Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" (Doyle, 1892)

“I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one” – he jerked his thumb in the direction of the old hat – “but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”
Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

Leigh: Carbuncle. Say it with me. Carbuncle. Caaarrrbuncle. This is a fun word.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's discuss the matter at hand.

I don't think this was a mystery. Sure, it was kinda a mystery and there are aspects of it that are definitely mystery-like but I don't think that this was a mystery worth our time let alone Sherlock Holmes'. Nothing was too spectacular except the hat that started it all off. I mean, the hat was extraordinary, wasn't it? Why else would we spend 1/3 of the story talking about this hat? I feel that the hat did serve some purpose, it showed the readers that Watson is learning something and while he might not be AS smart as Sherlock Holmes, he can definitely hold his own and that he is learning and growing as a character (character development? GASP!). But at the end of the hat discussion, I just felt like it was another scene for Holmes to show off his genius. Boy keeps talking to me about this "modesty" thing and how I need to be more modest (I don't know what he's talking about. I'm the most modest person in the world). I think that Holmes needs to learn some of this "modesty" that I keep hearing about. Am I reading too much into this hat scene though? If I am it's only because there isn't much else to talk about I think.

I was thinking of this story the other day and remembering it and being really excited to read it again. I had remembered the mystery to be more complex and the story to be more interesting. This time, all I got out of it really was that geese are funny and I don't think I'd ever be able to kill a goose. Also, why don't we eat geese anymore? Turkey and chicken and even duck are all menu items but geese is rarely seen. How come?

The audience is shown again that Holmes believes himself to be above the law because he let someone who was obviously in the wrong, go free. I think that this was a bad idea. Sure, the guy was scared about going to jail (or if you listened to the same version I did, "gail" because Americans are ignorant sometimes and don't know how to pronounce words that are spelled the British way) but it could've been a show. It could've been an act. It could've been a temporary feeling. Next time this guy is down on his luck or is presented with another opportunity to commit some fantastical crime involving fowl, he will probably take the chance and go for it. The situation just reminds me of Bubbles from the Wire (I've only seen through episode 4 of season 2, don't spoil anything for me.) He wants to well and be a better person but as soon as he is presented the opportunity, he folds and goes for it. Maybe the thief is the same way. Maybe Sherlock Holmes is wrong. Maybe I'm just anxious about going to the dentist tomorrow and I'm taking my anxiety out on a fictional character and a fictional situation. Who knows.

So what do you think? Am I just being grouchy? Was this actually a mystery? Was Sherlock Holmes wrong in letting that guy go?

Austin: Carbuncle, carbuncle, carbuncle! "What is this bread, my nephew? "Carb, uncle."

I enjoyed the hat sequence because it was worthless. I don't even agree with all of his findings. The man must be intelligence because the hat size is large? I feel modern science can debunk that but I have no intention of looking that up. Fine, I shall look it up. Okay, it seems to be rather true but there are too many qualifiers that it shouldn't be a major consideration.

Basically, this was another example of Watson walking in on Sherlock Holmes. It's just after the holiday season and this is how Sherlock lives his life when he doesn't have an audience. He solves little mysteries with the same amount of scrutiny as a murder. This would be a man who would marvel when the remote is lost in the apartment because he can analyze dust levels. This whole thing would have been a few milliseconds in his life, but he has to spend time explaining it.

Clearly the breakdown analysis is one of the major draws to this series. It's like people getting a Malcolm Gladwell bit of insight on a regular basis. It's trivia in crime solving that they can try to replicate at a dinner party until someone annoyingly pipes up "Oh I love reading The Strand!" 

But does it work as actual storytelling. I feel that it could be utilized better. They could have continued this into a thread of Watson just hanging out with Sherlock in his house solving little non-mysteries. Play up the anxiety of him or even look at Sherlock in the holidays. Instead, it jumped into another little mystery involving geese. This doesn't gel together into a full story with any sort of theme. It's just idea, idea, idea, SOLD.

The moral dilemma at the end feels just as isolating. What was this story trying to achieve? Yes, I would say it's mystery because you have a detective detecting. Was it trying to do anything else?

Also I'm sure you'll be fine at the dentist!

"I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul."

Leigh: As someone who loves terrible jokes, I approve.

I totally didn't believe that about brain/head/smartness correlation. I thought it was some Victorian Era science that had since been disproved. Guess I was wrong! *The more you know!*

One of my all time favorite movies is WALL-E. I love this movie so much. I have tried to put into words how much I love this movie and I can't. I have also tried to explain why I love it so much, but all the comes out is a bunch of squeeing and raglebragle (a new word I just made up to describe the sounds I make.) If PIXAR decided to make a full length movie of WALL-E just rollin' around and picking things up and looking at them, I WOULD WATCH IT A MILLION TIMES, NO HYPERBOLE. I feel the same way about Holmes solving these mini-mystery deals. I could read hundreds of them and never get bored and I would love every minute of it, IF that was the purpose of the story. I feel that this story had bigger intentions than to just be a "Day in the Life of..." story. I like that we stumble upon Holmes doing what he does when he doesn't have anything pressing to do. I would also have liked for this to be just a bunch of little mysteries that didn't have any sort of connection that Watson and Holmes figured out while hanging out in the study one afternoon. This story though seemed to be that and a regular mystery and a moral dilemma all at the same time and I think it failed. Miserably. 

"It is a question of cubic capacity"

I would love to read a Day in the Life of story about Holmes waking up, reading the paper, doing some drugs, reading the mail, trying to figure out who at the last piece of cake and who didn't refill the ice cube tray. I would read that story. This one I just feel like something is missing. Some sort of bigger meaning. If the guy Holmes let go free at the end turned out to be a future arch nemesis, that would be interesting! But as it stands now, I feel like we have a book version of an Elementary episode. THERE I SAID IT!

What say you, Lugar?

Austin: I have often said that Pixar needs to simmer down with these adorable Toy Story shorts and make five minute WALL-E stories that have similar plots to Curious George books. "WALL-E Goes to the Jungle", "WALL-E goes to Grand Canyon", "WALL-E Takes a Bath". Just let him be awesome and explore stuff.

I don't know if this failed as miserably at an Elementary level, but this wasn't one of the best. This was Doyle filler. Which is strange because maybe he just needed a bit of a recharge. Next week is possibly my favorite Sherlock Holmes story so it's not like he's out of ideas this early on. I think he's experimenting with what can be done with this story. I think you can use the whole "early days of mysteries" as a great excuse. Non-genre fiction enjoys to meander and describe a house for 10 pages possibly being a metaphor or just showcasing its captivating prose. Either way, nothing happened.

What I'm saying is, there isn't a typical mystery structure in place. I bet Doyle would say he is still writing "fiction" not "mysteries" because it doesn't have that genre. I'm not saying that one is better than the other, but nowadays if Harry Bosch is pondering about a hat for a third of the book you know for a fact it will be a major part in its resolution. This story isn't thematically satisfying but I'm not going to get angry about that. I'll save that for further down the line.

Ultimately, my major articulate criticism is the same rationale to politely ignoring the racist statements said during family holidays "It's okay; they're old." If you think that is an improper way to judge older material, that's what the comment section is for! I assume.

Anwho, the poll results are in and on Thursday Leigh and I will be discussing the 1988 comedy Without a Clue starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. It's a very funny twist on the Sherlock/Watson relationship. So rent that sucker and play along. 

And here's Leigh Montano with the final word.

Leigh: Carbuncle!