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Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong by Pierre Bayard

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong (edition 2008)

by Pierre Bayard

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1751167,867 (3.55)19
Title:Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong
Authors:Pierre Bayard
Info:Bloomsbury (2008), Paperback
Collections:Read but unowned

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Sherlock Holmes was Wrong: Re-opening the Case of the "Hound of the Baskervilles" by Pierre Bayard

  1. 10
    Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet?: Further Puzzles in Classic Fiction by John Sutherland (juglicerr)
    juglicerr: These are both readable, intelligent readings into the text of works, asking questions that I am sometimes embarrassed to admit never occurred to me. Both authors have other books along the same lines.
  2. 10
    The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (meggyweg)

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English (8)  French (2)  German (1)  All (11)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This book is playful, funny and amazing and adds so much to its subject. Having read THotB though is pretty much required preparation, and ideally some more Sherlock Holmes stories.

However, a caveat: This book requires you to like metafiction and be prepared to tolerate a charming arrogance/wankiness about literature though, but if you've read Sherlock Holmes then you should be up to the task. If you don't read it with too serious a face, it's really enjoyable. ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
Drawing on and expanding his previous works of what he terms "detective criticism," in Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong (Bloomsbury, 2008) Pierre Bayard reopens The Hound of the Baskervilles and suggests that by a rigorous applications of Holmes' own detecting methods, the murderer was likely not the man ultimately fingered by Holmes and Watson, but someone else entirely.

A creative idea, and some of Bayard's reasoning is fun to follow and interesting to read. He makes some interesting points about the timing of the publication of Hound and Conan Doyle's ambivalence about resurrecting Holmes (perhaps reading a bit too deeply into the author's psychological state while doing so), and muses on the power of fictional characters: can they at times "cross the gap," as it were, and become more than just words on a page? It's no accident, I expect, that the initial epigram is a quote from Jasper Fforde.

In offering a close reading of the Hound itself, Bayard relies too heavily on a French translation of the novel, in which the translator uses canine descriptors for Holmes (thus "his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight" from the original English becomes "his eyes gleamed like a wolf's" in the French translation). Thus, Bayard's use of the translation to make a point that Conan Doyle is connecting Holmes and the Hound doesn't quite hold up.

While Bayard's plausible case for a different killer with a carefully-honed agenda makes for provocative reading, it's no less circumstantial a case than Holmes' is against the canonical murderer. Nonetheless, if you like exploring alternative interpretations of literary events, this is a book worth picking up.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-sherlock-holmes-was-wrong.ht... ( )
4 vote JBD1 | Jul 12, 2011 |
Egad, I say. Whatever is this? Apparently 823.912 is the Dewey number for criticism and commentary on 19th and 20th century English authors, so as I ogled my way through a shelf of books looking for Tolkien commentary, I saw things like 'The James Joyce Companion', several Agatha Christie readers, a dozen books about Dickens, and this one that caught my eye. It presents an astoundingly sound re-examination of the case and also had some essaying about the reality of fictional characters. Really, it was more like two short books mixed together. The author discussed how we psychologically enter the realm of fictional characters (which is what makes the good stories so universally appealing), and, in their own way, the fictional personas enter into our reality. This is more obvious with Holmes, as his methods of observation and deduction are quite handy and impressive. I have amazed people by noticing the white line where a ring has been or asking someone where they got their pantlegs wet on a sunny day. I love the human intellect. It's such a fun buddy to have around. But I digress from my point. Apparently Conan Doyle really grew to hate Holmes because the clamor for more Holmes tales took time away from what he considered his more important writings, like the White Company and all that other stuff of his that almost nobody reads. That's why he killed of Holmes at Reichenbach Falls and had to invent an anti-Holmes to carry out the murder. The public uproar was such that his publishers demanded more Holmes stories and Conan Doyle did so reluctantly, and only with the doubling of his royalties. Bayard then goes on to show how Doyle's hatred for Holmes carried into that return story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. He builds up a surprisingly strong case around Holmes errors, of which there are actually several in the corpus of stories, shows how Doyle portrayed Holmes as a feral hound himself, points out that Holmes is actually absent in person from almost the entire story, then finishes with an alternative solution that actually makes more sense than the original. I was very surprised with this book, most notably with the psychological reality of fiction part. That alone made this a fairly valuable read and explains why fantasy lovers really, really love their favorites. Or why others hate it, I suppose. The bit about Doyle was fairly old news to me, but it may not be to others, and the parsing of a fictional story was the highlight of the book in theory, but was actually not that important. It's not like Monsieur Bayard found Jimmy Hoffa's body or solved some real crime. Still, I say if your library has this book, go ahead and check it out as it is a pretty fulfilling and yet short read. Oh, Bayard also wrote Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? along the same lines, and as a minor warning he throws in a total spoiler of Christie's Towards Zero as part of his theory about the Baskerville murders. ( )
8 vote DirtPriest | Sep 13, 2010 |
The fog swirls along shuttered streets. Voices make their disembodied way in the mist, now near, now fading off. An ominous howl warns mariners from these ancient rocks, lest they join their drowned brothers in the octopus quadrille. There's a sudden gasp as tendrils of fog part to reveal a giant hound, slavering, straining at the leash. Two men immediately cross the street to escape its wolfish jaws.

Could this beast be the fearful curse of the Baskervilles? No, merely me walking Kai, our malamute mix along the beach in Seattle. Atmophere does funny things to perspective.

Which is sort of the point of Bayard's piece of literary criticism. I found the concept more interesting than the execution. While his rendering of a possible alternate killer, and the reasons behind it, were intriguing and plausible, his manner of getting there was a yawn.

First off, relying on Freudian psychology for a portion of his explanation of the relationship between Doyle and his creation struck me as a bit of an eye brow raiser. I think it's fine to pschoanalyze this relationship, if one is still into that sort of thing. But Freud? Really? As great a man as he was, I can't take his theories seriously at this point. Too much time, science, experience, knowledge has gone by.

Also, I found his exposition of the reality of the shared space between the creation/creator/reader just a little too Ffordian for me. Sure, as a writer my characters become real for me, and I hope they become real for my readers. I do not expect them to start having a "real" life of their own. And if literary characters are going to start doing that, may I make a request as to which ones could come visit?

Overall, I didn't feel it added anything new to the canon, or to my perspective on literature. ( )
1 vote Philotera | Apr 8, 2010 |
"The main premise of detective criticism is this: many of the murders narrated in literature were not committed by the people accused by the text. In literature, as in life, the true criminals often elude the investigators and allow secondary characters to be accused and condemned. In its passion for justice, detective criticism commits itself to rediscovering the truth. If it is unable to arrest the guilty parties, it can at least clear the names of the innocent."

This is literary criticism like you've never read it. When I picked up this book, I thought it was a fan fiction approach to Sherlock Holmes. What I ended up reading was an entertaining, thought-provoking and convincing argument that Sherlock Holmes did not solve The Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Read the full review here. ( )
1 vote meg89 | Jan 4, 2009 |
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The barriers between reality and fiction are softer than we think; a bit like a frozen lake. Hundreds of people can walk across it, but then one evening a thin spot develops and someone falls through; the hole is frozen over by the following morning.
—Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
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From the chamber where she has been locked for hours, the young woman hears shouts and laughter rising from the great dining hall below.
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Eliminate the impossible, Holmes said, and whatever is left must be the solution. But as Pierre Bayard finds in this dazzling reinvestigation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, sometimes the master missed his mark. Using the last thoughts of the murder victim as his key, Bayard unravels the case, leading the reader to the astonishing conclusion that Holmes – and, in fact, Arthur Conan Doyle – got things all wrong: The killer is not at all who they said it was.

Part intellectual entertainment, part love letter to crime novels, and part crime novel in itself, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong turns one of our most beloved stories delightfully on its head. Examining the many facets of the case and illuminating the bizarre interstices between Doyle’s fiction and the real world, Bayard demonstrates a whole new way of reading mysteries: a kind of “detective criticism” that allows readers to outsmart not only the criminals in the stories we love, but also the heroes — and sometimes even the writers.

[retrieved from Amazon 1/3/2012]
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A reinvestigation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" poses an alternative solution to the case that is based on hidden clues within the story's text, in a fan's recreation that illuminates unusual interstices between Doyle's fiction and the real world.… (more)

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