Literacy week, month, whatever — Book 7

Below is the last of the seven books I chose when I got tagged for a Literacy Month challenge.

Given the numerous books I’ve read in my life, this was quite the challenge . . . one I decided to pare down by concentrating only on fiction I’ve read. Even so, the choices were numerous. So, I pared them down even further by only choosing books I still own (with the exception of I, Robot which — were it not for some nameless bastard — I’d still own).

The last book I posted in response to the challenge was . . .

The interesting thing about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is that the trilogy has five books. There is a sixth book but as it wasn’t written by Adams, I didn’t bother with it. I probably should. Read it, that is.

By the way, there’s only another week before the “C” stories voting closes. I suspect most people who had any intention of reading them have already done so, but just in case, you can vote for them HERE as well as find links to the stories so that — you know — you can read them before you vote.

If Niven is likely my favorite author, Douglas Adams is the author I most identify with as far as outlook in life, beliefs or lack thereof, and is also likely my favorite author.

Here’s Wikipedia’s entry for the author for them who don’t click on links (note: I removed many of the links in the text but left relevant links; see the actual article for the original).

Douglas Noel Adams (11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001) was an English author, screenwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist, and dramatist.

Adams was author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a “trilogy” of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime and generated a television series, several stage plays, comics, a video game, and in 2005 a feature film. Adams’s contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983), The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990), Last Chance to See (1990), and three stories for the television series Doctor Who; he also served as script editor for the show’s seventeenth season in 1979. He also co-wrote the Monty Python sketch “Patient Abuse” which appeared in the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A posthumous collection of his works, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

Adams was an advocate for environmentalism and conservation, a lover of fast cars, technological innovation and the Apple Macintosh, and a self-proclaimed radical atheist.

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In what way and why do I identify with the man? For a complete answer, you would have to read his essays and opinions about a variety of topics.

But, just a few things I’ll mention . . . Monty Python, Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams), and he was one of the first public figures I read about (certainly, there were others) openly and honestly addressing the many, many flaws of religious thinking. Here is the entry from Wikipedia:

Atheism and views on religion
Adams described himself as a “radical atheist”, adding “radical” for emphasis so he would not be asked if he meant agnostic. He told American Atheists that this conveyed the fact that he really meant it. He imagined a sentient puddle who wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!** to demonstrate his view that the fine-tuned universe argument for God was a fallacy.

He remained fascinated by religion because of its effect on human affairs. “I love to keep poking and prodding at it. I’ve thought about it so much over the years that that fascination is bound to spill over into my writing.”

The evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins invited Adams to participate in his 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, where Dawkins calls Adams from the audience to read a passage from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe which satirizes the absurdity of the thought that any one species would exist on Earth merely to serve as a meal to another species, such as humans. Dawkins also uses Adams’s influence to exemplify arguments for non-belief in his 2006 book The God Delusion. Dawkins dedicated the book to Adams, whom he jokingly called “possibly [my] only convert” to atheism and wrote on his death that “Science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.”

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** Personally, I don’t think the average religious person has the wherewithal to understand the depth of this quote. This isn’t me being insulting; it’s just how it is since the denial of the idea is codified in their books and parroted daily by every believer I have ever met.

One of my favorite quotes of his is this one (addressing belief in the supernatural and religion in particular):

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

My currently owned Douglas books

But, about the book . . . again, from Wikipedia:

The broad narrative of Hitchhiker follows the misadventures of the last surviving man, Arthur Dent, following the demolition of the Earth by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Dent is rescued from Earth’s destruction by Ford Prefect—a human-like alien writer for the eccentric, electronic travel guide The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—by hitchhiking onto a passing Vogon spacecraft. Following his rescue, Dent explores the galaxy with Prefect and encounters Trillian, another human who had been taken from Earth (prior to its destruction) by the two-headed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and the depressed Marvin, the Paranoid Android. Certain narrative details were changed among the various adaptations.

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So, here’s the thing . . . you either gonna love the books, or you’ll hate them. That is the way with humor. These days — and specifically these days — it’s in vogue to find fault with everything. People get offended with the same frequency they take a dump, and with much the same aim in mind.

For me, Adam’s writing style matched some of the orthogonal turns I take with humor, my thinking, and my writing. As an example of what that means, here are a few quotes from the book . . .

First and foremost, one of the most important life lesson of all:   “Don’t Panic.”

. . . and . . .

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

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“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

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“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

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“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

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“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”

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“So this is it,” said Arthur, “We are going to die.”
“Yes,” said Ford, “except… no! Wait a minute!” He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. “What’s this switch?” he cried.
“What? Where?” cried Arthur, twisting round.
“No, I was only fooling,” said Ford, “we are going to die after all.”

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Perhaps one of Adam’s greatest contribution to humankind is his proclamation about towels:

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

After his untimely death (similar in circumstance to my brother’s) his fans began the yearly celebration of Towel Day on each May 25th. I’m saddened that I’ve not kept up the tradition, but by golly, I aim to start again this year.

No, wait . . . his greatest contribution is the phrasing of the ultimate question about Life, the Universe and Everything which, coincidentally, is also the title of the third book of the Trilogy. No, wait . . . it’s not the question but the answer that’s his ultimate gift to humanity.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I’ll give you the answer.

It’s . . . 42.

That seems a good place to stop as who could possibly need any more information after that bombshell?

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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