As soon as it arrived, we cracked it open and Eric began reading aloud from the beginning of the first book. Wow! How very interesting to read what is considered a masterpiece, a piece of important literature, with the eyes of a modern-day author. I can pretty much guarantee that if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were trying to get published today, it would be an uphill battle. And I'm pretty sure that if he joined a critique group, he'd be ripped to shreds. Why?
Well, the first several pages of the book are entirely backstory. Just a long, drawn out, droning detail of Watson's background: his years in the military, how he became a doctor, etc... I could just hear comments from the critique group, myself included, saying, "Great start, however, you might want to consider revising. This is all backstory, and I fear you're going to lose your audience and probably have trouble getting it past the slush pile with an agent/editor. Maybe you could open with an action scene - perhaps show us, rather than tell us, the scene where the orderly rescues him after he's been hit by the Jezail bullet. You might really benefit from xyz class about Show vs Tell." Sound familiar???
However, here's the thing . . . I actually liked the opening of Sherlock Holmes. Despite the fact that we were aware of all his "mistakes" (Hah!), we didn't stop reading. We got quite a bit further into the book before our daughter woke us for her next meal time.
So what's my point, you may ask? I'm not sure that I have one, actually. I just find it fascinating that what was once considered a masterpiece (and still is, actually) would most certainly be rejected by a modern-day publisher. It also makes me wonder what people a hundred+ years ago would have thought of what we write today. If Doyle had opened with an action scene, would a Victorian reader have asked, "But who is this man? What are his credentials? Why would I want to read about someone whose background is but a mystery to me?" Hmmm . . .
Now it's your turn. Are there books/authors you love that you know for sure would never be published today? And would the absence of said books be a tragedy? I certainly think it would have been a tragedy if Sherlock Holmes had never been published . . . how could Hollywood have made such a great film without it?? (Just kidding about that last part, of course ;))