By Polly Keary
People of today still seem oddly enthralled by tales of the exploits of characters set in the late 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic.
On the western side of the ocean, Americans have been fascinated by tales of the Old West since shortly after those days were over, with the Western genre dating back to about 1912.
And in England, the character of Sherlock Holmes was all the rage at the close of the 19th century, and is enjoying a vigorous renaissance today.
In the next few weeks, two lecturers will come to the Monroe Library to explore why those themes are still so relevant to modern audiences, and what those fascinations and how they are represented can tell us about ourselves.
The End of the Trail: How the Western Movie Rode Into the Sunset
Thursday, Jan. 24, Seattle Movie Critic Robert Horton will appear at the Monroe Library to talk about Western movies, most particularly, what happened to Western movies in the 1960s and 1970s, when people began to question the themes that had been so popular prior to then.
Horton, who writes movie reviews for the Everett Herald as well as KUOW -FM in Seattle, and who has written books on film and taught film at Seattle University, will explore how movies reflect the culture and times within which they are made.
“Why do we need the clarity of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ at certain times? Why do we sometimes embrace a more ambiguous view of human nature? How do these movies challenge our way of thinking – and what happens to us when a movie forces us to question our long-cherished beliefs?” are among the questions he will address.
Horton has been to the library to talk about film before and was very popular, said Betsy Lewis, managing librarian of the Monroe Library.
“We had him out here and he did a program on science fiction films and the Cold War, and we had a huge turnout,” said Lewis. “He’s a very good speaker. I’m looking forward to having him back.”
Horton will appear at the Monroe Library Jan. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m.
Dr. Doyle and Mr. Holmes: The Cultural Staying Power of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is doing well for a guy who just turned 159, by the metrics of his most devoted fans. He’s had two top-grossing movies, a wildly popular and award-winning BBC series, and a new stateside series called “Elementary,” all in the last three years.
Why has Sherlock Holmes continued to fascinate people for a century and a half?
That is the question that Seattle Times Movie Critic Tom Keogh will address in his talk on Holmes and his ambivalent creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thursday, Feb 7.
Sherlock Holmes, perhaps more than any other fictional character, is continuously reinterpreted for new eras and in new settings, notes Keogh.
“Certainly there are characters from literature, history and popular culture that are revisited from time to time,” he said. “But Holmes is different: He resides deep within our collective memory and subconscious, re-embraced, resurrected and rebooted every few years – and for each new generation – in ever-shifting visions of who he is and of the major touchstones of his legend.”
Keogh, who has also contributed to Rolling Stone, MSN, and the Village Voice, has taught film history at North Seattle Community College, and was an assistant director for the Seattle International Film Festival.
He is also a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes, with an immense depth of knowledge about the character and his sometimes-reluctant author, who resented that readers didn’t want much else from him but Sherlock Holmes.
Keogh has recently also been commissioned to write a stage play for the Seattle Children’s Theater featuring the sleuth.
Keogh will appear at the Monroe Library Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m.
Both appearances are bought to the library by Humanities Washington, which maintains a panel of speakers on various topics, as well as the Friends of the Monroe Library.