Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Report: "The Yellow Face" (Doyle, 1893)

“Watson,” said he, “if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”
--Sherlock Holmes, “The Yellow Face”

Leigh: -pause-

-long pause-

-deep breath-


Why can no one talk to each other in Victorian England? Did they all have a curse put on them that prevented them from speaking their true feelings or were they SO "proper" that they couldn't even MENTION A CHILD THAT THEY HAD to their husband? This whole mystery would've been cleared up by a short discussion stating, "Hey, I know you want to marry me but so you know I have a child by my previous husband who was black." This is something that is kinda important especially if 1, you think this marriage will last and 2, you ever want to see your child again.

A friend of mine said once that not telling someone something because you think they'll be upset or it will hurt their feelings is basically saying that you can't tell someone something because you don't think they're mature enough to handle it. That's what this situation is. Effie has a child from her previous marriage and doesn't want to tell her husband because she's afraid he won't be able to handle the information. Even he's pissed that she didn't tell him that important detail in her life because he now thinks that his wife thinks he's a terrible person. 

Speaking of terrible people, let's talk about Effie. Has a child with her first husband. Hubby #1 dies. Child is sick. You know what's a great idea? ABANDONING YOUR CHILD IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY. That's worse than just leaving them at the mall or forgetting to pick them up from school. She knowingly and willingly left her child in a different country instead of staying with her sick child until she was better. And then, she basically locks the poor girl in a house, forbidding her to ever leave because she's half black. Effie sounds like one of the worst people in the world. 

I haven't seen this movie but I saw the trailer a billion times at my arthouse theatre to the point where I hate this movie and assume it's an Effie like situation. Watch the trailer; I'm not going to.

Also Sherlock Holmes doesn't do anything. 

So Austin, what's the point of this story besides finding out that some people are truly awful? And am I overreacting? (This is a very real possibility since I am currently hopped up on Easter candy. Get it? HOPPED up? BWAHAHAHA)

Austin: Oh this whole story is ridiculous. Thank goodness we had a few pages of Sherlock analyzing a pipe for a few pages that was pretty entertaining. I like to imagine that in this world Watson was really pressured for a new story in the Strand and Mary needed the money for something important so he quickly just threw together this tale where nothing really happened.

I don't hate Effie as much as you, but I do hate her dramatic way to doing things.

"I need $100."
"What? Okay, why?"
"You said you are my banker; bankers don't ask questions."
"Yeah, but people don't really marry their bankers..."
"I need the money."
"Seriously, that's not a big deal. I just would like to know why. This is 1888. That's like a lot of money."
"I do trust you. Honey, where does that private detective reside? The genius who can uncover any secret?"
"221B Baker Street. Why?"
"No reason."

That dialog essentially played out for majority of the story. It's one thing to keep a secret and it's another to keep bringing up the fact that you're keeping a secret. So many lies to the point where she even lies that her locket is broken.

Now we get to the point at the end where Sherlock is very moody that he didn't get to solve the case. His dramatic final line is what we'll use as our opening quote up top. My question to you is: is it fair that he didn't solve the case? If I asked Sherlock to guess what number I'm thinking of and he couldn't tell from my facial ticks that I was thinking 204,122,943.1 that doesn't make him less of a genius does it?

Leigh: I don't think Sherlock Holmes is at fault here. First, we know he's a super genius so it doesn't really NEED to be proved every story because this is something that is fact. The pipe examination at the beginning was a nice touch to show that Holmes can't really turn it off and does it mainly because he's bored. Second, this was not mystery, it was an omission of details. It was an important conversation that needed to be had between husband and wife, probably before they got married, that just didn't happen. I'm reminded of Catcher in the Rye when Holden Caufield hires the prostitute and doesn't do anything except talk. Just because nothing happened doesn't mean their roles suddenly change, and the same thing happens with Sherlock Holmes. Just because he was hired to be a super genius and doesn't have anything to detect doesn't make him any less of a genius.

"I want to buy you clothes, care for you and not sleep with you." "Why?"

But here we are blaming characters that don't exist when we could be discussing the author here. ACD really dropped the ball on this one. I think he was trying to show an example when Sherlock Holmes wasn't needed or was off-base and just got it wrong. Instead though, we just get a frustrating story where Holmes and Watson are background characters watching a daytime soap. All it needed was an evil twin or someone coming back from the dead to finish off the melodramatic tale. 

So is this just another episode of As the World Turns or am I missing some important literary nuances?

Austin: This would be my favorite story, my all time favorite Sherlock story, if this was a comedy. If there was this ongoing vibe between Sherlock and Watson where they are incredibly uncomfortable and they don't want to be there yet can't story ever. Especially after the melodrama keeps getting crazier, have Watson simply begging for the carriage to arrive. Then end with a silent ride back into London where Sherlock says "Never publish this, Watson."

Then again, Watson has had a lot of practice of being in awkward situations.

The only nuances I feel I'm missing is that I still like Doyle's writing. It was quick and enjoyable prose-wise. The pipe stuff was really's just a story with a really lame plot and a very strange revelation. Thankfully with a title like "The Yellow Face" this as racist as it could have been, but instead it was just race-awkward. Oh boy.

Anywho, this week we are watching yet another random Sherlock Holmes movie. I remember this one aired on PBS years ago and I'm sorry I missed it because it starred Rupert Everett (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Holmes. Once again you can watch it on YouTube right HERE.

Now here is Leigh Montano with the final word...


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