I wrote a book once. I was 11 or so and my school was holding a competition. Students were encouraged to write a story and illustrate it with our own drawings.
Mine was called Beyond the Stars and was about an astronaut marooned on a strange planet.
Shit, even back then I was casting melancholy eyes at the sky and wondering what it was all about. It’s hardly surprising I’ve turned out the way I have.
But there were a few other pointers along the way.
A year or two later I discovered Sherlock Holmes and obviously decided that I too wanted to be an international supersleuth, and dedicate my life to fighting crime.
Like Holmes, I would master the violin and maybe even battle to overcome a narcotic addiction.
I came to be haunted by the image of Holmes standing by the window in his rooms at 221B Baker Street, bow and violin in hand, lost in a reverie of abstracted thought.
Watson arrives home, stares over at his friend and asks if he is OK. Unhearing, Holmes resumes his sad playing and Watson, spying the used syringe, feels his heart sink.
Tintin came next. Herge’s young reporter absolutely fascinated me.
There is something fundamentally unknowable about him that drew me in. Somehow both ageless and sexless, his individualism appealed on a basic level.
Not an outcast exactly, it is as though he inhabits life’s borderlands, eschewing conventional attachments in favour of deeper, albeit more fleeting connections. His friends and acquaintances are all similarly eccentric.
Tintin’s world exists on the fringes of our own. Which was exactly where I found myself.
These themes are also explored in Frederic Tuten’s strangely disarming novel, Tintin in the New World. By transplanting Tintin from the comic book world to the real one, Tuten gives us a more fleshed-out character, with human weaknesses.
Holmes and Tintin, then, are linked by their aloneness, and their apparent indifference to a life corralled by the everyday trappings that bind the rest of us together.
Not really understanding much about this world, or my place in it, I found solace in the adventures of these two strange fictional characters. It’s alright to not get it, they said. All this is just a game.