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December 2018



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September Books


Weatherley Parade, Richmal Crompton
Joy and Josephine, Monica Dickens
Father, Elizabeth von Arnim
The Jasmine Farm, Elizabeth von Arnim
The Angel in the Corner, Monica Dickens
Fer-de-Lance, Rex Stout
A Share in Death, Deborah Crombie
Now You May Weep, Deborah Crombie
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the trilogy of five, Douglas Adams
Huck and her Time Machine, Gillian Avery

Recently, I used a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in reply to a comment on my journal and was immediately overwhelmed by the need to read the book again *at once*. I do have all the books, somewhere, but thanks to a great Kindle offer a while back I didn’t have to go to the trouble of looking for them. What struck me straight away was this. Here is a book containing some terrifying concepts about Life, the Universe and Everything, which I find a cosy and comforting read. This is due partly to the utterly ordinary Englishness of Arthur Dent; partly to Adams’s juxtaposition of the homely with the unimaginable as in, “you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space”; partly to long familiarity. As I read, I found I was looking forward to my favourite quotes coming up, as:
"this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn't previously aware of."
"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed,"
“Life! Don't talk to me about life.”
“All my life I've had this strange feeling that there's something big and sinister going on in the world.” “No, that's perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe gets that.”
“We are philosophers.” “Though we may not be.”

I loved THGTTG, and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The next three books I couldn’t enjoy so much. This is of course heresy and any real fan would say that the odds against anything written by Douglas Adams being less than utterly brilliant would be 2276709 to one. Being almost infinitely improbable, it may of course also be true. One of the best written things in the Kindle set is the introduction by Neil Gaiman to So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, in which he says that Douglas Adams was not a novelist. For me, after the first two books, there are flashes of brilliance interspersed with pages which have the air of a grim determination to get something written. Hardly surprising, when it’s well known that Adams had to be locked inside a room to finish (or even start) the commissioned book SLATFATF. I got bored, especially with the amount of drink and drunkenness, which I never find funny, even in Lucky Jim. I could picture Douglas Adams sitting with his head in his hands, groaning, which was pretty much what I was doing myself.

This just shows that Gaiman was right. Hitchhiker’s was written for radio and that’s how I was introduced to it. Even now, to hear that theme tune brings on a sense of pleasurable anticipation. As I read, I hear the voices of Peter Jones (The Book) and Simon Jones (Arthur Dent). I have the recordings but they’re on cassette and listening to them these days is a lot of bother. To try to recapture some of that original enjoyment, I turned instead to the DVD. The first episode sounded strangely stilted, perhaps because the actors hadn’t quite adapted from radio to television, but the rest was almost as good as the radio, with some strange changes. It reminded me how very much I like Simon Jones (also brilliant as Bridey in Brideshead Revisited) and how little we hear of him these days.


There are MP3s on the computer somewhere, for I have a copy of them. Or I could just make you a copy from mine!
Really? Tell me where to look!
My introduction to THGTTG was the Dutch version of the radio play, and as I didn't care for radio plays, let alone science fiction, I always turned it off. A few weeks on I understood from fellow students that it was actually very funny, so when I found out years later that there were books, I borrowed the first volume from the library.

I remember reading it during my lunch break at work and laughing so hard at the question to the answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything that people came up to me to ask what was so funny. Several colleagues turned out to be fans. One of them was a girl several years younger than me, and I got the impression she didn't get the reference to Dylan. I felt so sorry for her that she didn't understand the best joke in the book!

The first two volumes are my favourites as well, with Restaurant winning by a slight margin, i.e. 5+ out of 5. The third volume is OK at best, the fourth is completely superfluous (as fourth volumes of trilogies tend to be), and the fifth provides a good, if very sloppily written, ending to the series. I refuse to read Eoin Colfer's sequel.

I remember trying to watch the TV series on the BBC when it was broadcast (or repeated?), but the pace was relentless and I hadn't discovered page 888 yet, so I gave up. For me, the books are the definitive Hitchhiker.

(I seem to have written an essay, sorry about that!)
I started the Colfer sequel and gave up very quickly, it was useless. Douglas Adams was such a one off oddball, no one should have tried a sequel.