Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where is my "Don't Panic" Kindle cover, capitalism?

No, I had not read The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy before, but having practically grown up on a Lord of the Rings message board, I sort of felt like I had. Towels, "42", mice and dolphins, you know. And then I saw the movie version in college with a group of Turkish grad students (an appropriately weird set of circumstances, I thought). But used bookstore to the stars (i.e. me and Alice) Open Books had a nifty omnibus edition of the "trilogy in four parts" for a bargain $7 so here we are.

For the record, I liked the movie well enough, and I haven't come across anything in the book(s) to change that impression. For the most part my reaction to the book(s) -- I've just finished The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and started in on Life, the Universe, and Everything -- has been to ramble along genially, thinking "heh" and "I see what you did there" at intervals. In short, I am not one of those people for whom Hitch Hiker's Guide is a touchstone, change-your-life book.

But! That's not to say I'm not enjoying it. And certainly not to say there aren't moments that make me laugh awkwardly in public places. For instance:
 "We have a thing on Earth..." began Arthur. "Had," corrected Zaphod. "... called tact. Oh never mind"
Ha, very sly.

One of the major problems encountered in time travel... is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. ... Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up.
Yes, yes, so far so wacky.  Adams is full of these little digressions. But then the whole thing just blossoms when a few paragraphs later you're suddenly getting this:
In it, guests take (willan on-take) their places at a table and eat (willan on-eat) sumptuous meals whilst watching (willing watchen) the whole of creation explode around them.
 Ahhh! Genius!

I think your tolerance level for these digressions probably shapes your enjoyment of the book to a great degree. I mean, in a way, the whole book is a series of digressions loosely hung on a plot. Being a very plot-driven reader, my tolerance for all these little wanderings (woo, synonym?) is naturally pretty low. (This is ironic because my mind is always going on digressions.) So while sometimes I find myself skipping ahead a little, I'm sure there are other people who eat them all up with a spoon. But even so, it's generally not too long until I find myself in the middle of an aside that is as funny as the one above, or, cue another example:
It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85 per cent of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme...
Medium is an interesting issue with the Hitch Hiker's Guide, and it occurs to me that the things that I really enjoy tend to be things that are fairly textually based. I'm assuming the jynnan tonnyx joke never turned up on the radio! although I guess the verb tenses would be just as funny. I can't put my finger on why, but I think I probably would enjoy the digressions in general more in the radio format.

Anyway, I'm convinced that the Ultimate Question is "How many songs about rainbows are there?"

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE WANDERINGS. So long as they're funny, i.e. not in Hugo.

    Glad you didn't hate it, man.