The two books I read this week during finals (I have a very easy test schedule this semester, and I actually just finished my last one. Ever!) have absolutely nothing in common. There’s no way to tie them together thematically or anything like that, so I’ve dubbed this post “The Odd Couple.” It doesn’t get much more odd than reading The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bossypants by Tina Fey back to back. One is classic, the other is contemporary; one is mystery, the other is a humorous memoir. Here they are, posing together (I read Hound on my kindle).
Let’s go in chronological order. The Hound of the Baskervilles came first. It’s a short book or novella, unlike most of the Sherlock Holmes short stories. It’s also one of the most supernaturally influenced of the tales even though it all ends up being based in logic, as most Sherlock Holmes plots are. The basis of the mystery is that an old, aristocratic family (the Baskervilles) in England has been plagued for generations by a “hell hound” that is the result of a curse from centuries back. The new heir wants Holmes and Watson to investigate the paranormal creature, as it was responsible for the death of his predecessor. What ensues is a typical Doyle plot: a seemingly unexplainable circumstance is systematically investigated and debunked.
However, this book veers farther into the realm of fantasy than most Holmes cases do. The enormous hound that has flames coming from its mouth and nose certainly seems to be the work of the devil, which is what the Baskerville family has always maintained. Holmes and Watson are typically skeptical, but even they begin to doubt their instincts as the situation on the moor becomes progressively more mysterious and dangerous. I was quite unnerved at moments in the plot, but I was always impressed at the skills of Holmes and Watson. In this aspect, Doyle delivers what I’ve come to expect from his stories. The twists, red herrings, and surprises are well-done and I was repeatedly caught off guard or wrongly convinced. Because it’s longer and has more time for plot and character development, this is probably the best Sherlock Holmes story I’ve read.
And now for something completely different. I’ve been a big Tina Fey fan since she wrote Mean Girls and was on SNL. Because of the long history I have of laughing at her jokes, I knew I’d like Bossypants. And I did. Fey’s anecdotes made her even more relatable to me than she was already. I also respect her more after reading about her personal experiences and beliefs. I will say one thing, though: it wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it was going to be. I get that it was a memoir, but it was also in the humor genre. You may remember that I recently read Mindy Kaling’s book. I don’t know if it’s just my particular taste, but I laughed at lot more at it than at Bossypants. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a great read. I read it at warp speed and loved Fey’s writing style. I guess it just wasn’t exactly what I expected. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t have me in stitches or anything.
Even though these two books are really different from one another, I really enjoyed them both. What’s more, they both had me on the edge of my seat, only for different reasons. Hound was suspenseful and kind of scary, while Bossypants was funny and fast-paced. They were perfect for de-stressing during what was an admittedly light finals week. This odd couple is going to be hanging out together on my bookshelf for a long time.