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May 11, 2011 8:15 AM   Subscribe


 
Ten years to the day since DNA's death.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/may/11/douglas-adams-books
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:17 AM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by Kitteh at 8:25 AM on May 11, 2011


It's funny, but I am in the middle of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. I'm re-reading the HHGTTG books for the first time since childhood, when I read all four books in the trilogy every year or so. I've never read Mostly Harmless, but I'll probably dive in after I figure out what's happening with Arthur and Fenchurch.

Then, just a day or two ago, I was watching an old Doctor Who (Pyramids of Mars (or was it City of Death?)) and his name came up as the script editor or something.

All signs point to a Douglas Adams phenomenon afoot. I'm going to throw myself on the floor--and I need all of you to startle me, ok? Before I hit the ground, though, got it?





Ow.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


4.2
posted by Aizkolari at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2011


Is she in the union?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two great articles there. This quote from the Guardian article Celsius1414 linked to really hits home:
It really is a shame that he didn't live to see the world today. It's wonderful in some ways, a bit of a mess in many others. But if anyone could have made sense of it, Douglas Adams would probably be the man for the job.
I think about that all the time. Like on a weekly basis. So tragic, so painful, even ten years later.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I find returning to at least one of Douglas Adams' works every few years is one of the best ways to keep yourself from succumbing to humanity's ever-repeating tragic folly of taking the universe and everything else in it, especially one's self, far too seriously.
posted by chambers at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Recent experimental evidence shows that when people are feeling vulnerable, they’re more likely ... to believe conspiracy theories"

Anybody know where I might find such evidence? I'm really curious about this.
posted by etc. at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the linked article:
In The Hitchhiker's Guide, Earth is demolished suddenly and unceremoniously by aliens called Vogons, who are clearing a path for a hyperspace bypass. Our real-life future may not hold a Vogon constructor fleet, but it definitely holds our demise. Eventually the human race will be wiped out, whether through war, or a virus, or some environmental disaster like an asteroid of the sort that did in the dinosaurs. Even if we manage to escape all those risks on Earth, eventually our Sun is going to expand, boiling away all of our oceans and atmosphere, and probably swallowing us up. And even if we manage to escape our solar system, eventually the universe will expand until it rips apart all of our individual molecules.
I need a video containing kittens now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


City of Death was his - there's echoes of it and Shada, a partial made episode, in the Dirk Gently books.
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2011


I've come to realize that my world-view has heavily shaped by authors like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and when considering the pantheon of philosophers, mathematicians, spiritual luminaries, and other brilliant intellectuals, when it comes to people to look to for answers and guidance, I think I've made the right choices.
posted by quin at 8:41 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a lover of both H2G2 and existentialist philosophy, I really enjoyed the article. I'd write more here, but what's the point?

Thanks, hydatius.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:41 AM on May 11, 2011


I haven't had a birthday without a bit of sadness since his passing. On the plus side, I have a dog named Zarquon.

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posted by polyhedron at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2011


I find returning to at least one of Douglas Adams' works every few years is one of the best ways to keep yourself from succumbing to humanity's ever-repeating tragic folly of taking the universe and everything else in it, especially one's self, far too seriously.

In 2009, I read Hitchhiker's for the 30th anniversary; last year was the 30th of Restaurant. I'll skip this year (appropriately, I'm 42 this year), then it'll be Life, the Universe, and Everything in 2012 and So Long in 2014. If I'm still around in 2022, I'll be sure to get Mostly Harmless in there along with the 40th of Restaurant. ;)

DNA is one of my gurus, along with George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, and a handful of others.

Here's one of my favorite quotes of his, from a speech:

There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions. Curiously enough, quite a lot of these have come from sand, so let's talk about the four ages of sand.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wrote this morning that the first thing I saw on TV today was an ad for the new iPad, and for some reason, that Adams died before seeing anything related to the iPhone, etc. is just wholly and completely unfair. It would have pleased him to no end that of all companies, Apple went ahead and made something like that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I credit Douglas Adams with the well-rounded and, admittedly, quite mad life that I have followed. The hitchhikers guide is the closest equivalent to the bible in my philosophy. The Guide and Calvin and Hobbes are the best and most useful philosophical texts to come out of the 20th century by a wide margin.
posted by pucklermuskau at 8:46 AM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think "Last Chance to See" was really his best work.
posted by humanfont at 9:14 AM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I may have gotten to the philosophical subtext of HGTTG if I hadn't been turned off by the constant painfully inane attempts at what I assume to be humour. I'll never understand the appeal of that book.
The article is interesting, though, even though I don't believe life has a "purpose". Existence precedes essence.
posted by rocket88 at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Guide and Calvin and Hobbes are the best and most useful philosophical texts to come out of the 20th century by a wide margin.

You're forgetting Pratchett. I suppose that most of my favorites of his have been since 2001, but then there's still all the old Guards books, the Granny books, Small Gods, Reaper Man, etc.

I do need to reread the Hitchhiker books though. Been way too long.
posted by kmz at 9:34 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like many of you who have already commented Douglas Adams was and is very important to me. I don't think I would have survived as an adolescent without the Hitchhiker's Trilogy (as it actually was at that point). It's a testament to his ability that his writing could speak to me as a teenager but maintain its relevance both as I've gotten older and as it's aged. It's ostensibly a light sci-fi comedy series but contains so much more depth than it's scaffolding might suggest.

I enjoyed this article. Now that I think of it, my favorite two writers when I was in my teens were Adams and Albert Camus (in particular "The Stranger"). I don't think I ever put two and two together before reading this article but the connection now seems rather obvious. Both of these authors were saying in their own way that, while the universe shows us nothing but absurdity, there is meaning in taking responsibility for our own actions, for our own experiences and beliefs and relationships to others and the world around us. Our best strategy is to push forward bravely and honestly in our lives, while acknowledging how little there is to hold on to for support most of the time. At least, this is what I learned from both Camus and Adams, I feel.

I think Douglas Adams also tried to live this way. He worked hard for the things he believed in, he was a powerful skeptic and humbly self-deprecating. In my life, he's the only person I've not personally known who I cried for when they died. He's also the only person I've not known who has died and, on a regular basis, I wish was still with us, in a sincere, heartfelt way. What a shame it is that he died so young. I'm starting to tear up again now thinking about it though, so I'm going to stop. We miss you here on our little gas-covered planet, Douglas Adams.
posted by dubitable at 9:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man I loved the H2G2 series, but the book with the special place in my heart is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The book is wildly understated and totally over-the-top all at once; the story is shaped like a pretzel, and the smallest details at the beginning end up being of tremendous importance at the end. It's perfect. Thank you, Mr. Adams.

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posted by gauche at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet - a lovely peice from The Sunday Times in 1999 that has been doing the rounds. I love this bit:

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Twitter would probably be my addition to that list.)
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on May 11, 2011


(Twitter would probably be my addition to that list.)

I imagine the bon mots flying back and forth on Twitter between Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry would be *most* amusing. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:32 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


It would have pleased him to no end that of all companies, Apple went ahead and made something like that.

Oh my yes. He was a huge Apple supporter, even through the dark days, but he wasn't an uncritical fanboy. His take on Apple, Inc. would be fascinating. Now I'm even more sad.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think "Last Chance to See" was really his best work.

Yeah. If you're looking for the meaning of life in an Adams book, look here.
posted by eugenen at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think "Last Chance to See" was really his best work.

I remember hearing that Douglas Adams had a new book out with that title and then going to the library to hunt for it. The card catalog sent me into the non-fiction stacks where there was no such book. I then went and had a long discussion with a librarian about how there must be some mistake. I was looking for a new science fiction novel and the card catalog had what was clearly a completely wrong Library of Congress classification code and could she please help me find it.

I didn't find it that day and I think it was a year or two (with a vigorous forehead slap somewhere in there) before I got to enjoy this excellent book.
posted by straight at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2011


Man I loved the H2G2 series, but the book with the special place in my heart is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The book is wildly understated and totally over-the-top all at once; the story is shaped like a pretzel, and the smallest details at the beginning end up being of tremendous importance at the end.

He tried that trick of a seemingly-too-brief ending that actually suddenly pulls together all the threads of the story in most of his later novels (Life, the Universe, and Everything; Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul; maybe in So Long and Thanks For All the Fish--I'm fuzzy on the details of that one), but Holistic Detective Agency is the only one where he really nailed it. (Neal Stephenson keeps trying and failing to pull off an ending like that.)
posted by straight at 11:14 AM on May 11, 2011


A few minutes ago, my work buddy came over so we could go get coffee, and he said something about preparing to get rained on. So I said, "Oh, is it raining? It wasn't raining before." Which is an intensely stupid thing to think, and, if possible, an even more stupid thing to say out loud. So I immediately thought of this:

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical.


As usual, Douglas Adams has me covered.
posted by Errant at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh my yes. He was a huge Apple supporter, even through the dark days, but he wasn't an uncritical fanboy. His take on Apple, Inc. would be fascinating. Now I'm even more sad.

The lack of hypercard wouldprobably get a mention.
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The lack of hypercard wouldprobably get a mention.

I was almost over that, but you had to bring it up, eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was looking for a new science fiction novel and the card catalog had what was clearly a completely wrong Library of Congress classification code and could she please help me find it.

I didn't find it that day and I think it was a year or two (with a vigorous forehead slap somewhere in there) before I got to enjoy this excellent book.



I hate it when librarians slap my forehead.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:26 PM on May 11, 2011


City of Death was his - there's echoes of it and Shada, a partial made episode, in the Dirk Gently books.

Don't forget The Pirate Planet, from the Tom Baker swan song - Key to Time.
posted by chambers at 12:52 PM on May 11, 2011


I grew up on Hitchhiker's Guide. I'm also constantly beset by a sense of life's utter meaninglessness in the face of both death and the utter hugeness of the galaxy.

Damn... those little books may have done a number on me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:28 PM on May 11, 2011


It has been one of the ongoing delights of my life to carry the last name Dent. As a child, my answer to the smart-assed question of my smarter-assed peers, "is Arthur Dent your dad?" was always "Yes!" As an adult, people I tend to like tend to think it is notable, neat or just plain cool that I get to be a Dent.

I do however bitterly regret that I will never have a daughter because I have always, always wanted to name her Fenchurch.

Ten years ago I submitted a comment to the Guardian's obit that was later requoted in a piece they ran on his death. It was something about how when Douglas Adams died, he took entire universes with him and we are all vastly poorer for that loss. I have always been proud that was plucked from the hundreds of comments on that thread; his death still makes me weep.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


How I wish he could have lived to see the iPod and iPad and smartphones.

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posted by ZeusHumms at 6:53 AM on May 25, 2011


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