Holmesian musings

I’ve got a contest up on the “Miss Conduct” blog to win tickets to “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at Central Square Theater. If you’re a local reader, enter! It’s a great show.

I thought I’d open up a thread here for general musings from Sherlock Holmes fans. When did you first get introduced to the stories? Who is your favorite portrayer of Holmes? What do you think of revisionist efforts like the Laurie King mysteries or the various television/cinematic reboots?

I started reading the stories in ninth grade, and of course promptly fell in love with Sherlock Holmes. (While my peers lusted after Shaun Cassidy and Scott Baio, I dreamed of Sherlock, Cyrano, and Spock. Geeky, but my crushes aged better.) The first movie or TV version I ever saw was the great Jeremy Brett “Mystery” series — the Basil Rathbone movies that showed on Saturday afternoons never grabbed me. They seemed too normal, whereas the compelling power of the stories, for me, was in how deeply weird Sherlock Holmes was, and what a very strange position he occupied in his rigidly stratified culture. He fit in everywhere, and nowhere. John Watson could function wonderfully in polite society, among medical men, and in the military, but only Sherlock could move among palaces and opium dens alike.

Speaking of Watson, I’m neutral on the extent of the bromance. I’ve seen good interpretations across the Kinsey scale. (The Watson of CST’s “Hound,” in a novel and hilarious twist, simply has huge crushes on everyone. He’s a very enthusiastic fellow.) What I am adamant about, and my main gripe with Laurie King’s books, is that Watson is not stupid. He’s not as smart as Holmes, but almost no one is. Watson is a highly competent doctor, soldier, and writer — imagine if the New Yorker‘s Atul Gawande also had several years of distinguished service in Afghanistan on his resume. Watson isn’t a bumbling dolt, he’s someone the likes of you or I would be downright intimidated by at a cocktail party.

Unsurprisingly, given what I like about the stories, I’m a fan of the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law pairing. They have wonderful chemistry, which Holmes and Watson have to have whether there is a sexual element to it or not. Jude Law’s Watson is exactly what he should be — a man who is clearly action-hero material on his own, not one of nature’s born sidekicks. I like how Robert Downey Jr. suggested that Holmes’s primary pathology isn’t some kind of autism (the Jeremy Brett interpretation) but more a desperate, addictive hunger for stimulation, mental and physical. The world is not too much with Holmes; it is not enough with him, and he must grab it and dig in his hands and drag it into his web of understanding, into his very bloodstream.

What’s your take on Holmes, and Watson?

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