Thursday, May 05, 2005

Vote Beeblebrox

There are three series of books I love so much that they make my heart hurt. I shall list them for you:

1. The Lymond Chronicles
2. The Lord of the Rings
3. Douglas Adams

I would like to rhapsodize now, for a moment, on the third. Let us revisit my history with Douglas Adams. I believe I first encountered him when Ivan made me read The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul when I went to Cape Cod with her family. Incidentally that was the same trip during which Ivan's mother drowned me in sunscreen and made me sit under an umbrella all day because I'm an ice princess. But that's okay. I wanted to sit and read anyway.

I think it was after that that Ivan called me one weekend and told me to turn on the radio because the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio show was playing. So I listened to that religiously until it ended all too abruptly.

I read the five-novel trilogy during my senior year of high school. I have very distinct memories of having that huge blue tome in my lap when we drove through this very campus and I decided I wanted to go to school here.

There was a bit of a lull aftr that. Then, one day while I was shelving books in the library listening to my walkman, I ran across part of the radio show that I had partially taped over. It was the part where Zaphod is put into the Total Perspective Vortex. The fairy cake part struck me as particularly brilliant and I thought to myself, "Alas, I wonder whatever happened to that show."

My love was renewed when I went to England and met Helen and discovered that she and I had an admiration for Douglas Adams in common. I reread the Guide, and the partial novel Adams left after his death (thank you, Ivan), and after Helen went back to the States, she miraculously got ahold of a copy of Dirk Gently's Detective Agency, and I was dazzled by that, too. Then I saw a two-disc edition of the radio show on sale in Blackwells. I went into that store on probably six separate occasions just to look at it, the only copy they had. And then one day I found the courage to fork over twenty pounds and IT WAS MINE. And it was only after listening to the show several times, and randomly meeting Mark Wing-Davies, that I really began to understand Douglas Adams's brilliance.

It's pretty clear that he's a funny guy: "It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an airport' appear." I personally like Heathrow, but whatever, it's true. I can testify to the fact that Newark sucks; they even made putting rocking chairs in the terminals into a failure of an idea by getting the kind that, if you actually use them, irreversibly mangle your spinal chord. Anyway, yes, the person who came up with Bistromath, the Meet the Meat scene, and the line "Yes, well, that's just what we want to find out: do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?" . . . of course had an extraordinary sense of humor.

But what kills me every time is how he can make the total insignificance of the human race perfectly clear, reveal and dwell on all of its absurdities and flaws and outright failures, and postulate that Earth is in fact nothing more than an organic computer and that the human race is actually descended primarily from telephone sanitizers -- and then turn around and celebrate the hell out of the entire ridiculous and inconvenient arrangement.

My favorite part is in the first book when Slartibartfast is discussing with Arthur the rather tragic demise of Earth before it was able to reveal the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. He says, after all that, "Well that's bureaucracy for you." I've never read another book so concerned with the meaning of life that concludes with such glee that there is no point and isn't it truly wonderful. This has been endlessly consoling and alerted me to the fact that where religions feed off distrust of the human race, atheism requires an enormous amount of faith in it. And that makes me, a plain, inoffensive heathen, very, very happy.

Plus it's incredibly satisfying to think everyone I don't like will at some point be descended upon by a businesslike little alien with a clipboard, and roudly insulted. This, I feel, is very satisfying indeed.


Lindsey said...

Was that not the same vacation almost cut short because I refused consume a can of sprite at the beach (i still don't like sprite)? Poor, poor simon on vacation with MY MOTHER. At least there were tuna rolls and on occasion, mint chocolate chip ice cream. I have your copy of Salmon of Doubt and your code book. I can never remember to return them. They are beginning to lurk. Miss you much, chica!

.Maeve said...

i would ask "holy cow, how did you meet mark wing-davies tell me everything", except i feel that we have done this already. yet i do not remember. so, holy cow, how did you meet mark wing-davies tell me everything!

i think i shall have to put the lymond chronicles on my List.