Dear Associates,

I am the literary critical detective.

In my work I examine the mise en scene of classic detective stories carefully, paying attention to the smallest metaphorical detail, sifting through the facts and then distorting them according to my whim.
My friends have been kind enough to express some interest in my observations and so to this end I am making this journal available. I hope that you might also find it of some interest.

The Literary Critical Detective.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Second Case has been solved: ‘A Case of Unreliable Memory’

I am slumped in my armchair, fatigued, bored and irritable. The fallboard of the piano beside me lies open and yet I know that if I were to attempt to depress the keys I would only depress myself further. Neither drink nor sleep nor even company would offer me respite from this infernal lethargy.

Work, literary work, the work of literary critical detection is all that can rouse me now. Only, I am in want of a case.

In fact, this is what I now want to announce: my toil on ‘A Case of Unreliable Memory’ is finished – my ideas have been formulated, the solution invented, the report written, and my notes put back in their proper place. It is over, and I am not unhappy with the results.

I am not insensible to the fact that some of my friends have shown an interest in my work. They are too kind. I would like to make my new report available to them. So, if you are reading this and would like to receive a copy of the draft, please send me a letter to my special postal address: I will send you the transcript by return mail.

I hope that this newly completed script will prove more popular than the last.

If you are interested in my work then please ‘follow’ this online journal. Also, join the Facebook group ‘The Literary Critical Detective’. This last is a space for maverick readers and is the place where I will announce my news first.

I am the world’s only literary critical detective. I am intending to become the world’s first and only consulting literary critical detective soon. Please keep an eye on this journal for more information.

Your faithful author
Dr James Holden
(Literary Critical Detective)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

My book-addled brain.

A sample paragraph from 'A Case of Unreliable Memory':

To my weary, book-addled brain the name slippages did not stop there. As I put down my whiskey glass, put on my reading glasses and looked at the book again the names started to slide in front of my eyes. I felt myself to be like that hapless narrator, Mr Lockwood, as he watches the engraved names merge and separate in front of his eyes in Wuthering Heights (1847). As I watched, and read, and dreamed, Christie’s character Molly Preston-Grey got married and became Molly Ravenscroft only to then slide over into that most affirmative of women, James Joyce’s Molly Bloom. Yes, there is nothing to connect them; and yes this was madness, I knew, but I couldn’t stop it, me, sitting there that night, and there was the noise of the wind again, and the neighbour’s dog still howling won’t it ever shut up, like that dog down on the moors terrible and painted. I rubbed my eyes, trying to snap myself out of this overwhelming literary sickness, only I found that I couldn’t. For wasn’t Molly Bloom herself only Homer’s Penelope, that weaver of tapestries and texts? Yes, again yes. The fact that Mrs Oliver’s ‘christian’ name is Ariadne only seemed to support my adoption of this ‘mythical method’. But, I knew, it didn’t lead to anything, this unravelling of threads, this making up of connections, yarns and literary memories – it only lead me back into a literary critical labyrinth.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Literary Critical Detection Fever

I am experiencing a fever of literary critical detection: my heart and head are pounding, the room seems to be spinning and yet I know I cannot rest.

If it wasn't for the infernal noises drifting up from the kitchen I could almost believe myself to be dreaming myself here in this calm study. (I am reminded of Descartes' words in his first 'Meditation': 'How often has it happened to me to dream at night that I was here, in this place...'). The fact that my ears are filled with critical voices whispering ideas to me only serves to reinforce this feeling of unreality. These ghostly thoughts have caused me to forget that the text I am reading is really about memory.

Let me say, here, that I have now reached the point where I am beginning to train my mind on the literary detective's method. I admit - without any arrogance - that I find him essentially wanting.

Now, if only I can find enough days like today I might be able to finish this work and move on to my next project (a piece that I have already been commissioned to undertake).

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Case Notes

Points for further consideration:

  1. In Agatha Christie's novel Elephants Can Remember one of the key facts turns out to be that Margaret Ravenscroft (whose death Poirot is investigating) had four wigs. The detective is upset by this, and is eventually able to work out that these hair pieces were used to pass one character off as another. I can't help wondering what other significances this strange fact concerning the wigs might have. At the beginning of the novel Christie treats us to a long description of Ariadne Oliver's four hats. What is the sense of the hat connection here?
  2. In this novel Poirot asks: 'One wants to know more about the people, and how can you know people separated from you by a gulf of years' (p 159). This, it seems, might be the cruical question. And it is not only Dame Agatha's but also Marcel Proust's. His answer, of course, is that we are not separated from the past at all
  3. Question: Is the novel Elephants Can Remember really about fogetfulness? Is it even about what Nietzsche terms 'active fogetting'?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Agatha's active forgetting.

Notes from my investigation:

It has become clear to me that Agatha Christie keeps forgetting what she want to say about memory in her novel Elephants Can Remember.

I now know what to make of this strange fact and am in the process of writing up my report.

More anon.

Dr Holden.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Things are afoot

This written in haste:

I have nearly brought my second critical case to completion. In fact, I have already started to write up my findings. However, I dare not say more now for fear of interrupting the flow of my thoughts.

I shall write again when I can. Until then I remain,

Your faithful author.

 ps. Should you need to contact me, I can be reached through the regular channels.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The steam train of my thought

I am making bold to write up another of my 'cases'. Unfortunately, it is taking me longer than I originally intended; the document lies languishing upon my desk. Francoise, my housekeeper, has, of course, been no help whatsoever. I leave strict instructions not to be disturbed and yet find myself constantly beset by questions of the most trivial nature, queries to which I simply do not know the answers. 'I am sorry to disturb you (this after the heavy tread of her shoes on the stairs, three loud knocks on my door and a slight clearing of the throat), but when will the Doctor require dinner? And will the Doctor be going out because the floors need to be swept (a downward glance here that implies some kind of criticism) and I have precious little time to finish all my other jobs?' And with each interruption, the steam train of my thought is broken, derailed; my sense of critical unreason is forced to become reasonable in the face of daily concerns.

It is the question of memory that now possesses me, the question of the work of memory and the question of the writing of memory. Texts that are about memories themselves have memories; they dream of other things.

When this literary critical investigation is complete, when the work is over, I will gladly send it to those who contact me at my postal address (which I have again temporarily forgotten).

Perhaps I should get a special hat

The rain continues to drum its military tattoo on my study window. Neverthless, I feel pleasantly - and for me quite unusually - positive. Looking down at all these scattered pieces of paper on my desk, the faded and tea-stained covers of old paperbacks, I could almost smile. For, the account that I sent out, the brief description of a critical moment in my own life, has been well received. I never looked for or expected such praise. Indeed, my embarrassment initially stopped me from signing the work. But now I feel emboldened, ready to dare to misinterpret the universe.

I shall turn this study into my office, get frosted glass fitted and put a sign up on the door: 'Dr Holden, The Literary Critical Detective'. Perhaps I should get a special hat.

But that would be absurd. I do not want fame, and can only hope in vain that others will want to consult me upon literary matters. I am no man of action. Although I declared to Francoise a moment ago, when she brought me my drink, that I should make a brilliant new career for myself I realise now that I was wrong. I will be better sitting here quietly, surrounded by the great works of fiction, misreading motivations and making my scribbled notes.

I will, of course, continue to write up my findings, present my cases to those associates who claim to understand my work and who have expressed their desire to follow it. They can contact me through my special postal address, which I've got written down here somewhere but can never remember (there it is - over there, on the side); or they can write their comments on this journal, which I will leave open for them.