February 25th, 2011

doyle

February Books 18) The Sign of Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle

One thing that surprised me about The Sign of Four is its brevity - only 76 pages in my Complete Sherlock Holmes. But I think this shows a somewhat more disciplined approach by Doyle, and also perhaps a growing awareness that "less is more" which leads to the success of the short stories. It's still not as tight as it could be - once again the actual mystery, which is literally a locked-room murder, gets rather sidelined in the tale of dangerous foreigners coming to disrupt London to gain an ancient revenge, though this time they are thieves from the East (and in fact, of the two only one is actually foreign, it is the other who is actually the thief, and it is really the conveniently dead English fathers, Sholto and Morstan, who are the villains) rather than religious fanatics from the West.

There's a lot of family in this short book. We start with Watson and his brother, then we encounter the Morstans, the Sholtos, and Jonathan Small and his adopted family of fellow conspirators with the child-like Tonga (very small; can't talk properly; er, also kills people with a blowpipe - I admit the analogy is not perfect). The book ends with the establishment of a new family as Watson gets engaged to Mary Morstan, who he has known for, what, two days? Of course, the point is to increase the dramatic effect as the reader imagines his or her normal family life being disrupted by the mistakes of previous generations, but I found it striking.

Sherlock Holmes has no family. (Mycroft and Vernet are in the future.) For him, as he says at the end, "there still remains the cocaine-bottle." I can't think of another novel which portrays the use of cocaine in such a positive light - "so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind". In fact, I can't think of many novels about drug use at all, other than Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, and Hunter S. Thompson, and even their more enthusiastic moments have a conscious sense of self-destruction about them. Again, Doyle is more subversive than I had realised. (And he has another, if briefer, go at the cosy relationship between the media and the police.)

I'm finding more in these than I had expected to. On to the classic short stories next.

Edited to add: new userpic is from a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle to my distant cousin Frederic.)
ireland

Irish General Election: My prediction #GE11

This is based on no more than casual scrutiny of the analysis on PoliticalReform.ie, Slugger O'Toole and my own gut instincts.

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Basically I started with a specific set of estimated seat totals, and then worked back to fill the constituencies. This will mean that I am wildly out on the specifics but possibly a bit more accurate in general. By this time tomorrow we will start to have an idea of today's results.
politics

Delicious LiveJournal Links for 2-25-2011

  • Notes from canvassing (in the 2007 Irish election)
    (tags: politics)
  • Somehow this had passed me by when it was released: Nena looking fantastic at 49, revisiting her classic in an idiom of video games. Compare also the original at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQYQTFudrqc (she was 23 then).
    (tags: video)
  • There are good examples of good practice in political communications, and there are bad examples. Yesterday’s performance by the UUP was the absolutely perfect representation of the bad examples. In fact, the UUP contrived to oppose banning sectarian chants at football matches, and then its Health Minister managed to find a more pressing engagement than discussion of the Autism Bill. Now, it is just about possible that Ulster Unionists privately had some reservations about the exact wording of the relevant bills. However, the public at large sees only: “sectarian party doesn’t care about autistic children“.
  • Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And Robert Frost took the one less traveled. Of course, he also heckled his rivals and started fires to disrupt their poetry readings. But that makes for a terrible motivational poster. Unless you're a petty pyromaniac. In which case, here you go.
    (tags: funny)