On Sherlock Holmes

I will write about Europe. I promise. The trip was, in fact, quite amazing. My only complaint is that the whole affair was entirely too affable. There was no significant obstacles to overcome or challenges to be met with creativity and force. Vienna was beautiful. Venice was elegant and delicious. Torino and the surrounding area of Asti provided breathtaking views for an unforgettable wedding. Everyone was happy. Weather was lovely except for one Monday afternoon when the sky poured rain; a couple of wet socks never hurt anyone. I have yet to test Boyfriend Billy’s true traveling abilities because everything went so darn swimmingly.

So on to my newest obsession: Sherlock Holmes. My love affair with the man, the myth, and the legend began with the BBC television show “Sherlock” of which many of you are aware. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, I recommend you stop reading this blog immediately and watch it. Each episode is long, about 1.5 hours, more like a small movie than a regular television show. The stories follow Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson through the most amazing adventures, all based off existing stories written by the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Series 4 will be out in January 2017 and Benedict Cumberbach has admitted that this will be the last season.I have deduced that my most recent obsession is for more than Cumberbach’s piercing blue eyes and steely resolve (and magic skills). I’m drawn to Sherlock’s genius sleuthing skills and impassioned compulsion to seek the truth for no more but the sheer thrill of the unanswered question. I love the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Both characters contains essential elements that the other lacks. Together they make up a most perfect pair who I would willingly follow on countless more adventures through the dark and mysterious streets on London. Were all of us as lucky to find such a true friend…

IMG_5031.jpgAbout a week ago, I wandered into The Strand on my lunch break. There is something I find calming about walking up and down shelves of books. I never know when a new title or wellworn classic  will unlock new ideas inside my dusty head. As fate would have it, I stumbled across The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on sale no less. I knew I had to have it. It’s been my trusty and heavy travel companion ever since. It feels fitting that I found the book at The Strand, a bookstore that shares its name with the monthly magazine that first published the adventures Sherlock Holmes back in 1891.

“As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity as to his aims in life gradually deepened and increased. His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piecing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” A Study in Scarlet, page 8.

Now that’s my kind of man.

I can’t help but imagine a world where all mysteries could be solved by sheer observation; all the answers we seek are around us, if only we had the time and the knowledge to look. I believe that, at times, we all act as amateur Sherlock Holmes, attempting to play the role in our own lives. We attempt to piece together the past in order to understand and interpret the events in our present and future. Indeed, some puzzles are easier to solve than others and often we lack the necessary evidence to complete the picture. At these moments, we long for a crystal ball or a looking glass to make the most complex darkness appear as clear as day.

I know I, as well as Dr. John Watson, can learn a thing or two from the great master himself. 

“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’s musical disquisition.

“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.”

Have a great week everyone.

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On the Existence of Bookstores & Animals

Long live the tiny neighborhood bookstore. In many places outside of major cities, small bookstores are a thing of the past. Remember You’ve Got Mail? Meg Ryan closes up her mother’s family bookstore, no longer being able to compete with megastores like those owned by Tom Hanks. Meg finds love but not all small business owners are that lucky. Big box stores, Amazon and the rise of e-books have pushed increased volume and cut prices to successfully diminish the hand-to-hand book selling business. 

In Hoboken, among the fast food windows and college-style bars, there are not one but TWO bookstores. Symposia, a bookstore and community center, is located right on main Washington Street. Rows of books are lined up on the sidewalk displays and I’m guilty of having stopped a number of times to run my fingers over worn titles as if recounting names of old friends. Only after doing a quick Google search, I realized that Symposia is also a “public benefit nonprofit corporation organized and operated exclusively for educational and charitable purposes.” What’s not to love? And it was in this bookstore where my mother found a gently used copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

I had successfully avoided reading Eating Animals since its release in 2009 while I was a sophomore in college. The title itself seemed aggressive, like a vegan was screaming at me from a megaphone, “Do you see that girl Katelyn? She’s EATING ANIMALS!” With all my sustainability classes focuses in biology, ethics, and philosophy, I couldn’t stomach yet another example of how humanity was royally screwing up the planet.

And then, last month, my mom harmlessly slid the green cover across the lunch table and said, “I just walked into that little bookstore right across the street and HAD to get you this. Have you read it?”

 

So here I am, halfway through the book, completely immersed. Jonathan Safran Foer is a fiction writer who set out to answer a personal question, “What should I feed my kid?” His question is so simple and so without an agenda that the reader cannot help but grab his extended hand and follow along. I won’t go through his quest or quote his many gasp-inducing statistics about the process of eating animals except to say that he seemed to wrestle with the same questions that were rolling around inside my own head.

As I read Eating Animals (on the subway, in the lunch room), I can’t help but think about the path that led us from a hunting and gathering society to one of mass produced factory farms. We have grown exponentially in population and our appetite for all types of delicious beef, pork, chicken and turkey have grown beyond comprehension. We want cheap meat all the time and have found a solution to satisfy our needs (wants). Today, we would be physically unable to eat the quantity of meat we do if animals were raised and killed in the methods from a century ago. Small barns to factory lots. Store front to big box stores.

Like the meat industry, I wonder if we have subconsciously chosen “factory farmed literature” over small independent booksellers. Internet giants like Amazon have indeed cut into profits from the likes of Barnes and Noble and Borders (RIP). To my immense surprise, it seems these smaller bookstores are making a vibrant and profitable comeback. Once again, the reader is seeking a community they can see and books they can feel with their own hands. 

“The independent stores will never be more than a niche business of modest sales and very modest profitability. But the same is true for many small businesses, which makes them no less vital…” Zarchary Karabell, Slate

Customers are consciously choosing to walk into a small bookstore and buy a new find, before devouring each physical page with a hunger and need for the written word. I fear this connection and active voting with both our minds and our wallets will not translate over to another industry that has grown much beyond proportion and comprehension. The average American eats 21,000 entire animals in her lifetime. Our insatiable American appetite is fueled by two day shipping, cheap books and cheaper meat.

But at what cost.