Trip Tips

Mitch Cullin. A Slight Trick of the Mind.

We find a Sherlock Holmes in advanced age. And the novel raises existential questions about memory and loss. But also about love. Is our protagonist able to love? Is he able to express love? Are we like him?

There is poignancy in his remembering his long deceased friend and collaborator, Dr. Watson.

You know, I never did call him Watson — he was John, simply John.
We take him at his word. We believe him capable of signs of affection. And yet his is not the most reliable of voices. Frustration is the dominant key and we fall into identification at our peril. For example, later in the novel, we are almost seduced by his exasperation with a travelling companion into his deduction that all travel is better on the way out.
[I]n those moments, he missed the hours of reserve that had previously marked their travels. Still, he was aware that return trips being always more tedious than a voyage's beginning (the initial departure, in which everything then encountered was wonderfully singular, and each subsequent destination offering a multitude of discoveries); so whenever heading back, it was better to nap as much as possible, slumbering while miles subtracted and his oblivious body raced toward home.
It is supremely ironic that the man who repeatedly mentions his failing powers of retention should so celebrate discovery to the detriment of recall and attention to the slight alterations that time affects on any trip home through now more familiar landscapes. He has denied himself the joys of rediscovery and immersion in chance and change. What goes unsaid here is that the tedium is very much connected to a failure of memory matched with observation. Much of what is perceived as singular is produced by remembering and comparing. The really supreme irony is that we as readers notice this because of repetition (and subtle variation) of whole sections. Attentive to the displacement we are forever rewarded as if on a voyage out without return which is in the end the existential point that novel makes over and over and never quite the same way each time.

And so for day 1263