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July Books 9) Hitchhiker

9) Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, by M.J. Simpson

This is really an exploration of Adams in his own words and in the words of people around him, including attempts to get at the truth or otherwise of various anecdotes told by or about him during his life. Simpson conveys well both Adams' charm and the way in which he infuriated friends and colleagues. He is probably fair to put some of the blame of Adams' failure to produce on his editors. Apart from that, it's a bit unsatisfying; as John Lloyd hints in the introduction, Adams' family life, particularly his relationship with his father, remains pretty much unexplored. Also I would like someone to look at Adams' work in perhaps a more literary way, with more reflections on the social context of his writing and how he did (or didn't) link into the issues of the day.

Since it's a book of details, there are several that particularly appealed to me. Long ago as I was in the throes of deciding to abandon my academic career, one of the rare external shoves in that direction came from the editor of an academic journal to whom I had submitted an article, giving his reasons for rejecting it. I was stunned to discover that the editor in question had been Douglas Adams' room-mate and first writing partner.

I was completely convinced about the origins of Arthur Dent; also (though Simpson doesn't mention it directly) about the influence of The Dalek Master Plan on Life, the Universe and Everything.

Apparently, while 42 is the funniest two-digit number, 359 is the funniest three-digit number. +359 is the international dialling code for Bulgaria, while +42 used to be Czechoslovakia (now +420 for the Czechs and +421 for the Slovaks). Draw your own conclusions.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
I thought "Life, The Universe, and Everything" was based on the Key to Time.

As I've got older, I have found Adams' humour a bit wearing, but the film was sufficiently amusing to make me think about reading the books or watching the TV series again.
Jul. 15th, 2006 12:53 pm (UTC)
In fairness, Simpson shows that the plot of assembling components etc was in fact proposed to the BBC by Adams as a series called "Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen" long before the Key to Time.
Jul. 15th, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC)
Hm... I read Wish You Were Here which was, if I remember correctly, rather pesonal.
Douglas Adams is actually a ridiculously fascinating person, with his pop culture icon status and angst-fests.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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