Let Us Now Praise Benedict Cumberbatch

A pale background for Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes: A dark-haired man with pale skin, his mouth slightly open, looks off-frame to the right with an expectant expression. Text reads: I have a serious Benediction. A very happy early birthday to noted British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who according to IMDb has been acting his pants off (if only!) but who first came to my attention as Sherlock Holmes in the modernized BBC adaptation. Have you seen this yet? If not, get thee to a Netflix because it is virtually perfect.

As Sherlock, Mr. Cumberbatch is cold, antic, calculating, and often unexpectedly vulnerable. He plays more to the sociopathic side of Holmes' nature—the side that can't quite get past seeing human beings as rather curious machines. But all that intellect breaks down every now and again in some very quiet, awkward, charming ways. It's a delight—and I admit that I am also quite envious of this Sherlock's long wool coat and anarchic scarf.

I am also very excited to learn that Mr. Cumberbatch is going to be the voice of Smaug in Peter Jackson's highly anticipated Hobbit. Sexy-voiced villains have been a children's movie staple since George Saunders smouldered his way through Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, or Pat Carroll's Ursula undulated for a perplexed Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

And Martin Freeman, who plays an excellent Watson to BC's Sherlock, will also be playing Bilbo Baggins to his Smaug. I can't wait for the inevitable mash-up!

As a special treat, here is a photo of BC together with other noted British sexpot Hugh Laurie:

A screencap from I don't know what, with a short-haired Benedict Cumberbatch in a grey shirt and bright blue v-neck sweater, looking left off-frame with his mouth open in preparation for speaking. He is apparently sitting in the lap of Hugh Laurie, clad in black shirt and black jacket, with a bit of a puzzled scowl on his face.

If anyone knows where this screencap came from, please do let me know so I can write myself some very Mary Sue-ish fanfic about it.

"Hearts And Harbingers" Is Now On Amazon

My second novella, "Hearts and Harbingers," is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store! I've just started buying Kindle books myself because it is ridiculously easy, and also because then I get a chance to browse Amazon's one-star reviews, which soothe my author-worries and make me giggle. Below are some of my favorites.

Moby-Dick: "Be sure to avoid the audio version read by Burt Reynolds."

Infinite Jest: "It makes Twin Peaks look straightforward and simple, but wihtout [sic] any of the charm and quirkiness of that show."

A Christmas Carol: "There can be no arguing with Dickens's wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself."

Sherlock Homes: The Complete Collection (Kindle edition): "this book turns into the book of mormon at the end of the first story (before they tell you who did it)!"

Reviewer dt_barber's one-star review of one particular edition of Ulysses is a masterwork.: "This is a fantastic novel...it is really beyond a novel and beyond reproach. The paperback Gabler edition, however, posesses what is quite possibly the most worthless and flimsy binding of any novel, great or small. If you read the entire book (a difficult task, but well worth it), it is guaranteed to crumble in your hands like the gilded pork kidney dome of new Bloomuselem." A large black 69 on a white background. He isn't as excited about the Magnetic Fields' album 69 Love Songs, however: "Maybe I'm wrong and stupidity is actually creative and charming, but this souless piece of tripe is the faintest echo of a distant thud in a very large, very empty room somewhere in the brokendown palace of rock. Really, folks, he's not even trying."

Freddy My Love

We here at Olivia Waite have developed quite a thing for Jeremy Brett, thanks to his performance as Sherlock Holmes. How could we not? Behold the hotness:

Actor Jeremy Brett, a man with pale skin and dark hair, wears a charcoal Victorian suit and holds one finger to his lips in a gesture indicating rapid thought.

And recently, in a wistful mood, we hied ourselves to IMDb and checked out Mr. Brett's page, which has some rather lovely quotes that only make you love him all the more. Thoughtfulness! Self-doubt! A tragic love story!

There is also a large poster of the film version of My Fair Lady under the "Known For" heading.

And this surprised me. I have seen Brett's Holmes series twice through by now—more, in the case of favorite episodes. And I was practically raised on My Fair Lady, and can still sing half the musical numbers, even the wordy ones that Rex Harrison white-man-raps his way through. But I have no memory of Jeremy Brett's face. I clicked over to the cast list expecting to see him listed as "Street Sweeper #2" or some such.

But instead—and there is not enough capslock in the world for this—JEREMY BRETT IS FREDDY EYNESFORD-HILL.

Actor Jeremy Brett in a lighter grey formal suit with matching gloves tips a dove-grey top hat in the Ascot scene from the movie My Fair Lady.

This was one of those moments when the world shifts on its axis. I've always been of the opinion that Eliza and Henry Higgins share a love as true as it is, well, kind of bitchy. Freddy always seemed to get in the way.

But now, it feels like Eliza's choice is no longer between one super-intelligent asshole and one earnest but slow-witted aristocrat—now it feels like she's torn between Henry Higgins and a guy who later grows up to be Sherlock Holmes.

And I'm not rooting for Rex Harrison in this love triangle anymore. Any dilemma where one option is Jeremy Brett—you choose Jeremy Brett!

The Vampire Sherlock

We here at Olivia Waite are a little old-fashioned. We like typewriters, and postcards, and bicycles where the front wheel is considerably larger than the back no matter how impractical that makes them for the hilly city in which we live. We are also therefore a little late to certain cultural enthusiasms, particularly A) the vampire craze, and B) Sherlock Holmes. And since we started looking into these at around the same time, they became kind of linked in the mysterious tendrils of our brain, until we came up with the following brilliant idea, that we cannot really believe nobody has written about before:

Sherlock Holmes could totally be a vampire.

A medium shot of actor Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, with a mysterious paper in one hand and his index finger pressed against contemplative lips.

Admittedly, most of the theory originates not from the Sherlock stories -- working through them slowly but steadily -- but from the Jeremy Brett series that ran in spurts for ten years starting in 1984. Of which I have seen every episode. And developed more than a passing crush on the late, lamented Mr. Brett.

Thus, without further ado: points of commonality between a traditional, non-sparkly vampire and Sherlock Holmes:

  • black hair slicked back from a widow's peak
  • pale skin
  • pointy eyebrows often raised to indicate a superiority of intellect
  • elegant clothing, but never dandyish
  • master of disguise, as either a bat or a working-class laborer, respectively
  • a predatory brain, which searches out prey in the form of edible humans or clever criminals
  • a preference for shadows and the city and not, say, country hikes on a sunny spring afternoon
  • eloquence
  • coolness of manner, particularly toward lesser beings
  • the ability to enthrall and fascinate individuals of weaker mind (cough cough Watson cough)
  • a general air of what could only be termed bloodlessness
  • a cruel streak
  • an addiction to something polite society finds distasteful (blood, cocaine)

There are a few distinctions -- vampires tend to commit murders rather than foil them, and are generally depicted as more popular with/fond of the ladies than dear Sherlock caught up in his Watson bromance -- but on the whole there's something appealing in the idea of a dark-haired man with a powerful nose and piercing eyes, flitting through the night solving crimes and drinking blood.

After all, if Jane Austen can turn vampire, anybody's fair game.