Read: A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet is, of course, the first of Doyle’s classic stories featuring what must by now be the most famous detective throughout history – Sherlock Holmes. However, reading the original stories makes one realise that it is the various adaptations of Sherlock that has made his fame – not the written source material.

The story is divided into two parts.

The first part is where Watson makes a new acquaintance, moving in with Mr Holmes. We get to read about his reactions to this Sherlock fellow but we also get an earful about the doctor himself – he returns to England very weak after almost having died from his wound and spends most of his time indoors and in bed. But then one morning, when he is up earlier than usual, he ends up visiting his first crime scene – a murder, in an empty or perhaps abandoned house.

So far so good. But suddenly part one ends and part two abruptly catapults the reader across the ocean, to the US, and to the founding of Salt Lake City. Initially this change of scenes make no sense but then names we heard in part one re-appear and suddenly the motive behind the not one but two murders perpetrated in part one is uncovered; and the reader gets to understand that neither of these evil deeds would had happened if Mormonism had been a more generous and open-minded creed.

As I wanted to read A Study in Scarlet as a crime/detective story I found the first part promising but the second part slow and uninteresting, even as I felt Doyle poured more heart in it, and it didn’t get better, either – the last handful of pages is pure info-dumping, with Mr Holmes telling Dr Watson about the clues everyone had missed: how he saw them, and how he interpreted them. Which makes me wonder if Doyle’s underlying reason for writing this story was to expose what he felt was the errors of the LDS/Mormons, and with the invention of Sherlock pure collateral; originally intended as nothing more than a tool for telling this tale. A tool which then took on a life of it’s own.

Obviously.

A Study in Scarlet has its place in the history of the crime novel genre, and as the point were a legend got started. But as reading material for the 21st century it doesn’t measure up. In my humble opinion.

Reread: Bilbo, by J.R.R Tolkien

I never really enjoyed Bilbo. To me, as a kid, Lord of the Rings was the real stuff, which I devoured again and again and again – dad had the series in a reviewers edition, translated to Swedish, three beautiful books now totally ruined by the pre-teen me sleeping with them under my pillow and then taping the covers together.

Renewed tries at the book did not alter my judgement.

Then an online acquaintance of mine, from the Green Dragon, posted a chapter by chapter analysis of the book. It was fascinating to see how much she could write about each chapter, in an interesting way, and I decided that maybe I should pick it up again but this time in the original English – I do have an Unwin paperback gracing my shelves.

And so I did.

The first half of the book is narrated as it is an oral tale, making use of the oral way of expressing what is happening. I am of course no expert in the English language, far from it, but to my ears the language of the first half is poetic, in a fun, rhyming, way. After the company pass through the Mirkwood the language starts to get more  prosaic, and some of the flow of the text vanishes. At the same time Bilbo changes from a soft naive to being stealthily smart, in his own way, somewhat thanks to the Ring but also because he doesn’t strive for the big things, the gold, the treasure, or the heroism. The good things are the small things, like the smell of bacon and a cosy bed. The rest is only trouble. A kind of back to the roots nostalgia, which I dislike.

Despite this I can say that the original English is, while not great literature, certainly worth reading. The total opposite of the Swedish original translation, made by Britt G Hallqvist, which lack the poetry of the original text, even as it tries to copy it.

There is a new translation out but I can’t comment on it – the book is not good enough for me to own three different versions of it ;-)

Review: Macbeth, by Shakespeare

This play should be renamed The Hallucinatory Cardboard King. I have read the edition named Oxford Shakespeare: Macbeth and my reason for choosing that particular one was the commentary. The idea was to learn more about the times and circumstances of the play.

To be honest I haven’t read through all of the introduction (about 100 pages or so) because I got bored and ended up carrying the book with me but not reading it. Careful and minute dissection of the verses, discussing the wording and the rhetorical use of phrasing, allusion etc. – clearly not my cup of tea. I had hoped for more on the political background, not how it linked in with Thespian tradition and how certain phrases and figures are used and reused throughout his works. So if that’s what you’re after this book is just for you. Me? I went hungry from the table.

The play itself, then? As already mentioned I don’t think much of it. I’m glad that I finally read it but that is mainly because I now know more about the play and as with any of Shakespeare‘s works it’s an intrinsic part of western culture. So I now feel a bit more well read. But that’s about it. Because seriously – a thane gets an hallucination in which he is told he will be king. He acts on it by murdering the present king, and proceeds with killing his friends, in one case family, servants and all. In the end he himself gets killed, mainly because he once more chooses to believe in the obscure words of yet another hallucination. And?!

Flatter than Avatar, if you ask me. Because while Avatar was 100% predictable at least it was beautiful and entertaining. Macbeth… he’s just insanely stupid, without the bells.

If Macbeth had been published today it would had sunk to the bottom without even a ripple in the surface.
Granted the right production it could be interesting to watch. Reading it?

Meh.