Monday, August 16, 2010

The Essential Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (book 9 of 100)

I'm not much of a biography fan, but as I told you, my goal with this reading challenge is to expand my knowledge of both authors and genres, not that I expect to be reading an abundance of self-help books ever. to that end, I picked up a copy of The Essential Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the library. This audio book has 6 discs. Imagine my surprise when the man was already dead at the end of disc 2. What were they going to talk about for the other four discs? To my surprise, this biography was not just a biography, it contained short stories featuring Sir Arthur's most popular characters including Sherlock Holmes and some articles he wrote.

I was rather amazed to learn that Doyle was spiritualist as they called it in his time. Nowadays, we might refer to the person as a hippie or in worst cases a crackpot. From what I can gather, Doyle was, as my mother would say, "A few French fries short of a happy meal."The man actually believed in fairies, psychic phenomenon and other such questionable sciences which is not very likely to be considered science at all according to serious practitioners of the discipline.

Whatever he may have believed, the man was brilliant. As one of his commentators in this books remarked, "Medicine's lost is literature's gain." Doyle was trained as a doctor, but gave it up when he discovered he could earn more money by writing. I was also surprised to learn that he hated Sherlock Holmes, perhaps his most famous character. He felt that Holmes distracted from his more serious works, such as Sir Nigel. Indeed, he felt that his less popular works of historical fiction were, in fact, his greatest. As a writer, I can relate to this feeling. I'll send in what I consider one of my best stories ever and it will receive the same score as a more, I think, mediocre or even crappy story. Writers do not read with the eyes of editors, we cannot know what editors will fancy or not.

My experience with Doyle's biography has led me to plan to read the biographies of other writers whom I consider brilliant. Perhaps they will have some insight as this book has provided me. I rate this book a 6 out of 10. It's not fabulous or life-changing, but it's a perfectly good read, especially, if you like fictional components combined with real biographic text. I think this is they way biographers can attract more readers. If I am lucky enough to achieve enough notoriety in this world to have a biography written about, I'm going to leave instructions to my potential biographers requesting that they include a section of my work as the people who so elegantly put together this book have done.

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