Monday, December 13, 2004

In the seventh grade, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was on my school reading list. As I recall it, that list was a luscious "torture." I had the perfect excuse to while away many more hours, flopped on my bed, reading. I pulled my family's The Complete Sherlock Holmes down from the shelf and thrilled to "A Scandal in Bohemia." Turning the pages, I was repulsed by a collection of "florid-faced," red-haired, elderly men in "The Red-Headed League." At the time, I was puzzled by the many metaphors, Britishicisms, and other references that I didn't understand and that I couldn't find in the dictionary.

I would have enjoyed the new book weighing down my lap at this moment--The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited by Leslie Klinger (W.W. Norton, 2004). The notes, filling the generous page margins, explain in intricate detail all the obscure items and references found in the collected stories of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Who would've known that a smasher is a person "who passes bad coins or forged notes?" And who could possibly guess that when "the stranger" says "I confess that I miss my rubber," he is referring to a unit in the scoring of the card game whist?

The book is full of dozens and dozens of period illustrations (the period is the 1890s) from the Strand magazine, which published Doyle's stories, and photographs and drawings from books of the era. The volume is well done. I wish I owned a copy, but that is definitely off-topic.


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6:31 PM  

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