Rereading the Canon

As many of us are still in self-quarantine for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to dig back into the Canon for the first time in a decade. I hadn’t read any Holmes since around 2013-2014 or so, and so a complete revisit seemed warranted. However, I have to admit to never enjoying most of A Study in Scarlet, having plenty of problems with the representations in The Sign of the Four, and many of early stories were frankly too familiar and so not very interesting for me to start off with.

So, I decided to reread in a pretty much random order, or at least in a whatever-strikes-my-fancy-let’s-ignore-chronologies type order. When my wife and I found that our old scion, the Notorious Canary-Trainers, was reading “The Missing Three-Quarter,” we started with that, and I’ve been leisurely reading almost a story a day since. You can see my progress through inspecting this Goodreads list, where I’m attempting to track my reading (and rate!) each story/novel in the Canon for the first time in a very long time.

A few insights…

First, I’m finding that a few stories I’d dismissed as “not for me” many years ago have taken on new light and are much more fun now. “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” jumps from a second-tier story right into my personal top ten. “The Copper Beeches” makes a similar yet less lofty jump. I’m not rating these on criteria other than just some vague sense of enjoyment right now but I suspect I’ll be reranking at least a favorite “top ten” stories and novels and then retroactively determining what my ranking criteria were at some point.

Next, as I mentioned above, I’m trying to explore the Canon from a new direction, but I will have to push myself to reread the familiar stories as well if I’m going to reread it all. So, I’ve made a little game for myself — currently, that’s reading only the stories that have a color word in the title. “Black Peter,” “Red Circle,” “Copper Beeches,” with the on deck selections being “The Blue Carbuncle,” “Silver Blaze,” “Golden Pince-Nez,” “Red-Headed League,” “The Yellow Face,” “The Five Orange Pips,” and, um, I guess “Blanched Soldier” fits the bill sort of? I haven’t reread any of the novels yet, but after I get through the “color” stories, I think I might go backwards and start with The Valley of Fear this time, just for kicks. When I get to Hound, I might read this version — by far the oldest Holmes edition I own (I believe it’s an American or Canadian first edition?):

Also, that reminds me that I’m noticing that which copies I’m reading are also following an eclectic manner. I’m finding myself rereading in ways that perhaps reflect our times, or at least reflect the multiple ways we have to read. During kids’ bedtimes and when I wake up early in the morning before my wife, I’ve found myself pulling out my phone and reading a story or two using the Kindle app:

(Digitally highlighting my favorite passages, of course). Otherwise, I’m reading mainly on paper, which is a refreshing change as most of my recreational and work reading is with the Kindle or my laptop. I’m sure I’ll go back and reference them at some point, but I’ve eschewed the big Baring-Gould and Klinger annotated versions so far; instead, I’ve found myself picking up the much more portable Oxford editions:

Oh, and digging out my old Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes to reread them in facsimiles of their original forms as well:

Anyhow, that’s what I’m up to. It’s been fun to engage with the Canon in a rambling and meandering way. Reread with me!