intense sensations

Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes

A Study in ScarletA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a lot better than I remembered it being. I was a bit disappointed by it the first time I read it because it lacks the concentrated focus of the short stories.

I’d only dimly remembered Holmes flogging the corpses in the mortuary and it was good to be reminded of that. But then there’s also an incongruent description of Holmes’s purity, which we know, from the later stories, to be a lie:

I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.

The author makes a bold narrative leap in Part Two, whisking us away to Utah. I have to admit he lost me here. I stopped reading for several days and had to make a determined effort to go on with the story. By the time we returned to London and Sherlock Holmes, I’d forgotten everything that had gone before.


And my brain is not responsive to training.

But re-reading the Utah chapters led me to the conclusion that the author is a blessed genius. The sentences are perfect. Every word is apt. He writes in short, crisp sentences that buzz with energy. The words are apt but they are not obvious. Like his hero, Conan Doyle has a penchant for the singular, the unusual, the outré. Yet there is nothing affected about his style. The words seem to spring spontaneously from his pen.

I sincerely believe that if I would only read a few pages a day of the writings of Mr. Arthur Conan Doyle, I could vastly improve my appreciation and use of the English language.

But what about that troublesome bit of Latin at the end?

Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo
Ipse domi stimul ac nummos contemplar in arca.

A translation found on the internet gives us:

The public hiss at me, but I cheer myself when in my own house I contemplate the coins in my strong-box.

Which is a good motto for an author of sensational stories. I think I’ll adopt it.


The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am deeply, deeply interested in the man who wrote these singular stories. He had a fiendish imagination and a gift for rendering the prosaic poetic. It is not just Sherlock Holmes who comes alive on the page. Every supporting character is vividly drawn. Every detail, every sentence, every word resonates with terrible urgency as if the author’s life depended on them. There is suspense in every line and when I read them I feel as if I am being hypnotized. How does he do that? It’s sinister but brilliant.

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Books by Vanessa Wu

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