and, according to Baring-Gould who is up to his old tricks here, takes place Wednesday, July 27 to Wednesday, August 10 and Saturday, August 13, 1898 (I’m not sure why he didn’t just call it July 27-August 13, but that’s what he says…). I think he probably has one of those logic puzzle setups for each short story where he’s like ‘It was raining on this day, but it can’t have been a Monday; the moon had to be out for Hilton to see the note on the sundial, but it was overcast on that day.’

I also think we are probably soulmates.

But! I am shocked to see that Baring-Gould let a typographical error through! The title of the short story is correct, but in his running heads, it’s ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Man’! *gasp* I guess that’s what happens when you devote so much time to logic puzzles…

Frankly, I think the Holmesians are in a bit of withdrawal after the excitement of “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” – the theories are less than sparkling and aren’t nearly as numerous as they were. I’m sure we’ll recover, it’s just making for a bit of a Holmesian doldrum at the moment.

I think this is usually one of the short stories that has the main citation of Watson’s gambling problem  – it’s certainly not the only one; there are hints of it in “Shoscombe Old Place” and I think there are also hints of it in “Silver Blaze,” too – Holmes mentions that he keeps Watson’s chequebook locked up in his desk for him. Most Holmesians think this is a sign of Holmes looking after Watson and keeping him from gambling away everything. Good old D. Martin Dakin, though, ‘suggests instead that the doctor may have temporarily broken the lock or mislaid his own desk key, or that his desk simply wasn’t the kind that locked’ (NA, 866). It makes sense, but I’m going to have to go with Watson’s a gambler – there’s too much evidence to the contrary, Martin.

Though he solves it, the question is whether or not it, like “The Five Orange Pips” counts as a success since he does lose his client. The Holmesians seem rather at a loss as to why Holmes didn’t hightail it out to Ridling Thorpe when Hilton Cubbitt first turned up at his door. He did it for what’s-her-name – not “The Crooked Man,” the one where she thinks her husband’s dead, but he just works as a beggar instead” – and that seemed to be a much less pressing issue. No one really seems to have an explanation for Holmes’ lackadaisical approach to this case – not even a crazy one, like I don’t know, that Holmes had travelled from the future and was busy trying to fix his time machine so he could go back in time to actually save Cubbitt. Or, you know, something like that.

I don’t even have any miscellaneous thoughts! See? The doldrums!

Oh, one last thing – ACD agrees with everyone else who loves this one – he ranked it #3 on his list of favorites! We’ve passed all my favorites, so I’m looking forward to see what he ranks as #1.

Tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” when hopefully the Holmesians will be back in form (and hopefully so will I – I’m SO hungry right now and not thinking straight!).

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

The movie poster, it does not lie!

I was just about to type that this movie was EPICALLY GOOD, when I noticed it’s tag line. AND IT’S TRUE! I’m just back from seeing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and it was fantastic! Funny and sweet and frenetic but in a good way and surreal and full of charm and JUST PLAIN WONDERFUL. I mean, of course, there’s stuff they had to drop from the books, but somehow it still manages to have all the heart and, I know I just said it, charm that the books have!

Michael Cera seriously kicks ass and does it with his usual hangdog awkwardness, but I totally believe it when he drops into awesome kungfu mode. The girl playing Ramona comes off as sort of…dry and a little bland (impressive when you have color-changing hair), but Ramona is a kind of problematic character (even more so than Scott Pilgrim actually is), so I’ll forgive her – it was always going to be a bit of an uphill battle. But Knives Chau totally makes up for it – she’s pretty super! I do love Kieran Culkin who rocks as Scott’s roommate Wallace – even though he totally got left out of the final battle (one of the very few complaints I had about the books) – why isn’t he in more movies?

I know that this year’s summer blockbuster tally doesn’t need the help, but you know what? I’m going to do it – Scott Pilgrim has achieved +5,000! Level up!

Summer blockbuster tally: 5,008-1-0

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” Or, Stop him, Gromit!

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” was first published in November 1903 and took place, once again thanks to Baring-Gould and his beloved weather reports (ah, it’s good to be home again), Tuesday, August 20 to Wednesday, August 21, 1895 (and also once again going against many of his fellows most of whom date this case to 1894).

When discussing his return to Baker Street, an instance of Watson’s pawky sense of humor seems to have fallen to the ACD’s editing pen. According to Leslie, the sentence originally read ‘At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I, at his request, had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street as a Junior and insignificant member of the firm‘ (NA, 830). I think there’s something particularly charming in this sentence – Holmes, going so far as to finance the purchase of Watson’s practice, has obviously missed his Boswell and Watson is so quick to uproot his life at Holmes’ insistence. I guess old habits die hard.

Once again, I find myself nudging Paget further down the list of my favorite Holmes illustrators – Frederic Dorr Steele has pushed him down to #3 there (I think Gutschmidt’s still got the number one position, though) with this:

He looks a bit like Jon Hamm to me… Though Baring-Gould, in a rare fit of snark, points out that Holmes seems to have worn his dressing gown out to Deep Dene House (BG, 425).

Though Holmes laments the lack of interesting cases, Watson assures us this is far from true, mentioning the ‘shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives’ (NA, 831). Leslie points out that ‘in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, it was the S.S. Friesland, a Dutch-American liner, that sighted Professor George Edward Challenger’s pterodactyl when it escaped from the Queen’s Hall’ (NA, 831). Surely SOME Holmesian has put forth the theory that Holmes and Watson were off tracking dinosaurs here! And, sure enough, Baring-Gould doesn’t let us down. Ray Kierman steps up to the plate, suggestion that ‘Holmes and Watson, retained by Challenger, had chartered the steamship and “placed the vessel in the very path [Holmes’] matchless brain told him the beast would pursue [on its flight back to Maple White Land] . . . There seems no doubt that Holmes lured the monster to the very decks of the vessel, and there . . . fought it out . . . There seems little doubt, either, that Watson, in the nick of time, when the pterodactyl had Holmes down for the last prod of its vile and lethal beak, stepped forward and sent a bullet through the brainless [?!] skull of the creature . . .”‘ (BG, 415). Sounds very exciting, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately T.S. Blakeney steps in to ruin all the fun, pointing out that the year of The Lost World seems to be 1906 and, as the Norwood Builder takes place in 1894 (See? Baring-Gould’s playing the renegade again!), the dates simply don’t match up.

My miscellaneous thought [Let me show you it!]:

  • Ordinarily I wouldn’t explain my obscure subtitle here (I certainly haven’t before), but this one is so bizarre, I can’t help myself. In the BBC radio play version of “The Norwood Builder,” the voice actor who plays Oldacre sounds SO much like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit that the entire thing becomes an Aardman claymation episode  in my head. It’s impossible to take the ominous Oldacre seriously when I keep expecting him to say ‘Cracking cheese, Gromit!’ at any moment!

And that’s it! After the craziness of the previous two short stories, it’ll be an adjustment returning to the fairly normal theories. Also, I have to say that I don’t feel like I did “The Empty House” justice – I wrote it up too quickly and Baring-Gould was in the doghouse (I didn’t quote anything from him) because he organized his essays poorly. If I get around to it, I may attempt to rewrite that one eventually…

Anyway, tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” – a perennial favorite!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.