Conan Doyle, Arthur: (04) The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes; [personal] passing the bar exam

I was going to start talking about The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by saying that it was good bedtime reading for when one is vibrating with stress and going crazy because one is overworked. And it is. However, while I am still (presently) overworked, I really don’t care today, because

I passed the bar exam!

*bounces up and down some more*

(I’ve been doing that all day, off and on. I found out this morning, waiting for the elevators at work; one opened up and disgorged a bunch of my co-workers going off to Special Term (court, that is). One of them said “congratulations”; I said, “what—wait—no, I don’t believe you.” He told me they were online and went off to court, and I waited for the next elevator (having missed theirs in my bogglement) and checked for myself. It’s not that I thought he was lying to me, but I couldn’t believe it until I saw for myself.)

Anyway, back to booklogging. By coincidence, the first story in Memoirs is possibly the work of fiction most often cited in legal documents. I speak, of course, of “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. (Not only does it get cited all the time, but I could swear that I once read a judge’s opinion that chided people for thinking that the dog in question was the eponymous Hound of the Baskervilles. However, a quick Lexis search doesn’t seem to turn it up.) It’s a pretty good story, though I have my doubts about just how anonymous a horse like Silver Blaze could be made to be. (Speaking of citing, I’m not really clear why it’s usually cited as just “Silver Blaze”; my edition is a facsimile reprint of its first publication in The Strand, and the title there is “The Adventure of.”)

I’d like “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” considerably better if it didn’t have such a completely idiotic premise. It’s included as an example of Holmes being just dead wrong, and that’s lovely. However, the “right” conclusion is so factually absurd that he probably couldn’t have figured it out regardless, which does detract from the effect. As a general matter, though, I find it vastly amusing when Holmes refers to Watson’s printed reports, complaining that he gives the wrong impression to his readers and so on. It’s a level of self-referential irony that I hadn’t expected to find in these.

Of course, I do get the sense that Doyle was just making it up as he went along. For instance, in “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter,” suddenly Holmes sprouts a brother—not even an estranged brother, but one who refers cases to him occasionally. And then there’s Professor Moriarty, who, I suspect, was created just to give Doyle a chance to kill Holmes off. That’s a pity, because I think more Moriarty stories would have been entertaining (after all, the Zeck sequence in the Nero Wolfe books is, and Zeck certainly owes a lot to Moriarty).

Those quibbles aside, these were useful and enjoyable ways to unwind for the evening. Now, I must go and think about what restaurant to choose for tomorrow night’s celebration.


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  1. Congratulations!

    That’s how it happened for me, too. The day before I thought results were coming out, one of the people in my dad’s office checked the website, and all of a sudden I had everyone in my family calling and saying “why didn’t you tell us the news?”

    Big party! Way to go!

  2. Thanks, guys.

    I had no idea when the results were coming out; the word was just not before November, sometime. I hadn’t been checking the website every day, because I figured I would just work myself into a state doing that. Instead, I ignored it as best I could and relied on my co-workers for the news–which worked quite well, as you can tell.

    Now I just need one more piece of paper and I can submit my application for admission and get that off my back, too…

  3. Congratulations, Kate!

  4. Thanks, Rich. Next time we see each other, we can commiserate over the misery that is the NY Bar Exam.

  5. What the…?

    I must be ahead of my time, because I could have sworn that you took and passed the bar exam months ago. Here I’ve been thinking you were an official lawyer for half the year, now.

    Not that I would have had any doubt you were going to pass, anyway. Congratulations. Now, if I can just survive Core Exams on the 5th, I’ll still be alive for Vegas. You’ll notice me by the advanced scoliotic curve of my spine, caused by curling up in chairs and cramming for many hours at a time, many days in a row.

  6. Novak–I took it in July, but they had, umm, 9,693 exams to grade, so it took them a while to figure out who passed. Then they have to make sure we aren’t mass murderers or Nazis or whatever, so the earliest I’d be admitted is the end of January.

    So, still not allowed to call myself an attorney, darn it. But soon.

    Thanks, good luck on your tests, and hopefully you won’t be so withered that you can’t hobble around Vegas…

  7. Vegas, baby!

    And congratulations, Kate. I’m amazed you weren’t constantly checking the online updating thing yourself…

  8. Well, that Nazi thing might be a bit of a hindrance, eh?

  9. Kate: Ah, I guess that would explain it. You mean they’re not little scantron-type tests, like the ACT and SAT? THat would make them much quicker to grade, and I’m surprised ECT hasn’t lobbied the Bar association to exhaustion for the increase in revenue they’d see….

    As for scoliotic hobbling, just ask Mike what I looked like on Saturday. I left around 9:00 PM to get some [more] work done, and I could barely pick my feet up as I walked out. Damn near fell asleep and almost missed my stop on the El, too, which is unprecedented.

  10. Hey, congratulations, you who have talked me into many books from afar.

    I’m very glad I belong in a profession that doesn’t require marathon tests.

  11. Hm, good thing the NY Bar Association doesn’t read Usenet, or they’d have found out about that whole Baby-Killing Nazi thing…

    Anyhow, congratulations again.

    And why is it that a Sherlock Holmes story is cited so commonly in legal documents that it can be referred to as “the work of fiction most often cited in legal documents”? Wouldn’t it be, like, more official to cite an actual real-world case?

  12. Nathan: no constantly checking the online thing, did you want me to go insane with the waiting? I was quite successfully able to *not* *think* about it for 99.5% of the time.

    John: the Multistate, one of the two days, is 200 multiple choice questions. However, NY’s local day is 50 multiple choice questions and 6 essays (I think; I’ve already forgotten the details, mercifully). They’ve actually just added an additional essay-type-thing-type to make sure that people can write practical documents as well as essays; I think ours was a memo to a supervising attorney as to whether a criminal defendant could be properly charged with a particular crime.

    Weasel-boy: Pfft.

    Anne and Elaine: thanks very much.

    Pam: Pfft^2. And it gets cited thus: “… this case is similar to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time [foonote: Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” in _The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes_.], since here …” So it is official in that it’s citing the actual source of the reference. In other words, lawyers don’t just use cliches, they cite them…

  13. Congratulations! An admirable achievement, in no wise diminished by no one’s having ever doubted that you’d do it.

  14. Congratulations on your achievement! (I want to be you in about 5-6 years… ;-))

    all the best.

  15. Let me add my belated congratulations as I attempt to catch up on blogs and booklogs this afternoon. Now we’ll definitley have to rendezvous for a drink at Boskone to celebate. (Oh, and I’m throwing a RASFF Valentine’s party to which you and Chad are invited.)


  16. Teresa, Katherine, Mary Kay–thanks, all.

    Katherine–I hope you mean, you want to also have passed the bar in 5-6 years, ’cause it would be just weird to have another me running around. =>

    Mary Kay–Boskone rasseff party sounds great, though I can’t guarantee we’ll be there for Friday. Celebratory drinks always good.

  17. and a somewhat late congratulations from me as well.

    Sheerluck Holmes: yes, Conan Doyle made up a lot of stuff on the spot, including the denouncements if you ask me. Some of the solutions in _The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes_ seemed somewhat farfetched when I read it last year. It’s ironically that the iconic author of the classic puzzle branch of the detective genre was himself fairly sloppy in his reasoning.

    Incidently, In _Flashman and the Tiger_, the latest Flashman book, there’s a neat sideswipe at the Great Detective, echoing Pratchett’s criticism of Holmes’ deductions.

  18. Congratulations!

  19. Finally started bouncing around this little incestuous blog-ring you folks’ve got going, so… let me add my belated congratulations as well, Kate. ‘Tis faaaabulous.

    Hopefully Vegas will occur so I can say so in person.

  20. Martin, Castiron, Leigh–thanks again. (Even while I’m back in the “waaah I have no time” mode, I still bounce at the congratulations.)

    Martin, I wonder if there’s any historical difference or some other reason that Doyle’s occasionally dubious puzzles became so iconic? Something about the way people approached texts then, maybe? I don’t know enough.

    Leigh–we aren’t *that* bad…

  21. Suuuure you aren’t…

    Youse guys are making me want to finally get around to doing my own…

  22. So, where _did_ you end up going for dinner? 😉

  23. Provence, one we know to be reliable (well, except when I order traumatic food, but that’s a different story).

  24. Okay, I gotta ask: exactly what counts as “traumatic food”? Food you eat while you’re traumatized? Food which is produced in a traumatic fashion? Food which causes trauma?

  25. Food which causes trauma. Specifically, food that looks like a plate full of giant insects when one is mildly insect-phobic.

    (Crawfish with the shell on, in this case.)

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