Mastering ‘Mastermind’ ~ Interview with Maria Konnikova ~ March 7th, 2013

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Well, as seems to often be the case these days, it’s taken me (S.Sigerson) a humiliatingly long time to get this pulled together and I feel pretty awful for that, but it’s here now! I’ve been traveling in and out of town more than usual lately and have also found myself rather busy these last few weeks with lots of time-consuming things. Things that sometimes have me feeling a little frustrated in their lack of logistical efficiency, which in turn leaves me feeling as though I’m always moving, but never getting anything of substance done, but nonetheless don’t always leave me with much time or energy for ‘side dishes’, like blogging. I, of course, had a chance to speak with Maria a while back, but before I get to the interview, I’d like to offer a few of my thoughts.

I mention my mundane frustrations here – that feeling of being spread at times irritatingly thin between disjointed obligations piled up around some very difficult and serious decisions – because this topic directly ties in with some of the main themes addressed in Maria Konnikova’s latest book Mastermind. I’ve been grappling these many months with some pretty serious matters, which has made a lot of what Maria has written here feel especially poignant and timely. What I mean by that is simply that this book has given me some very grounding food for thought at a time when emotions frequently run very high and the presence of clarity is about as common (and probable) as Sasquatch knocking on my door for a cup of flour. Continue reading

HOUND Revisited ~ Review of Martin Powell and Jamie Chase’s graphic novel adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles

Well, this has been an embarrassingly long time coming.  We promised Martin this review ages ago. (Yes, we realize that we’ve dropped the proverbial ‘ball’ everywhere else as well, hush now.)  Alas, here it finally is.  As always with our joint reviews, HamishMD and I wrote our respective reviews independently of one another.  I did not read her review prior to writing my own, nor had she read mine.  In fact, we ‘ve intentionally avoided even discussing it with one another specifically for the purpose of not biasing or coloring each other’s thoughts, so this is quite literally the first time those thoughts have come together in one place.  Enjoy!

~ S. Sigerson

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‘S.Sigerson’

HOUND continues to stand not only as one of the most popular of all the canonical tales, but also one of the most frequently adapted. I see HOUND adaptations and reprints of every kind all over the place, which I have to admit sometimes has kind of an ‘overkill’ effect on me. I recently made the somewhat distressing observation that when presented with a variety of Sherlockian reading material/purchase options I’m notably more likely to pass over something related to HOUND than I am just about any other adaptation simply because it has begun, for me personally, to feel like kind of an ‘easy way out’ as far as adaptations go. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story as much as the rest of the Sherlockian world and clearly AM interested in looking at re-imaginings of it, I’m just also a bit wary, and that ‘wariness’ makes me a little picky at times.

One form of adaptation that really HAS grabbed my interest recently is the graphic novel/comic book. I’ve been seeing some very neat graphic interpretations of not only the Sherlock Holmes stories, but also a range of other classical works, which I must say really excites me. I’ve only ever dappled in the comic book/graphic novel world, but I strongly feel that authors and artists are doing a fantastic thing by sliding certain literary staples into a different light. In my opinion, these sorts of visual-heavy re-interpretations are a great way to make classical literature seem interesting and engaging to a wider range of readers who are already interacting with, and being socialized into an increasingly visual world, and who therefore might otherwise dismiss the same story as being outdated or ‘dusty’ if presented as part of a ‘tome’ or freestanding novel. Continue reading

Dancing With the Devil ~ Review of Devil’s Grin and an Interview with Annelie Wendeberg

Before we get started…

A Few Thoughts on The Devil’s Grin:

For those of you not yet familiar with Devil’s Grin, here’s an idea of what you can expect (pulled from Amazon):

“In Victorian London’s cesspool of crime and disease, a series of murders remains undiscovered until a cholera fatality is found floating in the city’s drinking water supply.  Dr Anton Kronberg, England’s best bacteriologist, is called upon to investigate and finds evidence of abduction and medical maltreatment.  While Scotland Yard has little interest in pursuing the case, Kronberg pushes on and crosses paths with Sherlock Holmes.  The detective immediately discovers Kronberg’s secret – a woman masquerading as a man in order to practice medicine – a criminal deed that could land her in prison for years to come.  But both must join forces to stop a crime so monstrous, it outshines Jack the Ripper’s deeds in brutality and cold-bloodedness.”

Intrigued?  You should be!  I (‘S.Sigerson’) just finished reading this book and must say that I enjoyed it greatly!  Anna/Anton is a strong, complex, and highly intelligent character with a sharp wit, sharp tongue, and an admirably solid set of morals.  Morals she is stubbornly determined to defend to the very end, regardless of the danger and personal cost.  She is a vibrant, glowing anomaly in a world of often terrifying darkness.  Step-by-step, we follow her through the atmospheric adventure alluded to above as she works her way deeper and deeper into the dismal underworld of Victorian medicine.  Along the way, she stumbles into the path of another great Victorian anomaly…our old friend Sherlock Holmes.  They both set their sights on resolving the same problem, but choose to go about it in two very different ways, grudgingly ‘agreeing’ to accept each other’s intermittent presence (but not without both getting in their fair share of biting snark).

This is a very different sort of Sherlockian fiction from what I’ve otherwise read thusfar.  Rather than being what I’ve understood as a ‘proper pastiche’ (something that attempts to ‘fit into’ the canon by mimicking Doyle’s style and structure), this is the story of an otherwise unrelated character who’s lifeline just happens to cross with that of Holmes.  It doesn’t carry (for me at least) an especially ‘canonical’ feel, but then I don’t believe it’s intended to.  Throughout the story, the emphasis remains on Anna and her own inner dialog (because yes, it really is more of a ‘dialog’), and not on Holmes.  That isn’t to say, however, that we don’t hear from Holmes.  Anna interacts with him regularly and I found it deeply refreshing and thought-provoking to explore and examine his character through the smart eyes of an absolute ‘outsider’.  Annelie provides us with a very different image of Holmes; hinting at hidden personality facets, while also directly underscoring the fact that every person who interacts with him within his own fictional timeline is going to see something different – just the way every reader of the canon does.  She also gives us lots of lovely little colorful details that really bring her scenery to life.  My personal favorite is how she draws our attention to the chemical stains decorating the walls and ceiling above Holmes’ desk almost the very instant Anna enters the flat for the first time.

I found myself really getting into this book and I read it rather voraciously.  I even made it a point one day to go for a long evening walk around the local reservoir just for the effect. (The structure isn’t ‘period’ in the slightest, but the building is made to look a little as though it were.)  It was a gorgeous autumn day and there were a lot of people about, but the space suddenly had a vaguely sinister feel to it.  When viewed from behind (the side facing the water), the building always looks mysteriously shut up and dark, making it feel semi-abandoned, which it of course isn’t.  Staring at the water, I found myself feeling very grateful that I needn’t be fearful of things like cholera in my morning coffee.  Nor did I encounter any bloated bodies.

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