Sherlock’s Secret

Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the most curious character in all of literature. By curious I sherlock 1 left par 1don’t mean strange, although he certainly is eccentric; I refer to his voracious appetite for understanding how humanity and the world interact with each other. He observes, induces, then deduces, putting all of the facts together in ways even today’s reader doesn’t “get” until he enlightens us. Like his biographer the dense Dr. Watson, we too wait to be enlightened by the Master about the enigmatic mysteries the great detective investigates.

Although it has been 130 years since his creation, and though the detective mystery genre is overrun with popular stories featuring their lovable or quirky detectives, Holmes remains the king. Why? While we might not actually enjoy knowing him personally, his pure ability to reason, to sort out truth from falsehood and genuine clues from red herrings, remains the pinnacle of the art form. If “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be the most admired author of all time: not only has the genre bloomed since the creation of Holmes, but Holmes himself has 221been remade in story, tv, and movies.

Why? In spite of his calculating and rather cold personality, Holmes’s brilliance is what most of us wish our own intelligence to be. We don’t want to only be a logic machine: instead, Doyle somehow has us imagine incorporating Holmes’s gifts into our own personalities. This is the genius of the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

Redemptive Reading in Times of Seclusion

For the present, most of us have more “leisure time” than usual and this lifestyle might more truthfully be called “mandatory leisure time.” It might be tempting to watch more Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc., but an alternative is to set aside some time for reading great literature together. I like to read literature which is redemptive, myself. This doesn’t always mean that a book has a “happy ending,” but perhaps in our present homebound state it would be most uplifting to read books which conclude joyfully! Some good modern literature does not qualify but much 19th century literature does.

If you haven’t read many works of the masterful Charles Dickens other than, perhaps, A Christmas Carol or A Tale of Two Cities – they are treasures awaiting you! You will find that his other novels are page turners filled with memorable characters who beckon you into their worlds. His works were originally set up to be read by chapter, out loud. I have found that A Tale of Two Cities is much less accessible for young people than his other novels, and while I appreciate the allegory of A Christmas Carol, it is not in the category of his best works.

Dickens and other authors of his era wrote weekly “chapters” and submitted them in a “serial” way to the magazines, periodicals, and newspapers of the day. People read these novels aloud the way we watch television today – their stories brought much delight and were a mainstay of households in both Britain and America. Families would gather together in the evenings to hear the latest “chapter” of the book together, laughing or crying at the exploits and complications in the lives of their favorite characters. In our present situation it might make for an enriching alternative to binge-watching your favorite tv show, or at least – be a pleasant addition to it.