Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Fifth Heart.

In this novel by Dan Simmons Sherlock Holmes the worlds most brilliant consulting detective teams up with Henry James one of Americas most distinguished and treasured writers to solve a mystery which the rest of the world does not acknowledge as having even occurred. a mystery which to a large extent exists only in the mind of Holmes and one other person. That other person has,since asking for Holmes assistance, passed on which sort of leaves him as the only one seeking answers.
           It seems mote to point out that of the two only Henry James was an actual person who lived and breathed whilst Sherlock Holmes is accepted as a hugely popular but wholly fictional character.
            Or was he?
             In eighteen ninety three Holmes and James meet beneath a bridge in Paris.not as romantic as it sounds. they were both there to do away with them selves. both driven to mutual self destruction by the extremities of their own personalities.Shortly thereafter they find themselves travelling to the United States Of The Americas to try unravelling together the said mystery. Holmes being the brilliant detective that he is turns his legendary skills of ratiocination upon himself and becomes aware of the huge logic gaps peppering his existence and reaches a conclusion those about him begin to share; That Sherlock Holmes may in fact be a fictional character and as such should not actually exist in this "real" world.Reality and fantasy blur to a degree in the course of this book. This situation is not uncommon as any period novel where even the well known, loved and greatly read characters are all long dead.So in a sense the entire cast of the book are fictional. Existing only in the mental field generated by the action of reading a novel which shares the same internal dictionary as the reader. The ghosts of history real and imagined existing only in the theatres of our minds.
               Henry James struggles to resist the charm of Holmes investigations, Resisting his own urge to get involved in what he sees as little more than the provocative exploits of an adolescent. James' work is no longer selling in the quantities he had previously. He is deeply troubled by the notion he may not follow up on his earlier promise and great sales. He has moved, not entirely successfully into a possible new career as a playwright. His first attempt at a play had morphed from a serious social study to a misjudged and critically lambasted comedy. His interior repression and confusion perhaps informing his creative output. In short Henry James has lost his slender at best grip on his mojo. He seems emotionally crippled by an inability to take any pleasure in his life. He is after all a gay man living in age when homosexuals were scorned and cruelly punished for yielding to their natures. That whole aspect of human life being perceived as an aberration and a mortal sin which must be punished. A terrifying situation that would not change for a very very long time and which even now rears its ugly unwanted head in many lamentably named civilised countries or empires.
             Yet in his time with Holmes Henry James finds the embers of his inner flame begin to glow once more. A kindling to set his life afire once more..possibly an urge which Dan Simmons wishes to generate for the work of Henry James as well as the work of Conan Doyle.
              A situation I need no urging to follow up on.