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I am currently working on a comedy mystery novel set in a world somewhat like ours. I can draw with either my right or my left hand, and I love to paint. I administer the blog for The Original Tree Worshippers of Rock County--rocksherlockotw.blogspot.com--a Sherlockian group I co-founded that meets in Janesville, Wisconsin, and am a founding member of The Cherry Street Irregulars, writers who gather (in groups of two or more) with laptops to create, critique, and support one another.
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Not the Only Woman: The Point of Irene Adler

This was originally written in answer to some posts on Tumblr stating that Watson being a woman takes away from the point of Irene Adler as the only woman Holmes respected, some saying this is a bad thing and some fantastic ones saying it’s a good thing. This is my response to both, originally posted on a reblog, and then getting its very own spotlight on my all-Elementary blog, The Elementarian, and now here, with slight revisions.

But Irene Adler isn’t the only woman Holmes respected, and indeed, what kind of point would it be if she were? Then it just says that Holmes met one woman who was worthy of respect; the end. But turn it another way; look at it under this light: Holmes met a woman who made him realize that there was more to women.

Before this (chronologically), he had been sympathetic to women, always ready, with Watson, to take on the role of knight-errant. Mary Morstan even refers to them as such in The Sign of Four. Holmes says of Miss Morstan, now Watson’s fiancée, “I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father.”

There is little evidence in the stories of an active “dislike” of women; although Watson might have been fooled, the reader seldom is. As for a distrust, Holmes didn’t trust anyone, and I would go so far as to say there are examples that show he didn’t trust Watson completely, nor was he worthy of being so trusted himself, which he probably knew. He knew the proscribed conditions of women’s lives, and, because of this, he was not unsympathetic to them.

If meeting Irene Adler opened Holmes' eyes a little further to the fact that women could reach beyond their assigned roles, that’s a much more exciting concept than her point being that she was the one woman who equaled or approached equaling or beat him.

(In fact, there is debate about whether she was the woman mentioned in “The Five Orange Pips,” when Holmes says, “I have been beaten four times—three times by men, and once by a woman.” The case is dated earlier than “A Scandal in Bohemia,” so we are left with the possibilities of misdating or a woman who beat Holmes before Irene Adler, perhaps not such an honorable woman or one so worthy of respect.)

But say that Adler’s narrative function is to make Holmes more aware of the possibilities of women. Mary Morstan had a decided genius for detective work, but she married Watson and was happy with that kind of life. Perhaps it was so for all women. 

Then there is Adler, enjoying playing the game against him, someone with whom he is ultimately more sympathetic than his client. And in the end, she shows the king mercy when she has him in her power; this is what puts her on a “different” (higher) “level” from the king. Holmes is not in love with Adler, but he sees her more clearly in the end, understands and admires her. His education in the matter of brave, intelligent women is underway.

In “The Copper Beeches” (a case usually dated by chronologists as 1890, two years after the date given for “A Scandal in Bohemia”), Violet Hunter functions very much as the investigator on the scene (in his fascinating book, The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes, and Other Eccentric Readings, Michael Atkinson writes that “Violet is as bright and observant as Holmes—and is the better detective”) and wins praise from the consulting detective: “You seem to me to have acted all through this matter like a brave and sensible girl, Miss Hunter. Do you think that you could perform one more feat? I should not ask it of you if I did not think you a quite exceptional woman.”

As late as “The Lion’s Mane,” when Holmes has retired to keep bees in Sussex, he says of Maud Bellamy that “she possessed strong character as well as great beauty” and would “always remain in [his] memory as a most complete and remarkable woman.”

The only woman Sherlock Holmes ever respected? Not by a long shot. An important part of the evolution of his character? Hell, yes.


Upon the Distinction Between Admiration and Love: Some Remarks on Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler by Resa Haile

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.”

A Scandal in Bohemia has one of the classic first lines in literature, right up there with “Call me Ishmael,” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Sherlock Holmes, a single man in possession of the wits to make his fortune, did not believe himself in want or need of a wife. But what were his feelings about the woman, Irene Adler?

According to Watson, Holmes felt no “emotion akin to love for her.” It might with justification be asserted that Watson is not always the best deducer of what Holmes is thinking or feeling, and Holmes is not that forthcoming with his feelings on all occasions. Perhaps it is good for business for him to be thought of as just an “observing and reasoning machine”; perhaps it is safer; there are, however, numerous moments in Watson’s chronicles that show Holmes’ emotions.

This is not, however, the same as saying Holmes was in love with Adler or even had a deep emotional investment in her. Putting aside such speculations, which have been well mined by many writers, as to Holmes’ having known Adler before or becoming involved with her later, let us examine the story at hand.

Although Holmes describes Irene Adler as having “a face that a man might die for,” it is open to debate whether he is that man. He certainly is untroubled by her marriage. The King of Bohemia cannot believe that she loves Godfrey Norton, but Holmes hopes she does because it will aid him in achieving his objective.

When he is wished a good-night by a familiar voice he has recently heard (although altered, probably deepened, as she is in the guise of a slim youth), Holmes cannot quite identify it. Is he off his game here? Or has he begun to feel himself on the wrong side of the case and decided to let the lady go? As an opera singer, Adler (now Norton) could be expected to have vocal control that might even fool Mr. Sherlock Holmes in a brief greeting without its reflecting badly on Holmes’ abilities or his intentions towards his client.

Holmes clearly enjoys working on this case. He enjoys disguising himself and misleading people. Even those who know him, like Dr. Watson and Athelney Jones, are often unable to recognise him, so Adler’s ability to penetrate his disguise, however belatedly, would be likely to impress him. Adler had been warned about Holmes, but, when her suspicions were awakened, she still had to change her outfit and arrive at 221B so close behind Holmes and Watson that they had not yet entered the building. (One suspects her of changing in the carriage on the way.) This quick-change ability is perhaps another by-product of her stage training, and yet another reason for Holmes to admire her once he receives the letter which gives him all this information.

For, offhand remarks regarding her looks aside, Holmes’ true admiration for Irene Norton, née Adler begins when, after arriving at her house and finding her flown with the photograph, he reads the letter. It is at this point that Holmes discovers many things to admire about Mrs. Norton.

She saw through his disguise.

She disguised herself with impressive speed.

Her disguise fooled him.

Finally, she has shown mercy to the King who, at least according to her letter (and her point of view), doesn’t deserve it.

Whether it was a moment of regret that he could not get to know such an admirable woman better or merely the desire for a memento of the adventure—and one which (an added bonus) might bother the King—that led Holmes to ask him for Irene’s photograph, Dr. Watson would never be able to tell us. Only Holmes knows. But I imagine him, after reading Watson’s account of the case, lecturing the good doctor for putting too much romance into it. Watson then, of course, objects that he clearly stated Holmes did not feel “any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler,” that “[a]ll emotions. . . were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind,” that “as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position.”

“But you have laid so much emphasis on this,” Holmes retorts, “as to cause the reader to wonder if you are, like the lady in The Murder of Gonzago, protesting too much. I fear these rumours will dog my steps for quite some time.”

Note: This post was originally posted on The Original Tree Worshippers of Rock County blog at rocksherlockotw.blogspot.com in September 2010.



Pro-Liu: Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson

My Facebook page supporting Lucy Liu being cast as Dr. Watson is up to 21 Likes. It has lots of links to other blogs with articles about race, gender, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Lucy Liu.http://www.facebook.com/ProLiuLucyLiuAsDrWatson

Here are some links to interesting blog posts
 (sometimes the comments section is really interesting too) 
on the subject of Lucy Liu as Watson:


Mary Hatch, the True Villain of

It's a Wonderful Life

by Resa Haile

First, of course, I acknowledge that It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic of American filmmaking, combining elements of screwball comedy, drama, and film noir (the Pottersville sequence). It is a beautiful film, a favorite of mine; I admit this. If you haven't seen this film (which is within the bounds of possibility), go and watch it. I’ll wait here.
Those who have seen the movie know how it ends: George Bailey finds that he really had a wonderful life because of what he has meant in the lives of others. In the uplifting final scene, what he has given to others comes back to him through an outpouring of love and support that saves him from imprisonment and scandal. It is, indeed, a wonderful ending.
In the course of the film, we are shown George’s life, and we are shown what the lives of others would have been if George had never been born, but we are never shown a third possibility. We never see what life would have been like if George had succeeded in “shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off [his] feet and see[ing] the world.” Perhaps if George’s father had not had that stroke—or if Potter had—or both. What might George’s life have been then?
It’s a Wonderful Life is a comedy and a tragedy. In the classical definitions of these terms, comedy means the hero wins and tragedy means the hero loses. In the traditional view of It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is the hero and Mr. Potter the villain. George Bailey wins in the end because he realizes how wonderful his life truly is.
But let us look at the picture in another way, shift the angle, change the lighting. George Bailey never got to do any of the things he dreamed of doing his entire life. Why? Because of Mary Hatch (later Bailey). Mary, like the couple in the story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” is an example of what happens when we are not careful what we wish for. She is the catalyst for all the bad things that happen to the man she loves.
It is in the scene outside the old Granville house (which George says he wouldn’t live in “as a ghost”) that he makes his speech about “shakin’ the dust of this crummy old town” off his feet. He explains to Mary about breaking the glass (the windows of the house, its eyes, representative of the soul) and making a wish. George makes his hatful of wishes, about leaving town, building things, an extension of the dreams he has had since he was a boy, dreams with which we know Mary is familiar.
A look of determination appears on her face, and Mary suddenly breaks a window of the old house, making her wish, the wish that sets the stage for everything that happens afterwards. Mary wishes that George’s wish does not come true, that he stays in town. This wish traps George in Bedford Falls. It is only a short time after this that George’s friends come to tell him that his father has had a stroke, keeping him from leaving for college.
From the moment of Mary’s wish on, whenever George is close to leaving Bedford Falls, tragedy intervenes to stop him. Her wish traps not only George, but Mary herself, who never gets to go on her honeymoon, although she scarcely minds. George and Mary’s wedding night in the house where they have previously broken the windows, a house where the rain drips in through the leaking roof all the way down to the ground floor, is beautifully realized. But from the angle we view the picture, we can see that Mary’s wish is realized again; she has the house she wanted (which George did not) and, although she did not want to stop for the run on the bank, it was her wish at work again (be careful what you wish for); it is her wish that keeps George in Bedford Falls, in the service of everyone’s dreams but his own.
It is his remaining in Bedford Falls that brings him to the brink of suicide, saved only by the intervention of an angel seeking to earn his wings. As we view the picture from this angle, we see that Mary Hatch is the villain in George Bailey’s tragedy.


Accidental Self-Portrait

by Resa Haile 

My first painting and not meant to look like me,
but I was told it did by a couple of people--
hence, the title. I hope I don't often have such a severe aspect!
I reworked this painting so many times that it almost destroyed it.
I took some photos of previous incarnations, which may someday
make it to this space.