Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1894, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, available at Project Gutenberg.

Audio: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Project Gutenberg)

Yet another audio book I've carried around on my iPod for months and finally finished. This is part of my "listen to the Holmes Canon in chronological order" project.

I've got the next one, The Return of Sherlock Holmes loaded and running already - such great stuff.

After reading the Ghost Hunters, I can see that Doyle's interest in spiritism is not such a contradiction of his uber-logical Holmes as I always thought. Reading of the absolutely BRILLIANT scientists who pursued that quest ... it wasn't quite the nutcase endeavor it seems in our later enlightened days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Ghost Hunters: William James and the Hunt for Scientific Proof of Life after Death by Deborah Blum

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I think it's my inner steampunk that really liked this book, poised as it is on that end-of-Victorian triumph-of-science-and-technology cusp of history, but, for whatever reason you might read it, this book was a fascinating and compelling account of the birth of the Society for Psychical Research. With its mix of colorful characters - some completely outlandish - and serious scientific research, it provides an interesting mirror to modern faith-versus-reason debates. Though those often present the faith side of the equation in conventional (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) terms - the men and women of the SPR were quite un-conventional and NOT predisposed to any existing system of belief.

There is a poignant aspect to the whole tale with the ups and downs of the society and its friends, as well as the experiments and research they conduct. I found especially remarkable the caliber of top-flight scientists who pursued this work. Creationists groups often will tout "scientists" backing them - but they are chiefly engineers, not working scientists. In this book however, there are working scientists pursuing their researches - not only in ghosts - but in physics and medicine; men who went on to be knighted and receive Nobel prizes for work conducted at the same time they were looking into "ghosts."

In addition, Blum's history makes clear a lot of interesting details and references in things like old Agatha Christie novels that make oblique references to spiritism, as well as props and settings in things like Disney's Haunted Mansion.