She introduced me to Douglas Adams’ five Hitchhikers Guide books. For years I just looked at them on our library shelf, stuck in my natural history and science rut. Of course we’ve all read about them and seen many quotes from them, like these:
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”
“Space, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
After Aitch died I finally read them. All. Voraciously. How could I not get hooked with those lines and others like this:
“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”
I also read Adams’ real-life travel book on vanishing species where he says something about how the rhinos “trotted like boulders”.
I can clearly hear Aitch saying, “See?! I TOLD you! Hmph!” – triumphant grin, nose in the air.
Adams’ artistic sensibility is both specific and elusive. He can go from distraught to delighted in the space of a modifier. He combines Gary Larson’s irony, Bill Watterson’s wistful idealism, Oscar Wilde’s keen social observation, and Dorothy Parker’s mischievousness. But set in space. In short, he is a genre all to himself.
It bugs me that our “Restaurant” and “Mostly Harmless:” books are missing from Adams’ “trilogy in four parts”, so here’s an internet pic of all five, just because.
Like Tom Sharpe, a must-read.
Yeah, “Riotous Assembly” and “Indecent Exposure” – very good! Made Maritzburg famous! Love the way Sharpe dedicated them “to the South African police force whose lives are dedicated to the preservation of western civilisation in southern Africa”.