Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Joyce-Armstrong Fragment

At the TLS, Jonathan Barnes on the power of Conan Doyle's short stories:
There are few English writers capable of crafting so arresting a first sentence as that which opens “The Lost Special”: “The confession of Herbert de Lernac, now lying under sentence of death at Marseilles, has thrown light upon one of the most inexplicable crimes of the century”. “Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius” begins with: “It is an amazing thing that the English, who have the reputation of being a practical nation, never saw the danger to which they were exposed”. “The Horror of the Heights” has “The idea that the extraordinary narrative which has been called the Joyce-Armstrong Fragment is an elaborate practical joke evolved by some unknown person, cursed by a perverted and sinister sense of humour, has now been abandoned by all who have examined the matter”, and the opening of the first of the Holmes short stories, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, is famously inviting: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman”. It is in these stories – and in the chronicles of Baker Street in particular – that one encounters the puzzling energy sensed in “The Adventure of The Creeping Man”, which is largely absent in the poetry, drama and longer fiction.

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