Saturday, November 1, 2014

Baskervilles Read-Along: First Report of Dr. Watson (Ch. 8)

You know, a lot of times fictional letters don't come off as letters someone might actually write.  Same goes for diary entries.  They have the wrong level of detail, too many fully-transcribed conversations and such.

Not so here.  There's only one conversation included, and it's short and important.  Everything else reads precisely like a chatty, newsy letter between friends.  Is this because the majority of these stories and novels are told as Dr. Watson's reminiscences anyway, so it was pretty easy for Doyle's writing to slide into Watson writing letters?  I don't know.  I just know it's well done.

I like how Watson alludes to their very first adventure together, when Holmes insisted he didn't care if the sun went around the earth or vice versa.  That exchange always tickles me in A Study in Scarlet, and I'm amused to have it pop up here.

Okay, so we have Sir Henry interested in Beryl Stapleton, and Mr. Stapleton objecting, adding another layer of mystery.  Watson's rather a shrewd observer of character, isn't he?  I love how he describes Stapleton as having "a dry glitter in his eyes and a firm set of his thin lips, which goes with a positive and possibly a harsh nature" (p. 630).  No wonder Holmes is trusting him to observe things and send back facts!  While deducing from facts is not Watson's strength, observing people certainly is.

The bit about Dr. Mortimer being filled with joy over digging up a skull amuses me.  Can't you just imagine him, beaming with pride as he shows it off to everyone at lunch?  Also, Mr. Frankland of Lafter Hall is a very silly fellow, with his litigious habits.  Watson says that other than suing people all the time, "he seems a kindly, good-natured person" (p. 632), and I like to imagine that Lafter Hall often rings with laughter.  Especially since Watson also says he "gives a little comic relief where it is badly needed" (p. 632).

And then we end with Watson, the not-so-sound sleeper, waking up because he hears noises in the night again and discovering Barrymore creeping around with a candle.  Spooky way to end the letter and chapter!


Favorite Lines:

The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one's soul, its vastness, and also its grim charm (p. 629).


Possible Discussion Question:  Why do you suppose one page is missing from Watson's letters to Holmes?  Why does he specify that?  There's no point in this letter where he says, "And I'm missing a page here, but I'm pretty sure it said thus-and-so."  

22 comments:

  1. The favorite line you had! I actually have my book ready at my elbow as I was going to transcribe it here as one of mine.... ;) "The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one's soul, its vastness, and also its grim charm." And then the contrast he goes into.... Reading this chapter last night, that particular bit really evoked something in my memory. It was eluding me for a bit-- hovering just on the edge of conciousness--and then I realized it was reminding me of Conrad's Heart of Darkness....

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    1. I've never read Heart of Darkness. Should I? I tried another Conrad book once (I think it was The Secret Agent?) and couldn't get into it at all, so I've kind of just... not tried any of the others.

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    2. Definitely! ;) It's actually much more of a long short story than a novel. Lord Jim took me a while, but I've read Heart of Darkness about....3 times?? And I'd love to host a read-along of it someday. Because it is more of a short story format, though, I'm trying to figure out how I'd break it up exactly....

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    3. I hear lots about both HOD and LJ, and LJ is on my Classics Club list. A read-along would be cool! Though I know exactly what you mean about struggling to chop up a long short story -- had the same trouble with TOMATS this summer.

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    4. My plans are in place for starting a read-along blog in January -- so HOD will be going on the list then! I'm still planning to start off with Persuasion, though... Are you still good with that?? ;)

      And I see you started reading Peace Like a River! A friend was telling me all about it earlier this year and then generously gave it to me for my birthday. I have it sitting in my room on my to-read pile this very minute! :) Are you enjoying it?

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    5. I am totally planning to read Persuasion with you in January! You'll see I've pushed Little Women to February on my list of upcoming read-alongs, and that is the very reason why. I might push it back farther if we have a lot of people (other than myself) who want to participate in both. "Spend March with the March family" does have a nice ring to it...

      Oh my goodness. My s-i-l sent me PLAR when I was recuperating, and I started reading it and was like, "This book is too dark! Too many bad things are going to happen! I don't want to read this!" And I actually quit it for like 3 weeks. And then I decided out of fairness, I should read a little more, and one character started writing epic western poems, and I was hooked. I still am reading it in small doses, though, because it is rich. Like you can't eat more than a couple bites of fudge, same thing. Really fascinating story, in a quiet way.

      Um, so, yes, I think I'm enjoying it. Definitely hooked by it.

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    6. Oh, good!! I'm so looking forward to doing Persuasion and also joining in Little Women over here. ;) I have to plot out the Persuasion chapters, but it probably will be into February--so whenever you think best for Little Women. March does sound fun....

      (And whenever you--and I eventually--finish PLAR, we'll have to compare notes.)

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    7. I've moved LW to March just cuz I've discovered that two read-alongs at once is more than I can handle, even if I'm only hosting one of them. This'll give me a nice long break, and time after Persuasion to plan out LW a bit, and you won't have to feel like you have to push Persuasion just for my sake.

      I've got like 60 pages left in PLAR -- I'll try to email you when I'm done! And I'll review it here too, natch.

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  2. Sorry. I just realized that was a bit of a rambling comment earlier.... ;)

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    1. What's wrong with rambling? I enjoy a good ramble.

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    2. Nothing! :) I just realized it would be kind of a hard comment for you to come up with anything to say in reply... ;P

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    3. Ha ha! I totally had something to say in reply.

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  3. I really like it how the way Watson directly addresses Holmes gives us a little insight into their relationship. I totally sniggered at the paragraph where Watson casually pokes at Holmes' "severely practical mind" and "complete indifference" at the solar system :D

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    1. Yes! Watson clearly likes to rib Holmes a bit now and then, which is delightful.

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  4. Mr. Frankland made me laugh out loud, literally. I got this mental image of a crotchety old man who could both smile and cuss you out in the same sentence. Or someone who would bargain you out of more than you think and say "God bless you" in the same conversation. He could start a firm: "Frankland, Frankland and Frankland: We Sue With a Smile."

    How do we tell that there's a page missing? I can't find that in the chapter.

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    1. Yes, Frankland's the sort of loud old man that I am frightened of. Too well-meaning to hate, but too gruff and loud to want to spend much time with.

      At the very beginning of the chapter, Watson writes, "From this point onward I will follow the course of events by transcribing my own letters to Mr. Sherlock Holmes which lie before me on the table. One page is missing, but otherwise they are exactly as written..."

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    2. Yep. Kinda like Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino. Although that guy seemed scarier than Frankland.

      Ah, thank you. Carry on.

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    3. I haven't seen "Gran Torino" yet, but I love Clint Eastwood :-D

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    4. Yep, watched it last week. Heartwrenching, but a bit heartwarming, too.

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  5. I love the part where Watson brings up Holmes' inability to remember if the earth goes around the sun or the sun around the earth in this chapter :D It's one of my favourite moments in the canon too. I always love it whenever ACD refers to Holmes and Watson's past adventures in his stories though. I feel like ACD is saying to me "See? See? I do know my own "silly" detective stories!" I love the part about Mr Frankland trying to prosecute Dr Mortimer over finding a skull from a pre-historic man as well. It's very amusing! Whenever I've thought about this book I've always remembered its creepy atmosphere best. I'd forgotten just how colourful the secondary characters in it are!

    Oh, and I really like you point about how believable Watson's diary entries are :) As soon as you read your point I was like "You know what, they really are!" Yet another reason to love this book!

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    1. At the National Air and Space Museum, there's a display of the planets showing how big they are compared to others. They have a bunch of quotes about the planets on the walls there. One of them is the exchange between Holmes and Watson from ASIS about whether the sun goes round the earth or vice versa. I love going there!

      I tend to forget Mr. Frankland too, between rereads/rewatches. He's quite the odd and amusing fellow!

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