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Saturday, March 17, 2012

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Hitchhiker's is a story of an earthling, a Betelgeusian, another Betelgeusian, another earthling, a manically depressed robot, and some mice. It starts with the end of the Earth. (A very good place to start, don't you think?) And ends with a departure from the planet Magrathea and a stop at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There are some very funny bits in the middle (Vogons reading poetry, Infinite Improbability drives, random coincidences that are not in fact random at all, feats of daring and acts of stupidity, jokes galore, and of course, a mildly climactic battle that almost ends in the death of our main characters (Arthur Dent - the first earthling, Ford Prefect - the first Betelgeusian, Zaphod Beeblebrox - the second Betelgeusian, and Trillian (aka Tricia McMillan) the second earthling)). They are saved, in a delightfully ironic twist, by Marvin (the depressed robot) and his unbearable melancholy. This book is one hell of a ride and a barrel of laughs.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

So, I feel a little guilty because as I realized at the end that the book felt a bit unfinished and told Laura, she pointed out that it is, in fact, part of a trilogy (which ironically, in fact contains FIVE books). Whoops! But, to be fair, my list only contains the first one, so while I most emphatically promise to read the rest of the "trilogy" later in life, I will only be discussing the first one for now.

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - if you haven't read HHGTTG (apparently that is the "fan" abbreviation), stop reading my post NOW and go read it. It's only 200 pages and it's TOO funny. You'll fall off your chair it's so funny (read: little girl with a British accent). If you're not inclined (though I HIGHLY SUGGESTED IT and you're clearly just choosing to ignore me) or if you've already read it, feel free to proceed. Alternatively, if you're one of those people who doesn't mind reading all the good parts of a book before reading it themselves, you may also proceed.

Apologies in advance if this gets long (I really am trying to be attentive to length!) but here are my favorite moments:

-The book starts off (before the end of the Earth) with Arthur's house about to get knocked down to build a bypass. When he complains that he had no idea that it was happening, the contractor responds with the following:
"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, 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."
--This is one of several places in my book where I've simply written: "haghahgahgahgahgahgahghaga."

-Ford Prefect accidentally gets stuck on Earth for 15 years, and his cover is that he's an "out of work actor". Amazing.

-Apparently, Ford Prefect got drunk quite often to deal with the boredom of being stuck on Earth:
"Thereafter, staggering semiparalytic down the night streets, he would often ask passing policemen if they knew the way to Betelgeuse. The policemen would usually say something like, "Don't you think it's about time you went off home, sir?"
to which Ford would apparently respond, "I'm trying to, baby, I'm trying to."
--Next time I go out drinking I want to hobble down the streets of DC and ask strangers for directions to Betelgeuse. (Only the nice looking strangers, of course, Mom. I wouldn't dream of asking crazy strangers for directions to Betelgeuse!)

-Ford Prefect, as he is trying to steal Arthur away to explain that he is in fact an alien and the Earth is about to explode, convinces the contractor trying to knock down Arthur's house that he should lie down in front of the bulldozer in the mud to keep it from knocking down the house. He promises that when he and Arthur get back from the pub, they'll take a shift for the contractor as a trade. He adds, "And no sneaky knocking Mr. Dent's house down while he's away, all right?"
--This is Hilarious. The description of the contractor trying to logic out whether what he's doing is stupid or not is amazing, and Ford's logic is delightfully idiotic.

-Ford tries to break it to Arthur that he's an alien (and you realize Arthur's not all that bright)
Ford: "How would you react if I said that I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"
Arthur: "I don't know. Why, do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"
--heh. heh.

-The Hitchhiker's Guide itself resembles a Nook or a Kindle; which is pretty impressive considering that this book was published in 1979, well before a computer that wasn't the size of a small house existed, let alone something as sophisticated as a digital book. Nice forethought, Mr. Adams!

-Ford consoles Arthur, because he thinks Arthur is worried about the end of the Earth (about which Ford has just informed him)
"What's that sound?"
"Don't worry, they haven't started yet."
"Thank God for that."
"It's probably just your house being knocked down."
--Hagh. I guess in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter, but I'd be upset if I were Arthur! Did anyone get Suzy?!

-Ford and Arthur are whisked up into a Vogon spaceship just before the Earth is demolished
Arthur: "If I asked you where the hell we were, would I regret it?"
Ford: "We're safe. We're in a small galley cabin in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet."
Arthur: "Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn't previously aware of."

-The Hitchhiker's Guide's entry on the Earth is one word: "Harmless." When Ford works on the entry for 15 years, it is changed. To "Mostly harmless."
--Are we, though? Certainly not harmless to each other.

-Adams' description of Vogon poetry (a form of torture MOST vicious):
"During a recitation of their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception."
--I think many people would agree that certain types of poetry readings are, indeed, a most vile form of torture.

-Arthur describes the wonders of Earth to Marvin, the manically depressed robot:
Arthur: "I came from a planet called Earth, you know."
Marvin: "I know, you keep going on about it. It sounds awful."
Arthur: "Ah no, it was a beautiful place."
Marvin: "Did it have oceans?"
Arthur: Oh yes, great wide rolling blue oceans..."
Marvin: "Can't bear oceans."
--A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Marvin is my favorite character. Ford's a laugh and a half, but Marvin cracks me UP. Also, he is apparently voiced by Alan Rickman in the movie (which I've heard mixed things about generally) which I find to be perfectly delightful.

-Part of the plot in this book (which I didn't bother to summarize in great detail because (a) my blogs have gotten long, (2) it's rather complicated, and (d) in case you didn't get the hint, I really want you to read this one YOURSELF because it's great!) involves finding the answer to the question, "What is the meaning of life?" When after several billion years, the computer provides the answer, it is... DUH DUH DUh.... 42.
The mice (who are in fact in control - again - it's complicated) try to come up with several questions (secondary questions for "What is the meaning of life") which could reasonably have this answer. Here are a few they came up with:
"What's yellow and dangerous?"
"What do you get if you multiply six by seven?"
"How many roads must a man walk down?
--Other thoughts, for ways to ask the ultimate question for which the answer is 42? How many lovers should we have? (ACK! too many) How many careers? (too many!) How many meaningful moments? (too few!) Tricky, isn't it?

-When Ford and the others are unexpectedly shot at by some policemen on the planet Magrathea and the two policemen suddenly stop shooting, Ford offers to go check to see what's up.
Ford: "Right, I'm going to have a look."
Ford: "Is no one going to say, No, you can't possibly, let me go instead?
Everyone shakes their heads.
Ford: "Oh well."

-Conversation between Ford and Marvin the robot:
Ford: "How are you, metalman?"
Marvin: "Very depressed."
Ford: "What's up?"
Marvin: "I don't know. I've never been there."
--heh heh heh heh heh.

-Marvin inadvertently saves the crew by talking to the policemen's ship (to which they are electronically connected for power). He "shared his view of the Universe", and in response, according to Marvin, the ship committed suicide.

-Slartibartfast, the only Magrathean we meet (the rest are supposedly in deep sleep until the end of the Galaxy's recession -- boy wouldn't it be nice to sleep through this one? but then again, we'd miss everything good that's happening!!) is a planet designer. (Magrathea, I forgot to mention, was built to design high-end, custom planets and sell them to the highest bidder.) Slartibartfast suggests that instead of looking for the ultimate question or the meaning of life, we just keep occupied.
"Look at me: I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway."
--Adorable. I'm sure plenty of people would be happy to have a job designing coastlines. In fact, it probably is someone's job. The beach does have to be cared for from an environmental and ecological perspective. Awards for coastline designers! Hooray!

-Slartibartfast also says, "Science has achieved some wonderful things, of course, but I'd far rather be happy than right any day."
This reminds me of the line that Elwood P. Dowd says in "Harvey": "My mother used to say to me, 'Elwood, in this world you must be oh-so clever, or oh-so pleasant.' For years I was clever. I'd recommend pleasant."

On that note, I'm back to the world of Ayn Rand for an appointment with an aspiring architect. Do you appreciate my amazing alliteration?

1 comment:

  1. I remember laughing out loud at the parts about Vogon poetry and how terrible it was. Amazing!!