The first real love of my life was Sherlock Holmes.
I was 13.
Having devoured everything worth reading in my house up to that point, I needed a new literary interest. I wasn’t really looking for romance, but I was certainly interested in a longstanding relationship.
Actually, I was in the awkward phase of a breakup at the time. My longstanding partners in literary adventure were Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. We’d been going out since the 2nd grade, a fortunate discovery in the dusty shelves of my school’s tiny library.
Sure, I exchanged a few moments with other great works of children’s literature — the Little House series made a deep impression, while the Wizard of Oz books weren’t as fun as the movie (no accounting for taste when you’re 10). Even in elementary school, I found Alice in Wonderland just plain weird. (That hasn’t changed.)
And let me just take this moment to publicly thank each of my elementary school teachers who sacrificed a chunk of time every day – sometimes the tail end of their lunch break – to read aloud to my class. I experienced so many more books that way, books I would have never bothered to read on my own. (Still not sure why people love Trumpet of the Swan, but I’m sure it did something wonderful for my education. *yawns*)
I remember my 13th summer as a watershed year. Bridging 7th and 8th grades, it led me to some amazing literature. I finally made it past the preface of Ben-Hur and discovered a great tale, one which the film gutted to focus on the romance. I consumed Jane Eyre in a day and a half – no lie! – scanning page after page reclined on my bed under an open window on a gorgeous summer day. Jane’s life held me spellbound; I read the book again later in high school and didn’t find it nearly as interesting. Perhaps books are best when they intersect our lives at just the key moment; I needed the mindset of a junior high girl to really love Bronte’s novel of manners.
Though I dabbled in various books in my limited library and household ranges, I found myself growing weary of the available dating pool in my literary sphere. I began to give up hope, wandering the library shelves week after week, slogging through books that really weren’t so great. So much historical fiction is drivel. And I couldn’t drag myself into the world of Grace Livingston Hill, despite someone’s well-intended donation of every cotton-picking book in her series to our little school library. (“Christian kissin’ novels!” a friend of mine dubbed them. Boring)
But there he was, tucked in a dusty volume in the D’s. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
My interest in Holmes, the world’s only consulting detective, was buoyed by the appearance on PBS of MYSTERY! every Thursday (?) night. (I think it was Thursday. Maybe Sunday.) Jeremy Brett was appearing as Sherlock Holmes in the acclaimed BBC production with its haunting soundtrack and his acerbic wit and sharp cheekbones. I drank up every word, gesture, and pun.
Sherlock’s mind, his laser-focus, his world of thought and deduction and baffling disgust for humanity melded with a concern to solve the case before someone died/got swindled/got hurt absorbed me like little had done before. I swallowed the stories in gulps, rereading my favorites and searching the local library for each book collection. When our small-town Carnegie Library failed to offer me The Sign of the Four (original title), I utilized the magic of the Pennsylvania library partnerships to get a card in Uniontown and visit their much larger building in search of Holmes treasures. I read every story, every novel, even later works by other authors attempting to continue the legacy of Holmes after Arthur Conan Doyle met his mortal end.
My literary romance with the strangely-lovable detective captured my imagination and led me through what would have otherwise been a deep drought of books. The libraries didn’t get any bigger, and I eventually moved on to other classics, but my imagination could always relive the best moments of my favorite stories, or wonder “what if” concerning The Woman.
Brett’s strong performances were the Gold Standard of Sherlock until one day someone pointed out that the BBC had begun making new episodes, bringing the consulting detective into the modern times. I guess it was 2011; I’m not really sure who told me to watch them. They weren’t on Netflix but someone lent me the files via the magic of DVR.
And there it was: It may have been 25 years since you first captured my heart, Sherlock, but you haven’t lost your touch. 🙂 Each episode is a treasure. The writing is just brilliant. Quick, keen, sharp, witty, mocking.
Doesn’t hurt that Benedict Cumberbatch is …. erm…. rather hott.