This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

I mean, I had to read it.


Tabitha Carvan's book, on the surface, is about her midlife fascination with Cumberbatch: every film he's in, every photo snapped by the press, every word offered in an interview. During movie night with her husband, she picks films he's in. When her mind wanders, it wanders to him.


The problem: that can't be normal. She's nearing 40; she's a mom. Why does she have this obsession? She loves her husband, her children, even her life. What hole does this fill?


Again: I had to read it. I fell in love with Sherlock as a teenager, and my passion for it stuck around for a few years. But I always felt sort of guilty about loving a show so much. I was trapping myself into that category of "teenage girls" who like a thing for the wrong reason.


All of the things I've enjoyed, teenage years onwards, have been permeated with a vague sense of shame. Surely others don't fixate like this. I should be focusing on something more productive.


Every single one. I was shy about the media I consumed (The Fray, Scrubs, Sherlock, Cabin Pressure), the things I felt passionate about (ancient cosmology, dachshunds, entomology), and beyond. I even felt like hiding my new interest in embroidery and ukulele from my husband; not because he would be judgemental (he wasn't) but because I felt like I was wasting time on something that would never be labelled productive.


Carvan's journey introduces her to hundreds of people who feel the same, most specifically about Benedict but some about other passions. One of her friends even visits a psychologist to find out what's wrong with her, only to receive a raised eyebrow as he says, "You have a hobby."


A good chunk of Carvan's book spends time exploring why women aren't allowed the same passions as men (think of a male coworker with sport paraphernalia all over his desk, and a woman with stuff from her favourite play. Do you view this behaviour differently? Why?). She makes a good point; so much of a woman's identity is in her relation to others (good wife, caring mother) that it's easy to see how any sense of personal identity, space, and time dissipates.


She also focuses on the loss of hobbies as a whole: so much of life is now focused on being productive instead of feeling joy. So what if a TV show or radio series brings some joy in your life?


Enjoy your pumpkin spice latte, your sports team, your fantasy series. I've purposely devoted more time over the last few months to hobbies and I'm actually happier. Not because I'm good at ukulele or embroidery (I'm not) but because I enjoy learning new things and feeling creative.


Even if you're meh about Benedict Cumberbatch, Carvan's take on what it means to own your joy is worth the read.


And as a bonus: there's a whole chapter dedicated to fanfiction's history in mythology and the Middle Ages. Good stuff.

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