Friday, January 18, 2013

“But the plans were on display …”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The first time I had ever heard of this book, I believe I was about thirteen years old. I was at my then best-friend's house and she'd made a comment in the effect of 
    'My dad is reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
    'Oh?' I had replied,
    'He said it is really funny'
    'Oh, so it's fictional?' Said I. She peered at me over her magazine with a quizzical look upon her face and that's all I really recall.

So, after I finished Macbeth: A Novel recently - I honestly felt emotionally drained and slightly uncomfortable, and couldn't bear the thought of going straight on to something that could be as intense, or serious as Macbeth had been. Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy popped in to my head, and I downloaded it from Audible and got to listening. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was written by Douglas Adams and originally had been a comedic radio show on one of the BBC stations. It begins with poor, old, average Arthur Dent when he wakes up one morning forgetting that his house is supposed to be knocked down that day to make room for a bypass. What transpires is something much bigger - his best friend, Ford Prefect, suddenly turns up, spouting that the world is about to end, and that he is saving Arthur Dent. Poor old earth is being vaporised to make room for an intergalactic bypass. Well, that's pretty much it really. He and Ford just kind of spend the rest of the book hitch-hiking around until Arthur finds out the very odd truth about our humble blue planet. 

The Audiobook
One of my favourite narrators is the reader of this short book; the one, the only Stephen Fry of course. I'd previously listened to Fry reading his book The Fry Chronicles, which was simply brilliant. I've been, and still am a mahoosive Fry fan, I can't help it, I love the guy - and after listening to this book, there really could have been no other narrator who would have been able to do it justice as Fry did. He was brilliant, well paced, with great articulation (am I fawning too much?), haha, too bad I'm not a big fan of the book itself - but truly, if it wasn't for Stephen Fry's narration I wouldn't have persevered with the book.

The Story
As I mentioned earlier I read this for ... well... comic relief! I'd left Macbeth feeling a little disturbed, and well, needed a palate cleanser, and well, a long came this one.

So, what did I think? I wasn't impressed if I am honest. There were parts that were brilliantly ironic, that were funny and that were just odd. And to be honest it all smelt and tasted quintessentially British - which I could appreciate (add to the fact that Stephen Fry was narrating it) greatly. But - there just seemed to be a lot missing. For instance... I just didn't really feel for the characters, I understand that it is a comedy, but still, I still want to care what happens to the characters. It was just all very random - which I am sure it is supposed to be, but I just couldn't suspend belief and just enjoy it... I was too busy thinking 'hold on.. what's going on now?'

I would also pause the book thinking 'am I just not posh enough for this?', 'is this just for upper-middle class people', 'am I not the right generation for this?', 'is my humour too low-brow for this nonsense?' - I kid you not, I really did ask myself every single one of those questions, and none of them were answered, and, in all honestly... I was relieved when I finished it. 

I believe, in my stunted way, that Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series must have some sort of Marmite effect around the world... some people love it, and I am sure that some people are repelled by it. 

Sorry Mr. Adams. Forgive me. I'm sure you were awesome. And your work is still bringing joy and giggles to many people. But. Well. I just didn't get it. And you're a British treasure - I know. I just... couldn't connect. Sorry. 
P.s. I tried to watch the film and stopped about twenty minutes in. Sorry. I didn't get that either.

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  1. Great review! I have to say I agree with all your points on this one, though I'm not sure even Stephen Fry could redeem it for me! I did, however, manage to sit through the film, but only because we went to see it at a cinema for a friends birthday (their choice!)I literally sat there for 2 hours gaping at it. I like random, I like off-beat. I like "quintessential"ness. So why didn't I like this?! I have a feeling it was dolphins... Anyway, if this book is to be commended for anything it would have to be "42", which has managed to get me through a lot of situations in life. (exams, boring dates, "whats your number, love?")

  2. Haha!
    So true.... those ghastly dolphins! I was really disappointed to be honest. I wanted this to rock my world! But anywho, after Macbeth it did the trick of lightening my mood - so I should give Adams credit for that!


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