March 10

New To Hitchhiking

I’m new to Douglas Adams. Well sort of – I’ve read a couple of his books previously, out of sequence.

So, I have just set about reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide series from beginning to end. Consequently, it’s now hard not to see his fingerprints over many aspects of modern life, ranging from his prescience regarding technological evolution to anticipating social, cultural and commercial trends.

As Python Terry Jones points out in one of the early Forewords, I’ve come the the conclusion that the point of reading any of Adams’ books is not for the story but for his joy with language and the way he shines a spotlight on a cliché, thought or truism in a way that is at first humorous and flippant but then, on reflection, is loaded with meaning.

Indeed, I’ve never read an author that is so completely disarming.

Strangely, I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed the experience of reading The Hitchiker’s books – the narratives are disjointed and I’ve often found myself wondering if I’ve missed huge sections. But nearing the end of the fifth book in the series, I can see that a linear structure is really not the point. More that the narrative is a loosely constructed and held together vehicle for his various insights.

I guess I often judge a book in terms of whether it’s something I’d recommend if asked. Put it this way, it’s one of those books that I’m glad I have read and suspect that should be read by most people – but it isn’t something that’s necessarily for everyone.

If you can get past the hurdles though, the combination of silliness and frippery with substance and foresight seems in itself to be an allegorical statement about his basic subject matter, i.e. the meaning of life.

Now, can someone please explain why, despite having more than a hundred unread books on my e-reader, I still feel the urge to buy and read Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club?