My partner and I like to read to each other. She reads when her North American accent lends itself well to a story, and I read the silly English stuff.
Lately, I’ve handled the majority of the reading because we’ve been munching our way through the canon of Sherlock Holmes.
We recently passed the halfway point, a fact that leaves me slightly melancholy: what to do when it’s all over? Should we cut the remainder with Solar Pons to make it last longer?
Reading Holmes together is extremely entertaining and I can’t recommend it enough. If nothing else, you can have fun with your range of character voices. I challenge any man not to be seduced by my staccato ‘lady’ voice, and not to shrink into submission upon hearing my Terry Jones-style ‘harridan’ voice, used exclusively for elder housekeepers and Mrs Hudson.
My vocal showboating is sometimes punished: I’ll invest a character with an impressive but difficult-to-maintain accent only discover he has five pages of solid dialogue.
There are times when a reading becomes positively theatrical, such as when one Mr Cyril Overton punctuates his telling of The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter by repeatedly slapping his knee. I’ve also experimented with adding soundtracks in the form of ‘Victorian street noise’ and ‘crackling fireplace’ tracks from YouTube, though it tends to distract.
I’m the proud owner of the best Sherlock Holmes edition ever published, but it’s rather too bulky for cozy reading and the intriguing marginal notes compete with the story, so we’ve been using the lighter-weight versions for free from the library. Trips to the library to choose the next volume is part of the fun (only a fool would read them in order – start with Adventures and then Hound).
Holmes is riddled with jokes and uproarious humour. There are tropes that make us laugh because we’ve learned to recognize them as portentous. Our favourite is the hubris displayed by police officers, immediately plowed down by Holmes and followed by a sartorial insult from bitchy Watson. For example, this description of Lestrade:
The official detective was attired in a pea-jacket and cravat, which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance.
Out of context, this doesn’t sound like much but take it from me that it’s a bloody brilliant joke.
The stories are also told with howlingly wonderful innuendo, verging on a kind of polari. Holmes and Watson are clearly a couple: another good reason for reading this as a couple.
Why you might also like to take up reading the Sherlock Holmes books aloud:
- It’s free (and one should always be on the lookout for free hobbies);
- A completely ‘unplugged’ activity, it takes you away from the TV and computer screens (unless you choose to use an e-reader, in which case you lose again);
- A Holmes short story or a chapter from one of the novels fits neatly into an hour;
- It’s a communal event, prompting you to savour something together instead of in isolation;
- By the time you’re finished, you’ll be an expert on Sherlock Holmes and can kick arse in the quiz at your local Sherlock Holmes society;
- As an Escapologist, Holmes’ lifestyle can inspire you to live by your wits as he does.
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