I´m sorry, this is boring

I have just finished a short one: Stewe Claeson´s "Mördaren är död" (= the murderer is dead). I suppose it´s a murder mystery, in a way. The mystery is not who killed whom, but why. Except the reader has it solved way, waaay before the six brothers, whose father posthumously has confessed to murdering a priest.

Actually, this is a rather boring book. I imagine it´s supposed to be deep - the detective story format employed to say something profound about life - but it´s not. Not that I can detect, anyway. Page up and page down, the author drones on with dialogue that´s, ok, maybe we talk like that in real life (some of us), but just because a dialogue is real it doesn´t necessarily mean that it feels real in a work of fiction. At quite a few places there also seems to be unmotivated repetitions, like the author wrote two versions of a dialogue and then forgot to delete one of them.

I remember vaguely reading another work of Claeson´s, "Tiro", a few years back. It was about an aging roman, probably deep as well, I remember being slightly bored that time too, but not irritated, as I am now. Maybe there is a subtle greatness to these books. I just can´t see it.

I have googled the reviews and I think they are, for the most part, undeservingly positive. I imagine Claeson has a lot of literary capital, has probably done some great work in the past. Not that I´m particularly curious. Perhaps I´m missing out. And perhaps not.


Into the void

I am very fond of Jenny Diski´s travel stories. She has written quite a few novels as well, but I haven´t yet read any. The first one I read was "Stranger on a train" ("Främlingar på tåg") and I just loved the contradictions. Diski does not like to travel, she does not like to meet new people. She´d much rather be left alone at home, doing nothing. Still, she travels, and she travels a lot, and not because she has to write about it either. She started out with this book, her first non-fiction, "Skating to Antarctica" ("På tunn is, en resa till Antarktis"), because it was the only way she could afford to go.

This is also a memoir, a story about her parents, the father who died in 1966, the mother who vanished only a few weeks later after a terrible row. Diski was 18 years old and had since never heard from her mother, to her great relief. Now, her own daughter was 18 and wanted to know. At least this: was the grandmother still alive? Diski entertainingly uses the analogy of Schrödinger´s cat to describe how she´d rather not know, how she preferred to keep her mother, so to speak, inside the box.

The trip to the Antarctic is a quest for a whiteout, for nothingness, for oblivion, for blissful emptiness. But even Antarctica proves to be full of colour and life, not to mention a bunch of (mostly American) fellow travellers. In the end, what she takes home with her is the experience of being inside her cabin, a most perfect cabin, not a cruiseship cabin with flowery carpets and colourful bed cloths, but a pure, white, research ship´s cabin, a perfectly functional space. Here, Diski finds the peace she craves and a severe cold allows her to stay in there for a few days without having to go up on deck. Being in her cabin, looking out the window at the icebergs passing by, becomes a piece of heaven.

In between the passages that recounts her journey, she remembers her past. Her parent´s violent rows, her mother´s childish demands for love, her father´s charming lies, the threats from both parents to kill themselves, the stays at boarding schools, foster parents, drugs, being hospitalized for years. Some of the things her parents call her she even agrees with, understanding their point of view, however unjust that point of view is. She is unsure whether she has actually processed her past or if she has just fled from it. She doesn´t really care. She just tells it.

In the end, when her daughter tells her that the mother is dead, when her old neighbours tell her about the rows and how bad it was, when her mother´s later neighbours tell about her rows with the new husband, Diski is relieved. Relieved that it wasn´t just her, that her mother actually was this really horrible person she remembers, other people can confirm it. And in that realization, the guilt she has felt all along but never acknowledged is finally laid to rest. Actually, I think guilt is at the core of this story, at the core of the longing for peace.

There was an article in the paper a few weeks ago about the urge to write to tell one´s life story. Apparently, this is something many people want to do. I have met a few, and they all seem to think that their story would somehow be healing to others. I´m sure they are right, or at least: they, themselves, have been healed by other people´s stories and now they want to give back. I understand that, I have myself found a lot of clues and comforts in biographies and biographical novels. However, I´m not sure I would want to do anything like that myself, even if I had a dramatic tale to tell, which I don´t. It takes a special gift, I think. Some people can write interestingly about a perfectly normal life, others tell boring tales about very unusual circumstances. I´m not sure what that gift is.

Diski has both talent and a special story. Most of all, she is completely devoid of sentimentality. She is brutally honest, which I appreciate. And, she has a sense of humour. Her life may have been tough, but never tragic. She is made of sterner stuff than that. She is a survivor, and as such, she can inspire anyone to do anything.

I also warmly recommend "On trying to keep still" ("Den motvillige resenären"), where she travels to my neck of the woods, Swedish Lapland. Hugely entertaining.


To be more interesting than one´s work

Since I was passing by the Gcz-shelf at the library (authors, life and works) this book about Göran Tunström also kind of stuck to me. I have been a fan of his ever since I read "Skimmer" (= glitterings) and I have since read "The Christmas Oratorio" (can actually be bought in the English version at amazon.com), "Berömda män som varit i Sunne" (= famous men having been to Sunne) and "Försök med ett århundrade" (= attempts at a century). I started "Tjuven" (= the thief) but failed, couldn´t get through it (bad timing on my part). I own it, so I suppose I will try again.

This book, "Prästunge och maskrosboll" (= preacher´s kid and dandelion ball) by Rolf Alsing, is a labour of love. In the preface he writes that Tunström, who lost his father at age twelve, helped him through his own grief after a dead father, by way of literature. Reading this just after all that diving into Olof Lagercrantz makes me think of him, of course, and I imagine that if someone else wrote a book about Tunström, perhaps the theme of grief would not be as emphasized. And indeed, Alsing quotes Lagercrantz in his preface, so he is by no means unaware of this. It´s not an academic study, this, it´s a kind of friendship book (like "Vårt behov av Olof"), a celebration of a man´s work, a hard-worked 'thank you'-note and an introduction for curious, new readers.

Unfortunately, the book does not make me want to read more of Tunström. Can´t really put my finger on why. However, I only have to go up into my library, pick up "The Christmas Oratorio" and read a paragraph from anywhere and I feel the magic again. Funny that, with other writer´s it´s the other way around. I have read plenty about Virginia Woolf, for instance, but one page of her books is often enough for me. She doesn´t grab me, but she has grabbed others, who in their turn manage to write so enthusiastically about her that I feel she should grab me, too. In this case, Tunström advertises himself better than Alsing manages to do. And good for Tunström. He outwrites at least this admirer. (I don´t mean by this that Woolf is outwritten by her admirers and biographers, I´m sure it´s just me...)

Anyway, it´s a shame so little by Tunström has been translated. With lesser writers translated left and right, you´d think... At least there is "The Christmas Oratorio". A wonderful novel. Magical. About love, death, grief, madness, music. Mercy. Tunström is a writer who´s life will never outshine his work, and I´m sure he would not have wanted it any other way.


The delightful art of reading

I have just got through a thin little volume, Umberto Eco´s "PS till Rosens namn" (Eng. "Postscript to The Name of the Rose"). Now, "The Name of the Rose" is one of my favourite books of all time and Eco has written some of my other favourites, like "Foucault´s Pendulum" and "Baudolino". I own (I just discovered) "The Island of the Day Before" but I haven´t read it! Gross negligence on my part!

Some parts of this book I only looked at. Eco is an academic (philosophy and literature) and he often refers to Italian classics that I have no idea what they are and honestly, no real interest in reading. My loss perhaps, but life is short and literature is plentiful. That said, he is not really difficult to understand, he writes with humour and ease and some of the things he has to say about his novel are fundamental to writing. And this is about how he wrote "The Name of the Rose", not about how it should be read.

Actually, he refers to a lot of his reader´s comments and delights in every new way the story is interpreted. For instance, a 17-year-old boy said he was completely lost in all the theological dispute (there is a lot of it!), but for him, it became a literary extension of the maze theme. It hightened his reading experience of being trapped in that labyrinth of a library. Probably it did for many other readers ("naive", Eco calls them, with no hint of contempt whatsoever), who would not have been able to put it into words though. And perhaps that is why Eco´s books are so very re-readable. You can read them at many levels and in many ways and get something new from them every time.

Eco is one of those authors who makes their readers feel smart, and smarter for having read him. He is hilariously funny, extremely learned, offers a good story with width and depth and when I try to describe him words like delightful and enchanting come to me. He claims to write only for the joy of it, for fun. I believe him. There is no angst here, no tortured artist. He seems to be a perfect match of wise and learned man and giggly child. At least as an author. And I recommend his books to anyone, really. I believe any reader (at least over fifteen) could have great fun with Umberto Eco. 

My need of Olof

My copy of "Cat´s Cradle" was old and yellowed and hard on my hands (some other paper shuffling didn´t help any) and now I´m reading Olof Lagercrantz again, with cotton gloves on. If I´m not careful, I´ll soon be constricted to whatever is available electronically and I don´t like it. But perhaps the answer lies with Lagercrantz. In "Vårt behov av Olof" (= our need of Olof), a friendship book given to him on his 90th birthday (I suppose there would have been too many speeches for him to hear at the birthday dinner if they hadn´t given all those writers a few pages each) one of his friends point out that he read slowly and he read thoroughly, usually he spent three or four years with a book, and that book usually generated a book of his own.

"Min första krets" (= my first circle) is Lagercrantz´s memoir of his first twenty-five years. The book was inspired by his reading of Joseph Conrad´s "Heart of Darkness". Eerily, Lagercrantz found some clues in there to his childhood and his low-aristocratic, military family. What I like about his book is that he does not judge. He only tells it the way he experienced it at the time. Some of the things he has to say about the way he and his siblings were brought up are horrific, and one sister killed herself at nineteen, jumping out of a window. He is actually rather generous towards his father, recognizing that if you have no imagination, how can you act compassionately?

What saved him, in a way, was tuberculosis. It struck him down hard while he was doing military service, he spent several years in sanatoriums, and it wasn´t certain that he would survive. While he was ill, his aunt sent him books from his grandfather´s collection and only then did he begin to read. Rather late in life for a future writer. He doesn´t say so, but I think the reading kind of saved his soul, and maybe it strengthened his will to live. He has later (as many in the friendship book testifies) described his life as a series of awakenings, and literature was certainly what made the world make sense to him. Perhaps that is why I feel so, well, related to him.

I am also happy to see that in the friendship book, someone else has noticed that he, in his portrait of Olof Palme, described something of himself. It makes me feel like I haven´t totally misunderstood him. Lagercrantz has been described as the devil by some (not quite as hated as Palme, though), but I find it hard to understand why. But perhaps the Lagercrantz of the 70´s, the newspaper man, and the old Lagercrantz of 2001, the author, are somewhat different people. And not everyone has the ability to forgive and move on.

Perhaps I should read slower. But I do have books that I return to all the time. Mostly for pleasure though, I´m not sure Austen (for example) has contributed that much to my growth as a human being. Maybe it´s time to re-read some of those books that I always think of as ones that changed my perception of literature and, indeed, reality. Like Milan Kundera´s "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". Is it still as good as it once was? He gave me some clues to my childhood and background! For now, I´ll put it on my list. And try to stay away from paper.


A cheerful apocalypse

"One time," said Castle, "when I was about fifteen, there was a mutiny near here on a Greek ship bound from Hong Kong to Havana with a load of wicker furniture. The mutineers got control of the ship, didn´t know how to run her, and smashed her up on the rocks near 'Papa' Monzano´s castle. Everybody drowned but the rats. The rats and the wicker furniture came ashore."
That seemed to be the end of the story, but I couldn´t be sure. "So?"
"So some people got free furniture, and some people got bubonic plague. At Father´s hospital, we had fourteen hundred deaths inside of ten days. Have you ever seen anyone die of bubonic plague?"
"That unhappiness has not been mine."
"The lymph glands in the groin and the armpits swell to the size of grapefruit."
"I can well believe it."
"After death, the body turns black - coals to Newcastle in the case of San Lorenzo. When the plague was having everything its own way, the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle looked like Auschwitz or Buchenwald. We had stacks of dead so deep and wide that a bulldozer actually stalled trying to shove them toward a common grave. Father worked without sleep for days, worked not only without sleep but without saving many lives, either.
[...] Anyway, one sleepless night I stayed up with Father while he worked. It was all we could do to find a live patient to treat. In bed after bed after bed we found dead people. And Father started giggling," Castle continued. 
"He couldn´t stop. He walked out into the night with his flashlight. He was still giggling. He was making the flashlight beam dance over all the dead people stacked outside. He put his hand on my head, and do you know what that marvelous man said to me?" asked Castle.
"'Son', my father said to me, 'someday this will all be yours.'"
Kurt Vonnegut, as a prisoner of war, was a survivor of the Dresden bombings and helped to bury the dead afterwards. I suspect it could have been this experience that turned him in to the furious humorist that he was. The novel "Cat´s Cradle" (Sw. "Vaggan") is a black comedy about the end of the world, about an invention far more lethal than the hydrogen bomb come into the hands of children. The narrator is the journalist Jonah, or John, who is writing a book about one of the father´s of the atom bomb.

I don´t want to tell you too much about what actually happens. The story has some of the absurd quality of Douglas Adams´ Hitchhiker-series, but there is an unmistakable, red-hot anger here that you don´t find in Adams, who´s only in it for the laugh. Vonnegut is dead serious in his jest.

The psychiatrist Finn Skårderud says in one of his essays, on the subject of what some parents gaily put their kids through, that he can´t make up his mind whether these people are evil or just stupid. Or both. Or perhaps evil and stupidity is the same thing. Vonnegut would have thought so. In this story, published in 1963 but by no means dated, he portays the archetypal scientist-father as a perpetual, egocentric child, completely unconcerned with anyone or anything other than his own amusement. He is brilliant and dangerous in unimaginable ways.

A third author that comes to mind is Zola. When he, in "Germinal", wanted to describe the death of hundreds of people, he mirrored it through a panicked old mining horse´s horrible death, to get at his audience´s hearts and make them cry. Vonnegut does no such thing. He laughs and invites the reader to laugh with him. Because when everybody is dead, who is going to weep? No, the last survivors of Vonnegut´s apocalypse are a cheerful bunch. They live their lives as best they can, to the bitter end. Even the tears they do shed, are subject to laughter. And that is Vonnegut´s concern: the end of us all. Not something many of us can picture, but as a survivor of Dresden, that seems to have been at the heart of Vonnegut´s entire body of work.

Spoiler-warning: A central, but invisible, character is the mysterious Bokonon, a guru and founder of a new religion, hiding in the forrest. The narrator returns to his teachings throughout the book, uses his ideas to try to make sense of what happens. Only on the very last page does Bokonon materialize. What we see is a self-portrait of Vonnegut himself: a traumatized, homeless war-veteran, a stranded Ulysses, a compulsive writer of crazy verse. Or a Job, perhaps, but not humbled. Bokonon looks up at God and gives him the finger.

Vonnegut makes you laugh, but he breaks your heart at the same time. And he writes beautifully. This book is a true classic. I can not recommend it too highly.


Who we think we are

It may look like I´m consciously searching for books that has something to do with diaries. This is not so. But they are queing up, it seems. I have just finished Jan Henrik Swahn´s "Mitt liv som roman" (= my life as a novel) and you may think, as some critics seem to, that here is another memoir with the word "novel" stamped on it to avoid lawsuits from friends and family. However, I can´t really detect any gossip. Colleagues are generally mentioned by first name, and sure, if you are really familiar with the Swedish literary "scene" in the late 80´s, then maybe, but I´m not. No, this is focused on the writer. Most, well, ALL others are little more than shadows in the background.

My first reflection is that this is a very funny book. Swahn reminds me, somehow, of Claes Hylinger. There is something very passive about the lead character (supposedly the author himself) and his passivity puts him in a string of situations where he becomes highly dependent on the kindness of strangers. Seemingly, nothing in his life happens as a result of ambition on his part. Except for the writing, of course. Or, well, hardly even that.

The premise is that the author (now in his early 50´s) has lost his diary, and he is now trying to recapture what memories he still has of his life. It´s an excavation into the memorybanks, not primarily to tell the story of his life, but to see what memories are there, which ones are not there any more, and he is trying to understand why. On the back cover it says that in reality, losing the diary was the ficticious part of the story, but once the book was finished, the police called him and told him all his diaries had been lost in a fire. And while I can well imagine that a lot in this book is not any more true than that fictitious loss, what I do believe is that Swahn is a diarist. He thinks like a diarist, is occupied with the obsessions of a diarist.

He is persuasive, he wants the reader to believe that he is honest (though perhaps not always truthful). When the going gets tough for him and he is saved by a series of outrageously unlikely circumstances, he turns to his audience and says "do you really think I could have made this up? do you really think I would have expected you to believe this? but seriously, this is how life is, this is just how fantastic it can be sometimes". And we believe him. It might be reverse psychology, though. Whatever. It´s a good story.

And he reflects on how the story of one´s life can change in an instant. After a very bad year in Copenhagen, when he has frozen and starved after having been thrown out by his girlfriend, he escapes to a free month in a friend´s house in Provence, with hardly any money in his pocket. He lives hand-to-mouth and manages to get a story on paper. When the publisher hands him the contract he signs it and instantly, his "life of extreme destitution" has turned into "the year when he wrote his second novel". And his hardships become amusing anecdotes from the artist´s life instead of worrying signs of failed ambitions and a life going terribly wrong.

This is not a novel about a life. This is a novel about the idea of storytelling. And not primarily the elevated technicalities of the novelist´s writing or poet´s creations, but the storytelling that we all do when we interact with other people. We all have different versions of our life´s story, depending on our audience, and our stories change over time. The versions we rarely use, we forget. I bet we all have stories we´d happily entertain our friends with over a pint, but wouldn´t mention to dad or mum. It´s all about who we want to be, how we percieve our identity. Who are we? Swahn asks the question all throughout the book, who is he? He, and all his family, have black hair. (They are constantly pulled aside in customs.) Where did they come from? No one really knows, but there are several stories that run in different branches of the family tree. The point is, I think, that that is what matters. Not the truth, but the story.

And why do people become diarist anyway? Is it because they want to keep the memories with them or because they want to be able to let them go? Perhaps it´s a bit of both. It´s like a back up, like an external disc that´s there in case you want to look something up. And why are so many diarists fantasizing about loosing their diaries? Why does the loss of it make them free? Because too much memory weighs us down, restricts our creativity to re-shape our identities. But only if we believe in the fiction, only if we actually believe that what happened to us was the god-honest truth. If we think of our diary as a work of fiction from start to finish, then perhaps it will give us only pleasure. Then perhaps we can flip the pages and say "look, this is who I once thought I was".

"Mitt liv som roman" is the story of Jan Henrik Swahn´s life as he wants to believe that is was. He is now a middle aged author, and it suits him to mythologize that he once was that starving young boy, sad, but brilliant. All autobiographies are a certain kind of fiction, of course, but Swahn is honest about it, and that is what elevates his book from biography to novel. He does not believe his fiction, not entirely anyway.

If I were teaching creative writing, this is the book I would choose for my students. I can just imagine the discussions!


A human comes forth

I needed more of Olof Lagercrantz and I found three books. First, there is "Mina egna ord" (= my own words), which is a collection of articles from his years as culture and chief editor at Dagens Nyheter (= Daily News), from 1951 to 1975. Most of it is about foreign policy, about the Soviet, about anti-semitism, about Africa, the USA and so on. I particularly liked a piece on Olof Palme from 1974, which I find more true and respectful of the real man than much I have read about him in later years. Lagercrantz worked for a mid/rightwing paper, but he liked and respected Palme. Perhaps he saw something of himself in him.

Lagercrantz actually lets Palme speak for him in the next one, "Ett år på sextiotalet" (= a year in the sixties). This is a memoir about his life as a newspaper man, and he focuses on 1967-68 in flashbacks from his life as a retiree in the late 80´s, when he struggles with old age and regrets, perhaps even remorse. He begins with the hard words from a former friend who blamed him publicly for Harry Martinson´s death, he even quotes the parts that were censured by the paper for fear of a law suit (by this time he had quit the paper himself). He does not try to redeem himself though. Instead, later in the book, he tells a story about a conversation with Olof Palme only about a month before his murder, when the politician complains of being abused in the press. Lagercrantz encourages him to speak up against it, but Palme says: "It´s no use." And that seems to be Lagercrantz´s own position.
He becomes wonderfully poetical about writing, about art. Here, an excerpt, in my own crude translation:
The secret of writing is that someone is reading, just as the secret of speaking is that someone is listening. It´s only then, when we begin to listen for a response, that life begins. Perhaps there will be no response, but our longing for it gives birth from the darkness to an ear, from the depth to an eye, from the mud to a tongue.
To write is to practice friendship on an arena where friends come forth and listen. These friends do not meet eye to eye, don´t know each other at all. But alone, in fellowship, they see the words on the paper and the lines and colours in the painting.
They study the movement in the depth that has been transmitted upwards. They are together and all the monstrous faces in the labyrinth are disolved and a human comes forth that we may call brother, sister, friend.
Finally, there is a collection of poems, "Tröst för min älskling" (= consolation for my darling). Well, it´s poetry, what do you expect me to say? I just don´t have the sensibilities for it.  
Next, I´m aiming for his auto-biography, apparently there is one. He was sprung from an old military family and I sense a soldier´s pathos in his duty towards his paper, towards the idea of free speech and his sense of responsibility to uphold a healthy climate of debate in this country. A sense of personal responsibility. A rare thing, I find. A flawed man, no doubt, was Lagercrantz, as we all are, but god, I like him!

Introduction to Austen

I picked up this book because, well, I can´t pass a book about Jane Austen and not pick it up. This is Vivi Edström´s "Livets gåtor - Jane Austen" (= life´s riddles). I have leafed through it, looked at it more than read it, I suppose.

This is a charming introduction to anyone who knows nothing about Austen and have not read all her books. It´s chatty, it´s personal. However, if you´re at the level of reading academic papers on Austen, you will find it tedious.

And that´s really all I have to say about it. Except perhaps, that the sweet illustration on the cover is a watercolour by Cassandra Austen, Jane´s sister, and she may well have been the model.


How to look at Art

I bought this book when I was recently in Stockholm, at the National Art Museum, which I visit if I have a chance, it being one of my all-time favourite places. The title is "Mellan konsten och publiken" (= between art and its audience), the author is art pedagogue Göran Ståhle, and I expected this to be a source of education that would enrich my further explorations of art.

Well, maybe to some extent. But, I would label this pamflett rather than essay. The author is subjective, opinionated, ranting, furious, and sometimes he makes a point that I find interesting. It´s a bit like having dinner with someone who has a whole lot to get out of his chest and doesn´t appreciate being interrupted. Also, his texts could have done with some proof-reading.

Ståhle kicks in every direction: artists, politicians, critics, audiences, buyers, sellers, collegues. And he tends to be, what shall I say, hm, self-glorifying. At times. Sometimes he remembers to be becomingly humble, as well. And sometimes he asks some interesting questions. What I appreciate most about this book is its irreverence to a subject often treated with unnecessary solemnity and respect. I find that refreshing and he pokes rather hard at some of my own preconceived notions about art. Quite a useful thing, I think.

This book is very much perishable, it´s for the here and now and I shall attempt to pass it on as soon as I can. I can probably think of some interested recipients.


On the Moor with Holmes

I have just finished the fourth in the series about Mary Russel, the young wife of Sherlock Holmes. This is "The Moor", by Laurie R King. If you know your Sherlockiana - well, even if you have a rudimentary knowledge about Conan Doyle´s classics - you´ll guess that this is a return to Dartmoor and the scene of the case of the hound of Baskerville.

Our heroine, Russel, is in Oxford, working on a book of her own, when the adventure begins. She is summoned to Dartmoor by a couple of insistant telegrams from Holmes, and she reluctantly comes. And then, not much happens the first half of the book. Holmes is distant and vague, Russel is mostly stumbling around in rain and mud, being cold and hungry and feeling her tasks are anything but relevant. It´s not even particularly certain that they are on a real case. They are staying with an old man with the peculiar name of Sabine Baring-Gould, an actual real-life person, who´s relationship to Holmes is a bit of a mystery as well. Baring-Gould has a feeling not all is well on the moor and that is, more or less, what they are investigating. Russel is frustrated, as am I, and I fully sympathise with her when on page 133 she falls on her face one time too many (thrown off the back of an ornery horse):

"So I lay flat on my back and cried like a child [...] in frustration at the ridiculous mockery of detective work I was forced to carry out and at my inability to anticipate the antics of my four-legged companion, in rage at the horse and at the sudden shock of pain; at everything and nothing, I cried."

However, after that the story picks up speed and in the end we have a couple of bona fide villains, a rainy and muddy chase on the moor and a happy end. And mid-novel I had motive both to read the original Baskerville-novel by Conan Doyle and see the tv-film with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock. Just wished I had had the old film with Basil Rathbone. I remember scenes from it quite vividly, despite not having seen it for at least twenty years or so. (Interestingly, before Rathbone had a go at the role, there had been four German versions made!)

Having just read Conan Doyle himself have increased my admiration for King, who really has managed to be true to the Sherlock character. I think Sherlock Holmes is one of those literary characters that somehow have become mythological in our culture and, as recent years have proven, he can be revived into any time and any place and be as interesting and engaging as ever.

I would like to add that King´s writing should be studied by all those writers who have been honored with the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. She does sex really well:

"My hair was nearly dry by the time Holmes came upstairs. He had paused to change more than his muddy boots, and looked very appealing, tall and slim in his jet suit and snowy shirtfront. One thing led to another, as is the wont in a marriage, and we did not get around to speaking about Ketteridge until after the housemaid had fetched up the morning tea."

That´s as steamy as I can take it, actually...

And now I am quite curious about Dartmoor. We are going to pass not far from it this summer, but our plans are focused to sights along the coast. I think a visit to the moor will have to wait to another year. It´s always nice to have a reason to return to a place, isn´t it?