Saturday, October 30, 2010
11:00 a.m.

Hedberg Public Library Public Meeting Room

Ron Del Ciello, Tom Drucker, Linda Fredell, Resa Haile, Elaine Khan, Bryan Pike, Gayle Lange Puhl, Victor Rufer.

James Haile

Gayle reported on the latest meeting of the Criterion Bar Association of Chicago, for which she is the Solitary Typist. Steven Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, attended, and Gayle had the opportunity to talk with him and tell him about our group. She also acquired a copy of the play, Sherlock Holmes’ Last Case by David Stuart Davies, on CD. This is a one-man show in which Holmes, after the death of Watson, remembers his good friend and companion. Roger Llewellyn portrays the Great Detective. Gayle read the poems/songs “The Chase” and “Portraits” from Baker Street Ballads (1979) by Charles E. Lauterbach. In honour of the holiday, Gayle shared some information about The Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker. The annotations are by Leslie Klinger, who treats the events in Dracula as historic fact.

Tom shared his photos of stained-glass windows portraying literary characters, including Mr. Holmes, from a library in St. Thomas College in Minnesota. (These stained-glass windows can be viewed here: http://www.stthomas.edu/libraries/about/history/stainedglass.html.) Tom also had information about Sherlockian Christmas cards that are available from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

Resa noted some recent additions to the Hedberg Public Library which may be of interest to Sherlockians, including DVDs of the Jeremy Brett (complete) and Douglas Wilmer (complete surviving episodes) television series; The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first book in a new series with Sherlock Holmes in the modern day, by Barry Grant; and (of peripheral interest, as the male lead is a detective who plays the violin and has one or two familiar vices) the latest of the Lady Julia Grey mystery series, Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn.

Victor noted, as a point of local interest, that Parker Pen used to sponsor the Sherlock Holmes radio show with Basil Rathbone.

Elaine provided the quiz for this story, with first place going to Ron, second to Gayle, and third to Tom.

Resa noted that this story, being later in the run, gives us an older Holmes and Watson, and that this is an interesting contrast. Gayle said she liked the line “No ghosts need apply.” She felt this expressed the rationalist Holmes, who would not believe in a supernatural agent, but she was also intrigued because of the American phrase “No Irish Need Apply,” used to discriminate against Irish immigrants seeking employment. Tom wondered if Doyle had heard the expression when he was in the United States.

Gayle said the solution was a Doylean twist. “All crime did not arise from the gutters of limehouse.” Bryan said he was talking to a “real-life CSI guy” last summer, who felt that any one among us could commit a crime. Tom noted, “One can also look at Jacky as a nascent homosexual” and one can wonder if this is Doyle’s comment on the nature of homosexual personality. Resa felt that Jacky’s relationship with his father was difficult; he wanted more affection than he got. Gayle thought maybe Jacky had been kept away from his father when Ferguson was traveling. Victor pointed out that there was at this time a separation by the culture of parent and child. They were sent off to school at a young age. Linda said it was traditional to get them connections (the old school tie). Resa noted that Ferguson and Watson were at school together. Gayle also noted Percy Phelps in “The Naval Treaty” “could call on Watson” because they knew each other from school.

She also agreed that “the homosexual aspect that Tom mentioned is quite valid. . . . Conan Doyle came at sex obliquely.” A friend of his, Sir Roger Casement, who was a homosexual, was arrested for treason. Doyle tried to save him from execution but failed. Gayle recently heard a television report that high and low sex drives may be determined by genes, and perhaps Holmes had a low sex drive. “ ‘If I’m not busy, if I’ve finished my chemical experiment, maybe I’ll think about it.” Many people try to put Holmes and Watson together as a couple. “No one seems to be able to grasp the idea that two men can just be friends.”

Bryan said that it was common to share beds at this time. Gayle noted that the first chapter of Moby Dick has a character going to an inn and having to share a bed with a stranger. Linda pointed out this also helped because of the cold. Ron said that he’d toured the Milton House, and that it was common, not to rent a room, but to rent part of a room or a bed. There was some discussion about how things were different culturally in Italy and Germany and that the United States is considered a more puritanical country.

Resa also brought Skewed Sherlock by David L. Hammer and Violet Hunter to the group’s attention. In it, various stories are examined and it is argued that Holmes’ solutions were incorrect. In “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire,” it is suggested that Mrs. Ferguson framed Jacky. Gayle objected to this, based on the wounding of Mrs. Ferguson’s own infant son. Ron suggested that a mother who was a vampire would have done that, and the story discussion ended in laughter.

There was a discussion of the new Sherlock television series set in the twenty-first century, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and is created by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

Gayle felt that Sherlock “did magic with his cell phone.” Resa particularly liked the text messages appearing in the air within the scene rather than the unexciting close-up usually used. Gayle wondered why Lestrade needed Sherlock so much. Ron said Sherlock was not terribly likable. Bryan said Sherlock Holmes is portrayed in films as short with people. Not in the stories, Resa said. Bryan said it was a misinterpretation. Linda said she grew up with the Basil Rathbone films, and that he was that way. Gayle said when she thinks of Holmes, it is Basil Rathbone, but when she thinks of Watson, it is Edward Hardwicke. Her Moriarty is from the Granada series (Eric Porter). She thinks the new series portrays Sherlock’s mental processes well. (“What is it like in your tiny little minds?”)

Victor pointed out that Watson is wounded in Afghanistan in the original stories and also in the new series: “These people have been at war their entire existence.” He said that Afghanistan is “located in the middle of trade routes. Amazing they still exist; they are a warrior people. Their civil wars are as bad as anything else.”

Gayle noted some of the different psychological labels people have applied to Holmes. In the new series, someone calls him a “psychopath”; he describes himself as a “high-functioning sociopath”; some people have posited he has Asperger’s. Gayle thinks it is reasonable that someone thinking of other things would pay no attention to meals or social niceties.

Ron thought that Mycroft was too thin. Victor felt the television show changed Sherlock and Mycroft’s relationship to a more adversarial one. Gayle thought with the seven-year age gap (particularly in the Victorian era) and children being sent off to boarding school, that Sherlock and Mycroft would have been raised as two “only children.” Victor noted that London has more surveillance cameras than anywhere in the world and Mycroft has access to all of them.

Resa wondered if anyone else was disappointed in Sherlock not deducing the killer in “A Study in Pink,” although he had done so in the story, A Study in Scarlet. Gayle said it was the “invisible” killer like in the G.K. Chesterton story. Gayle was impressed with Martin Freeman as John Watson. She liked the scene in the Italian restaurant: “Look, I’m very flattered—” Resa noted that Sherlock seems to have enough money and not need a roommate for that purpose, so—is he lonely? Gayle said that Doctor Who was completely capable of zipping over the universe by himself, but he likes companionship, so it’s the same dynamic. Ron pointed out that “danger is addictive” for both Sherlock and John—John just got back from the war, but he misses it. Ron drew a parallel with the movie The Hurt Locker.

Resa noted that in the previous meeting, the group discussed adaptations differing substantially from the source material. “The Last Vampyre” is loosely based on “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” and “A Study in Pink” is loosely based on A Study in Scarlet. She asked if these were nonetheless faithful to the spirit of the characters? Answers focused on “A Study in Pink.”

Gayle said that if you wrote down Holmes’ attributes from the story and Sherlock’s from the television show, they would be pretty close; it was the trappings that were different. Ron said he had been skeptical about doing the characters in the modern era, but that it captured his concept of who Sherlock was and fleshed out a little more about Watson. But he was disappointed, because so much of the stories is the atmosphere of the era. Gayle said it (updating) had been done before with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

There was some discussion of Watson and Nigel Bruce. Resa noted that, as commentators have pointed out, Bruce’s Watson is competent when Holmes isn't around. Bruce is also more versatile as an actor than people think. (She gave The Chocolate Soldier as an example and Gayle gave The Rains Came, in which Bruce is a villain.) Bryan said that Watson was stupid from his own perspective, not from an objective perspective. Watson is telling the story against himself.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE—November 20, 2010, 11 a.m.

Minutes prepared by Resa Haile.

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