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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Irene Adler museum

Sherlockians insist that the sleuth was real and Arthur Conan Doyle was merely his chronicler, making for some great "lost papers"/ Sherlock Holmes pastiches. I was delighted by Ruth Rendell's invention, in The Keys to the Street, of an Irene Adler museum in which "the woman" for Holmes is treated as a real Edwardian figure:
"When she was in here or in the corset room, Mary often thought Irene Adler's incursions into male attire--as when she whispers 'good evening' to Holmes in Baker Street--entirely understandable. The crab in whalebone could have known comfort only in bed at night, never by day in the S-shaped whalebone stays, the buckled and webbed bodices, the crustaceous layers, and those furbelowed cartwheel hats. Other pictures on the walls showed Edwardian women attempting to mount stairs, board trams, and manage their hats on windy days.
"They sold more copies of the Sherlock Holmes story 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (Irene as crab in whalebone on the front cover and in jacket and breeches on the back) than all the catalogs and brochures put together. A favorite place was the facsimile of Irene's drawing room, as it must have been at Briony Lodge, with the secret panel by the fireplace where the compromising photograph was kept hidden, open for all to see the secret spring. Gustav Klimt had not painted her, for he was real and she was fiction, but the mock-Klimt portrait of Irene in sequins and pearls posed against a gold-leaf screen, framed in narrow gilded wood, went back to hang on the walls of many a Midwest condo. Business was too brisk at lunchtime for Mary to leave the museum. It even looked at one point during the afternoon as if admission would have to be restricted for half an hour. But the crowd dwindled as five approached, by which time the shop had run out of calendars and Knossos scarves and Stacey was on the phone to the sales rep."

The Klimt pastiche, especially the part about "for he was real and she was fiction" in the midst of that straight-faced detail, kills me!

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