Guest Post: The Daily Sherlock Holmes: A Year of Quotes from the Case-Book of the World’s Greatest Detective.

I recently asked for guest posts. I have now received one from Levi Stahl the co-editor of The Daily Sherlock Holmes: A Year of Quotes from the Case-Book of the World’s Greatest Detective.

By way of transparency, I have not seen a copy of the book or received any form of consideration. The post is shown as received, free of edits.


By Levi Stahl

When I texted my wife, Stacey Shintani, to ask whether she'd like to join me in editing The Daily Sherlock Holmes, I had a couple of reasons. The first was that the project would be more fun--for me and, I suspected, for the reader--if we did it together. A quote-a-day book should have broad appeal, and adding a second sensibility could only help on that front. 

Just as important was that she has formidable skills of organization. That wouldn't surprise anyone who's read the brief bio on the book, which reveals her to be a project manager in her day job. But it goes deeper than that: Stacey was a Girl Scout, one who took their motto, "Be prepared," seriously. She's the kind of person who makes lists of lists. Of lists. I was confident that on my own I could find 500 or so quotes to choose from; I was far less confident that, without her help, I could put them into the best order.

So how did we go about it? Spreadsheets, my friends. (What Holmes would have done with spreadsheets--to say nothing of the cloud, computer textual analysis, etc., etc. . . . ) We divvied up the reading and re-reading, each of us pulling out potential quotes. But the key was the spreadsheet into which we typed our quotes. As we entered each one, we also categorized them. What recurring characters did they feature? Were they primarily dialogue, or action? Were they witty or serious? Descriptive? Did they happen to mention Holmes's esoteric areas of study? Did they mention weather? Or, even better, a specific season or date? 

Then there was the field for rating. We each read all of the 500+ quotes we'd gathered and rated them between one and four stars. Using those results, and being careful to select from the best of them quotes that represented a mix of the categories above, we trimmed down to one for every day (including Leap Day), plus one slightly longer opening quote for each month.

Then we got more granular. The quotes that mentioned specific dates, obviously, were hung right on those dates. Obvious seasonality also got sorted. While we didn't go full Sherlockian, we did put a couple of key events (Holmes's "death," for example) on the dates that could be deduced from the story's context. 

And at that point, with the book resembling a Christmas tree that has the lights on but is awaiting the ornaments, Stacey's genius for organization took over. In every month she placed a week of themed entries: Holmes's monographs, Holmes's disguises, appearances by Lestrade, even a week of dogs. At the start of each month, she grouped entries relating to the opening of cases; at the ends of months, the wrap-up. On the thirteenth of every month, Holmes confesses a blunder. And that's far from the end of the hidden structures the book contains . . . 

Will any readers notice these patterns, aside from the themed weeks? Probably not. But, as I suspect Holmes would agree, order is preferable to chaos. The goal of the book, after all, is to re-create in a small compass some of the innate pleasures of reading and re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, central to which is their cozy, welcoming, familiar atmosphere. Like soft gaslight gently penetrating a fog, perhaps hidden order can be appreciated even if not fully grasped.


Oh, and you'll want to see what we did for April Fool's Day.

The Daily Sherlock Holmes: A Year of Quotes from the Case-Book of the World’s Greatest Detective
by Arthur Conan Doyle, Levi Stahl, Stacey Shintani and Michael Sims | University of Chicago Press, 2019
Paperback: 978-0-226-65964-0 | eISBN: 978-0-226-65978-7



Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here
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