Basil of Baker Street

Wednesday reading — bees and boxes

What I've been reading

I read A Slight Trick of the Mind, which is the novel that the Sir Ian McKellen film Mr Holmes was adapted from. I really enjoyed the movie, mostly because of the performance at the center of it, although I also liked the complicated puzzle-box structure of the narrative even when some of the actual story choices made me go, really? Eh, whatever.

The book is mostly the same as the movie, except for where it's different, and I have to say, pretty much every change was a big improvement. It could be something I didn't necessarily care for in the movie, even, but the version in the book was definitely worse.

In this version the case of the glass harmonica doesn't cause Holmes to retire out of guilt. There's no strong reason why he retired, or why he's trying to return to that case; it just sort of happens. I didn't feel like the film really sold that motivation as being in-character for Holmes, but at least it was a motivation. Roger is fourteen, less cute and more gangly, and when he gets stung by wasps he just dies. And stays dead. Holmes does come across his body, but he's past saving, so he just leaves him there, since mentioning it to his mother would be awkward, and when his mother does confront him about the callousness of this his response is to tell her about how he once talked to that woman with the glass harmonica for all of less than one hour. This is seriously the most bizarre conversation I have ever seen in print. Ah yes, I know how you feel about the death of your son, I talked to a woman once and that's pretty much the same thing. I just. What?

The one thing I did like better is that there's a bit more nuance in Holmes's relationship with Watson. It still has them growing apart before the end of Watson's life, but Holmes also engages in some metatextual defense of Watson, talking about how he really was a good friend back when they were close and he was definitely never jam!Watson.

I read A Red-Rose Chain, the new October Daye book. It was a fun enough read, but I feel like the series is moving in the direction of Toby fixing all things about the fairy world that make it inhumane, and…not sure if want.

I read Joseph Cornell: Master of Dreams, which is a good overview of Cornell's life and work with a decent number of illustrations. The author first met him in 1963 when she was writing her master's thesis on his work and then went on to work at the Guggenheim for thirty years, so she has an interesting perspective.

I read Hotel Andromeda, a novel that came up when I was doing a subject search for Cornell. The protagonist is trying to get started with writing a book about Cornell, and I enjoyed the snatches of her book within the book. The main action of the book is pretty much inert, though, with a lot of flat, repetitious dialogue and no ending to speak of, so on the whole I find it hard to recommend. It is very short, though, so you can easily skim all the bits I didn't care for if you wanted to!

I read Disclaimer and regretted it, because it has a hook-y premise (what if you picked up a novel with the standard legal disclaimer and yet it was all about you and a horrible secret that you didn't think anyone else knew?) and just did not deliver in a believable way. This spoilery review on Goodreads covers pretty much everything that annoyed me so I don't have to, but it is essentially composed entirely of Fridge Logic. Nothing at any point makes any sense when you go back and examine it in light of the big reveals.

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