Cullin is an unusually sophisticated theorist of human nature, and this book is first and foremost an analysis of Holmes -- both as a fictional character and as an embodiment of the human drive to make fictions. The multilayered fictiveness of Cullin's Holmes (a character in a novel about the ''real life'' of a famous fictional character who often worked in disguise) suggests that his identity -- and by extension, identity itself -- is a thing wrought collaboratively, by many hands, over time. We are the sum total of others' descriptions of us, and Holmes's meek revisions of his own legend -- as he tells everyone he meets, he never wore that deerstalker hat -- only confirm how powerfully he is in thrall to other people's accounts. And yet his evasions of intimacy (the detective work, the beekeeping) seem engineered to conceal some crucial secret at the very core of his identity.
So, what's with those bees? By retiring Holmes to his beekeeping, Conan Doyle left readers to solve the case -- in Freud's sense more than Holmes's, assuredly -- of the character's inner life. The strange, silent image of an old man staring into an apiary governs the entirety of ''A Slight Trick of the Mind.'' ''When you look upon me,'' Holmes tells his grief-stricken housekeeper, ''I believe you find a man incapable of feeling. . . . If I choose to speak at any length, I usually talk of the creatures.'' Talking exclusively ''of the creatures,'' though, doesn't make human beings disappear; it only makes their demands more desperate. As the conclusion of this beautiful novel makes plain, lives aren't like cases or, for that matter, like narratives. They are never solved or resolved: they just one day come to an end.
Causes Mitch Cullin Supports
Amnesty International, Gilda’s Club, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Moveon.org, National Film Preservation Foundation, People For The American...