Some novels stay with us long after we put the book down. Though they make an indelible impression upon us, we wouldn't dare to consider our favorites as classics when compared to the works of such revered authors as Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsky or Leo Tolstoy. Perhaps because it is easier now to publish and to be published than it was back in the 19th century, literature has become more commercialized over time. Today's authors tend to focus on sensationalism rather than longevity.
Thanks to social media, the information age has spoiled us in that we are afforded multiple opportunities daily to read stories that will only temporarily resonate. Though we can probably recall one or two of the more potent anecdotes we have read, it is a sure bet that most of us cannot remember these same stories a year later, the stories we were so excited to share with others via a Facebook share or an e-mail. It's a wonder that classic novels continue to survive through newer generations.
The way in which we receive this media has only recently begun to change over the past decade with the introduction of tablet computers like the Kindle or the Nook, though the works of such authors as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens will live on for decades more in their digital format. We have kept these stories alive for years, and we have no intention of stopping now.
So what was it in previous centuries that we have lost along the way in our ability to transform a literary work into a classic? Is it the material's malleability? Classics like Hugo's Les Miserables can be recreated time and time again into fresh interpretations that continue to captivate newer audiences. Les Miserables also has the benefit of remaining relevant, going with the ebb and flow of economic and cultural change. As long as poor people are suffering, Les Miserables will have a home in modern culture.
With regard to the beloved detective Sherlock Holmes, it is probably safe to say that it was Arthur Conan Doyle's enthralling storytelling skill that has kept people reading and passing down these same tales for generations. The subject of Sherlock Holmes is even taught in universities, and it is easy to see why. Holmes is a fascinating character and one who is worthy of further study as an individual. The cases he cracks and explains to us through his sidekick, Dr. Watson are the icing on top of the cake we are already enjoying.
Each Holmes fan has a favorite tale, whether it's "A Study in Scarlet" (where it all began), "The Sign of the Four" or "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." We relate these tales to friends and family with the same sparkle in our eye that we can imagine Doyle had in his as he committed each of these fine anecdotes to paper, maybe never realizing how truly beloved and timeless they would become.
To this day, we continue to reinvent Sherlock Holmes. Fans of the television series "Sherlock" are "locked in" to the charm of Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, War Horse) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), two actors that compliment each other so well and are such a great fit that it is nearly impossible to read a Holmes story going forward without imagining these two in the leads. Cumberbatch and Freeman don't simply act - they become.
And let's not forget the films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Sure, the 2010 original had its flaws (was Rachel McAdams' portrayal of Irene Adler truly necessary?), but Downey's lightening-fast delivery and Law's mild-mannered counterpoint provided a wonderful personification of the classic material that we had been paying less attention to at that point. 2012's follow-up, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows proved to be a disappointing sequel, though Jared Harris' ("Mad Men") Moriarty is deliciously evil.
Some may remember the Steven Spielberg presented, Barry Levinson directed Young Sherlock Holmes from 1985 in which Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox portrayed young versions of the detective and his doctor friend. Sure, it messes with the origin of how these two characters met, but it was a delightful tale just the same. Anyone who has seen this film will surely remember the Egyptian rituals and the solving of the crime on campus, but most probably don't know that this film showcased some early CGI work by none other than Pixar!
The beauty of many of Holmes' cases is that what first appears to be a supernatural event can be broken down into real world events if one simply takes the time to observe. This appeals to so many of us as we try to crack the cases before Holmes can explain them to us. Would we make as good of a detective as Holmes?
Holmes is a cynical character who, despite his deep-seated obsession with escaping from the doldrums of ordinary life (even if that means resorting to recreational drug use), becomes lovable in spite of himself. He can be an egotist at times, which can chafe even the most devout admirer, but he also commands respect with his delicious brilliance.
We love to see justice get served, and Holmes was a lot of fictional folks' best shot at getting their man. Of course, Holmes wasn't perfect and some criminals slipped through his fingers, but, as he often expressed to Watson, he was content to let karma exact its revenge in the end. He rarely spoke until he was sure, and he never let emotion rule his reasoning.
A mind like the one Doyle created in Holmes should never be forgotten. Ladies who fantasize over smarts and cynics who love a kindred mind find it easy to admire Sherlock Holmes. It is no wonder that stories involving such a character still appeal to us all these years later and that we continue to make him relevant. Everyone wants to be Holmes' Watson, to be privy to his intricate explanations and to accompany him on his newest adventures.
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