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FROM HOLMES TO SHERLOCK

THE STORY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO CREATED AN ICON

For fans of literature, film history, and Conan Doyle alike, a fine complement to the best works of Sherlock-iana.

A spirited account of how Sherlock became a household name.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary creation was, of course, a hit from the moment he first bowed in 1887, with eager readers awaiting his every move in the pages of The Strand and books for the next couple of decades. But Holmes, writes Swedish Sherlock-ian Boström, might have remained a musty artifact from the Victorian past had not a small army of fans and creators taken pains to keep him updated. If it’s true that every generation needs a fresh translation of Homer, then it seems that every generation has also gotten its own Sherlock. As a creator of the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman vehicle observed, “to prove Holmes immortal…it’s essential he’s not preserved in Victorian aspic—but allowed to live again!” Boström takes the story from Conan Doyle’s pen all the way up to the most recent emanations, not just the Cumberbatch-ian Sherlock, but also Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock on the CBS drama Elementary. By the end of the second season, Miller had “beat the record for the actor who had portrayed Sherlock Holmes the most times in films or on television.” Take that, Basil Rathbone! Of course, old Basil played his generational role, as did the dutiful screenwriters and film executives who marshalled Holmes into the Allied ranks during World War II, an ideological struggle “woven into a number of film series that were already underway—regardless of whether they were about Tarzan or starred the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello.” Indeed, Boström’s weaving of the Holmes story into the larger one of popular culture and the mass-entertainment industry is the best part of this very good book.

For fans of literature, film history, and Conan Doyle alike, a fine complement to the best works of Sherlock-iana.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2660-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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