The Humor in the Detective

I absolutely love this photo, which depicts the immortal William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes in a dramatic mood, while Watson looks, frankly, horrified. I could laugh at it for hours.

Quite honestly, there’s a lot about Sherlock Holmes I could laugh at for hours. One of my biggest discoveries when I re-read the Canon as an adult was a treasure trove of dry humor that had gone over my head as a child.

Recently, my fellow Baker Street Babe, acclaimed author Lyndsay Faye, commented that in her view, one of the surest ways for a Holmes pastiche/fanfiction story to fail is to be over-serious, because that’s simply not the tone Doyle created. Her thoughts made me realize that as a writer and reviewer, I completely agree. I can forgive a lot of things in Holmes stories, and generally, my reading experience is celebratory of the fact that we all have these characters we love that we continue to want to explore. However, I have a lot of trouble with stories that treat Holmes and Watson and their world as humorless; those lose me.

As a writer, all of my Holmes stories are partially tongue-in-cheek, and I’m not sure readers always get the jokes. Author intention vs. reader interpretation is a topic for another time, but rest assured, if you’re ever reading one of my books and something strikes you as funny? It’s absolutely supposed to be.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think I could have sustained this many years of ardent love for these 60 stories if they weren’t funny. People often ask me and other writers why the stories have endured in popularity for so many years. I wouldn’t argue that humor is the only or primary reason, but I think it’s an important one.

So next time your love of Holmes starts to get over-serious, whisper “Norbury” to yourself and get over it 😉

(See “The Yellow Face” for context)

.How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

Date A Girl Who’s Sarcastic: A Parody

A while ago, there circulated two very beautiful pieces titled, “Date a Girl Who Reads” and “Date a Girl Who Writes.” In order to understand the following parody, at least take a look at “Date a Girl Who Reads” by Rosemary Urquico, but the other piece, by Tanza Loudenback, is also excellent, and I owe a huge writing debt to both.

Still, just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean my somewhat warped sense of humor ceases to function, and something about the flowers, kittens, and rainbows in the above pieces kind of broke my brain. As a result, it is my pleasure to present to you:

Date a Girl Who’s Sarcastic

You should date a girl who’s sarcastic.

Date a girl who’s sarcastic. Date a girl who spends her time reading demotivational posters, who can’t wait to share the Hugh-Manatee meme with you. Date a girl who shares puns just to annoy the people who hate them.

Find a girl who’s sarcastic. You’ll know she’s sarcastic because half the time, you won’t be able to tell if she’s serious or not. She’s the one lovingly poring over episodes of “Parks and Recreation” to find the perfect April Ludgate quote to put in someone’s birthday card, the one who quietly cries out in triumph when she decides on a Ron Swanson instead. You see that weird chick watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the fiftieth time? That’s the sarcastic one. They can never resist Monty Python, particularly the part about The Knights Who Say Ni.

She’s the girl using her camera phone to post a picture of the misspelled coffee shop sign across the street.  If you take a peek at her mug, there is no latte art. She hates latte art. Sit down. She will glare at you. There is no “might.”

Do not buy her a cup of coffee. She prefers tea.

Let her know what you really think of “What’s Up, Doc.” See if she remembers that “Love Story” parody line at the end. Understand that if she says she likes “Airplane,” it’s only for the wittiest lines. Ask her if she loves Dwight Schrute or would like to be Dwight Schrute.

It’s easy to date a girl who’s sarcastic. Give her seasons of “MASH” for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of irony, in poetry, song, and preferably polka. Give her Thurber, Fry, Laurie, Izzard. Let her know that you understand that snark is love. Understand that she knows the difference between sarcasm and outright derision, but she’s going to try to make her life as ironic as possible. It will totally be your fault if she does.

She has to roll her eyes somehow.

Do not lie to her. If she understands sarcasm, she will know you’re lying and laugh at you for it. Loudly. Behind words are, often, idiots.  It will not be the end of the world, but it will probably be the end of your relationship.

Fail her, but do so in an entertaining way. Because a girl who’s sarcastic can overlook a lot as long as it’s charmingly absurd. Because sarcastic girls know that all things must come to an end, but at least let it be a funny end.

You should be very frightened of taking yourself at all seriously. Girls who are sarcastic will end you with their wits. They have already thought of 3,000 ways to murder Edward Cullen in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who’s sarcastic, keep her close. When you find her up at 2am, guffawing over “News of the Weird,” hold her close enough to see what’s on her computer screen so you can laugh too. As long as you can keep up, nobody’s losing anything, except some strangers who have already lost their dignity.

You will propose at a restaurant, like a normal person. Or you will make your proposal look like a divorce, like they did in that one “Portlandia” episode that’s her favorite.

You will laugh so hard you worry for your cardiac health.  You will have extremely clever and ironic children who scare their classmates. She will introduce your children to Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, maybe in the same day. You will gigglesnort your way through old age, and she will recite “My Family and Other Animals” under her breath while you try to clear the ice off your deadlocked car.

Date a girl who’s sarcastic because your ego needs to be brought down a peg. You deserve a girl who sees the irony in everything. If you can only give her seriousness and normalcy, she’s better off alone.  If you want the absurd and the more absurd, date a girl who’s sarcastic.

Or better yet, leave her alone. She’s already having way too much fun being single.

Superheroes Among Us: The Secret Lives of Proofreaders

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a superhero.

I didn’t always realize I was a superhero, but I’ve always known I was different. You see, I am a proofreader, compulsively and professionally.

“Ah,” you say, “but grammar is a learned skill not a superpower.”

Not so, my comma-missing friend. (I could hear in your voice that you would have left the comma out of your above statement.)

Some achieve grammatical competence, and most have a vague sense of editorial rightness thrust upon them. There are, however, few who are born great. Like spider webs issuing from our wrists or the power of flight, we are both gifted and cursed with the power of proofreading.

Most of us, like other superheroes, first discover our powers in troubling and traumatic ways. Consider the ordinary-looking child who sits down at a diner with his family. Picking up the grimy menu, he encounters the phrase, “Mashed Potatoe’s.” He is pained! He is incensed! As quickly as he can, he looks around the table to share this moment of affront with his family members, but they are unmoved. Not one of them has even noticed! With utter horror, he realizes how alone he is in this vast and grammatically-challenged universe.

As we grow, we learn to blend in and even, perhaps, earn financial compensation by using our power in small and inconspicuous ways. Like other minorities, however, we continue to be subject to tragic levels of discrimination and exploitation.

Consider our representation in the media. “The Foreigner,” a play that takes as its subject prejudice in the American South, does an admirable job of illuminating racial issues. At the same time, its hypocrisy is unnerving. Its protagonist, a man by the name of Charlie, is the professional proofreader of a science fiction magazine. With utter callousness toward the misunderstood heroism of the proofreaders that walk our streets, he is portrayed as shy, quiet, even, dare I say it, unadventurous! I know, it’s nearly too offensive to be repeated on paper, but we must be made aware of these things if we are ever to progress in the treatment of the persecuted in our society.

Exploitation is an even bigger issue, for it is one that is a daily struggle for all who possess the power to proofread. Consider this anecdote, occurring in the life of an ordinary college freshman. “Jane,” says Natalie, “could you proofread this paper really quick? I have to turn it in fifteen minutes from now.” No, Natalie, you do not understand. Proofread this paper really quick(ly) is what happens when a proofreader edits something for another of her own kind and feels shy about handing it back with the one correction it required, a correction that is probably, really, a matter of opinion. Editing for the ordinary writer is a painstaking, agonizing process in which the proofreader must commune with her inner soul about whether or not clauses are dependant, whether Strunk or Turabian is the true authority, and whether she can bear to leave slight mistakes if they seem intrinsic to the writer’s personal style. It is akin to Sisyphus’s daily journey, a valiant effort that is both grueling and time-consuming. At the very least, Natalie, offer Jane a chocolate bar.

Of course, superheroes also have their special joys. Superman orbits the earth in graceful arcs, and Thor makes mountains shake with Mjolnir’s thunder. We, too, have pleasures that will never be enjoyed by mere mortals. The moment of ecstasy that comes when we turn off “Tracked Changes” and suddenly find a pristine document where disorder and superfluous semicolons once reigned is beyond human description. It is sublime.

Some mutants fly; others read minds; others know exactly when to use affect or effect. All are united in an existence at once beautiful and tragic, exhilarating and excruciating. Proofreaders are often unappreciated superheroes, laboring in silent anonymity for the sake of a future world in which no plurals are accidental possessives and no run-on sentences live to mar the course of human development. It is, you say, only an dream. We agree, but you should have said “a.”

 

Please Note: This essay is very, very, very serious and should be taken as such.