In the aftermath of having completed the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in one giddy shot, I’m not quite sure if I see things in the same light anymore. Douglas Noel Adams nosedives into vivid details, not-neatly but froodly describing species and their life histories: from the Vogons to the Krikkits and of course, Erica the triple breasted whore (what, she had three babies?)
I would have freely given air to my simmering suspicion that Adams wrote the entire series in much the same manner as one in which he first conceived the idea- lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in 1971: ‘not particularly drunk, just the sort of drunk you get when you have a couple of stiff Gössers after not having eaten for two days straight, on account of being a penniless hitchhiker ‘.
I was travelling with a copy of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Europe by Ken Walsh, a very battered copy that I had borrowed from someone. In fact, since this was 1971 and I still have the book, it must count as stolen by now. I didn’t have a copy of Europe on Five Dollars a Day (as it then was) because I wasn’t in that financial league.
But in the process of relating to us, the readers, the true history of the game of cricket or the life’s true purpose, Douglas Adams weaves in funny freow patches a commendable work of satire. The series follow a young(ish) man called Arthur, who discovers, much to his dismay, that a good friend wasn’t just weird, he was an alien and he actually lost a potential date to a double headed alien.
Before his house is razed for a bypass the government plans to construct, the earth is, for a hypergalactic bypass. The five novels follow his (mis)adventures (I know I’m good with the brackets. Thanks! But please, help yourself to commenting on it. I like being praised for my unique where-to-insert-parenthesis talent.) as he finds himself in a standoff against the man who stole his girl, only to crave tea on his spaceship later, then visits a lot of spots on the space-time fabric (it is way more fun than I’m making it sound), goes insane and pow.
The planets and the manner of their existence, position and mood is extremely interesting, so is the inhabitants’. As I read further, I could not help but marvel how far reaching his imagination was; how easily he toed the electric lines between crazy, scifi and satire.
What makes Douglas Adams even more endearing is his adorable disdain for deadlines.
‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’
Sadly, he passed away in 2001. A big, tall, fat void in our fan-lives. He died too soon. 50 is no age for a man of his calibre to die: an injustice inflicted upon humanity!
But there is still hope, for authors like Neil Gaiman illumine the way like sturdy lighthouses that have stood forever, nudging the mind and whispering words of wisdom.
There’s absolutely no way you still haven’t heard his commencement speech at University of Arts, Philadelphia.
(I can wiggle my ears. That is the only excuse I can give you for mentioning ‘ear’ 24 times.)
Ah, the young lad. Where did you find that clipping from?… The old desk in the basement you say? Ah, well. My knees have gone so bad that they rattle like the Friday’s 5: 30 each time I go down a fleet of stairs… What? Speak louder, child. I’m growing old. No one cares about the old. Oh yes, the lad. He was a very talented young’un.
In our time, when we were still learning to control our ears, he went right ahead and blinded those people on the selection committee with an ear wiggle to Nat King Cole! I don’t remember the song, but it soon became immensely popular with the girls in class. You should have seen it to believe it! Heh… I know you couldn’t have, it was a joke, a jo-(wheezes)… Anyway, so this professor of ear cartilage biology comes from the Hempshaw Qertin University for Earical Sciences and Performing Arts, he swept away all of his three page resume in his sharply drawn British face… The girls managed to fall for it too.
I mean here we were, young and fumbling, still learning; we used to look up to the Prez; such a wonderful yet humble man! He had insulted the premiers of all kingdoms across the hemisphere, wiggling ears wildly to the left and then to the right, with such great speed… It was imperceptible! Oh no no, im-perc-ept-ibble. Am I hard of hearing or are you?
Heh, never mind… So as if this daily routine of his wasn’t enough, the Yoplian committee recommended him for a Nobel Preiz. The Yoplians were known to have very strict standards in their heydays: a Stentor announcing the best of the best! Of course, by the time you crawled out of your pod, they were reduced to lecherous lepers watching fully clothed women with hawk’s eye… It hurts me to think what dust settled into the crevices of their horns to weigh it down so much that their brains stop churning, drops dead and crumbles to dust too…
Ask your aunt to dust these bloody shelves, they’re ruining my inks!
What? … You are such an impatient lot, wasting energy and feasting on unhealthy food. Tsk tsk. So the Yoplians forwarded this chap’s name to the Nobel Preiz Committee which did to the Nominaetion Handler Committee then to the Filing Committee of Grishkaul for record… how my wretched memory deserts me! I forget the rest… I am growing older, must faster than your aunt… Why must the men fade away first?
But after much deliberation and effervescent reportings in the newspaper… yes, like this one… He was denied the preiz of course. How can younger people be awarded when the older ones have had no chance to be recognized?
You youngsters seem bent on stealing our opportunity to showcase our talents: where do we go if not our own country?
… No, I don’t literally mean you, but your generation, always scurrying around.
Not only was he denied the preiz, the Nobel Preiz for ear wiggling was withdrawn later that year, with the government’s decision to promote peace and unity in the nation. That’s where your Early Fest comes from, lil pal. But I know why they did it. The Nobel Elders had predicted the end of the world should such a happenstance warp humanity. A 9 year old brat, for Garth’s sake!
Eventually, the Holy Respectable Supremely Nobel Garth destroyed the earth keeping in with the Elders’ prediction… Why? Predictions have to come true, or else whass the point? Lemme zlip me teet bah inn. He destroyed everything simply because well, a 9 year old cannot win it. Yoplians’ were banished to the Red Waters till eternity. Some would say it was a futile exercise, but Garth was angry. He did relay a clip of apology, except we were to young to be able to read from inside our pods and those who were… They weren’t there.
I mean the prizes were constituted to celebrate and felicitate the creativity and minds of the lesser privileged, the minority: seniority. We old chaps never really get our chance. Young people expect to be lauded for every sneeze they let out. Giantferous Garth, can you imagine being awarded a medal for each fart?
… I think you already are, aren’t you, you lil nymph?
Can a young 9 year old sneeze compare to expertise that the rolling years have sat upon, never giving the brilliance of their minds a chance to rise and be appreciated?
Why, do my eyes deceive or are fusing with the pod again? Old age, old ag–
Meanwhile, checkout 42 things you’ve got to know about the Hitchhiker’s series and the Neil Gaiman’s comic series Sandman here. A google search led me to someone called Morpheus who looks like this.
I’ll go back to reading it once I fix my jaw back.