On Why The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Isn’t What You Probably Maybe Think It Is. Possibly.

“the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.”

Arthur Dent enjoys cricket and tea and masks his crippling emotional repression and general reserve with a nice line in dry understatement. He has a friend; an out-of-work actor from Guildford called Ford Prefect. Except Ford’s not from Guildford, he’s not even from Surrey. He’s from a planet near Betelgeuse, which can’t be accessed via the A3.

And then the planet Earth gets destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Suffice it to say, Arthur isn’t exactly prepared for this eventuality.

The trilogy in 5 parts (and definitely no more than that) is a clever-but-silly sci-fi saga, gently existential with cups of tea, towels and dressing gowns.

Between the movie, TV show and radio play I’ve always vaguely wondered how I’d gotten it so wrong with the books. After all I grew up on a diet of spiritual bedfellows Monty Python, Radio 4 comedy and Blackadder. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry exemplified precisely this sort of cosy British humour for people who appreciate that not all jokes need involve penises or naughty words. In fact, author Douglas Adams was 1 of 2 people (the other being Neil Innes) to be given a writing credit by the Python team.

In the interests of full disclosure, I adore the books but abhor the rest. Perhaps it’s because for me the series isn’t Stephen Fry voicing the eponymous Guide and certainly isn’t old-fashioned or gentle.

Because it’s actually properly, nightmarishly, totally fucking dark.

Let’s start at the start: “most of the people were unhappy for pretty much of the time.” The book is written in an easy breezy, light-hearted fashion designed to hide the darkness but it’s there, hidden beneath the witticisms and puns, beneath the cricket, tea, bathrobes, chesterfield sofas, beneath even the fundamental universality of the gin and tonic. And, of course, beneath the towel.

That bloody towel is symbolic of everything lacking in most versions. As the eponymous Guide would have it, a man who knows where his towel is probably organised enough to possess all sorts of ostensibly more important things and is thus more likely to be lent said things by strangers. That is, one of the fundamental uses of the towel is to mislead perfect strangers in order to take advantage of them. Half the joke goes missing if that subtext is jettisoned.

And to make matters worse, Arthur’s in a dressing gown, probably the least appropriate apparel for traipsing around a universe that is at best indifferent to your continuing existence and at worst actively wants to end it. See above.

And finally to make matters even more worser than that (me speak English good), having survived the destruction of Earth, the appalling poetry of officious aliens and the depths of space, he ends up in a stolen spaceship so advanced as to have rendered hyperspace bypasses obsolete. Said spaceship’s existence predates the destruction of the Earth.

Which means that Earth was destroyed for absolutely no reason whatsoever. See above.

The fact that he shares this spaceship with a woman he failed to get off with at a party and the fugitive ex-president of the galaxy for whom she’d quickly abandoned him only adds insult to injury. Awkward…

Naturally enough Arthur’s response is to spend much of the first couple of books pining for a half-decent cup of tea.

But even this is almost pitifully emblematic. Replace the cup of tea with any other edible cultural signifier, particularly one that means something to you personally and you’ll see what I mean. People find comfort in food and drink, particularly those that remind them of home or security. Almost everyone Arthur has ever loved, despised or merely encountered is dead and gone, everything he has ever known no longer exists and will only ever be summed up by the words ‘mostly harmless’.

There’s no going back for Arthur, and he’s not quite bursting with useful talents or transferable skills, let alone any desire whatsoever to embrace his new circumstances. The tea represents a tiny reminder of a lost reality to which he can never return (later on of course he does, several times, but at this point he doesn’t know that).

It’s a form of grief in other words.

Over the course of the series the tone will evolve as we experience the galaxy through Arthur’s eyes and see him in turn become another jaded veteran, eventually turning his back on the galaxy to find a way home in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.

That novel would have been a satisfying end to the series, offering some semblance of a happy ending for most of the characters. SLATFATF offers a diametric opposite of the previous 3 novels, with Arthur embracing technology and positivity and finding love home on Earth. The novel sees him ultimately making the conscious decision to return to space exploration with his new squeeze despite his previous experiences living as a bewildered refugee from an obliterated civilisation fearful of the galaxy’s next horror. I believe that’s called taking ownership.

But of course that positive outlook was swiftly undone by series closer Mostly Harmless, far and away the bleakest book, which painted the galaxy and its inhabitants as unthinkingly cruel, reflexively cynical; bitter. Mostly Harmless returned to the inherent technophobia of the series with a Hitchhiker’s Guide Mk II and introduced a new character in the form of Trillian and Arthur’s daughter, a girl whose bad experiences of the galaxy are more extreme even than Arthur’s own.

Douglas Adams intended to write a sixth instalment prior to his untimely death. He claimed to have been in a very dark place when he wrote Mostly Harmless and felt afterwards that maybe they’d deserved a slightly nicer send off.

So there you have it, the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – on balance maybe not all that suitable for your 12 year old kid…


If all that hasn’t convinced you, I’ve one last argument up my sleeve: customer service doors that take enormous (and quite vocal) pleasure in opening for you.


Ich Liebe Gern Das (?) Liebster Award

Bitch done got nominated for an award and shit.

The Rules

1. The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to bloggers who have less than 200 followers.
2. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
3. Each blogger should answer the 11 questions given to you.
4. Choose 11 new bloggers to pass the award on to and link them in your post.
5. Create 11 new questions for the chosen bloggers.
6. Go back to their page and tell them about the award.
7. No tag backs.

Cheers for that, Katia.

Despite appearances, this blog isn’t actually about me. It is about what I can, or rather can’t, do with words. Sometimes it’s about me pointing you in the direction of things I’ve enjoyed and which I think you might enjoy too, even though under no circumstances should you go so far as to pay attention to me, ever.

Nevertheless, despite the odds, it appears that some small number of (obviously incredibly tasteful and wonderful) people seem to appreciate the haphazard manner in which I bash words together and call it writing.

Do skip through everything but the part where I nominate other blogs, because in their verby arms you may find that they actually provide whatever it was you were looking for when you found mine.

PS: grammar twats may wish to point out that it should read ‘to bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers’. Please don’t and we’ll all agree that you did. Ta.

11 Facts About Dr Frood

1. I lived in Naperville, Illinois during the first 3peat by the Chicago Bulls. When I returned to the UK people were baffled that I didn’t know Eric Cantona. I in turn was baffled that they didn’t know Michael Jordan.

2. My morning alarm is Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.

3. I don’t like raw tomatoes.

4. I spent a week watching the trial of Milosevic in the Hague. I’ve received a nod of acknowledgement from one of the late 20th century’s monsters after accidentally catching his eye.

5. My name was Edward before Twilight was a thing.

6. I’ve had a poem published in an anthology, even though it was total crap (the poem). I don’t actually like poetry.

7. I am always right, even when I’m wrong.

8. I’ve never been to Germany, although I may have spent some time in one of her airports.

9. As a child I loved spinach and raw carrots purely because of Popeye and Bugs Bunny.

10. I’m not actually very good at talking about myself, partly because I suspect that if I put the effort in I’d find that I’m really good at talking about myself and not so good at talking about anything else.

11. People who know me tend to disagree that I’m not very good at talking about myself.

Iamthemilk’s Questions:

1. Which one of your blog posts do you feel reflects you best?

I don’t think I’ve written it yet, but here’s an ok one that I haven’t shamelessly linked to here.

2. What’s your favourite blog?

My pal Iddo’s, which you can read here.

3. 5 things that make you happy?

1) Victoria Coren articles
2) Eating good food with ice cold beer in hot climes
3) Playing music with other people
4) Endorphins, obviously, but if I can’t have that then coining ‘new’ swearwords, such as fuckdouche.
5) Random acts of kindness

4. If you get to choose your own gift card, where would it be from?

A sex shop, obviously. Or a record store.

5. What is your favourite place in the world?

Anywhere but where I am, except when I’m there. That’s either extraordinarily profound or utterly meaningless. I’ll let you decide. Alternatively, anywhere with decent weather and better food.

Yes, I do appreciate the irony of living in the UK.

6. What’s your star sign?

Either Aquarius or Pisces depending on which magazine you look at. I like to think it makes me special.

7. Did you ever overcome a fear? If not, what is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?

I can answer both: I’m probably proudest of the time a friend and I played and sang some songs we’d written in a bar full of complete strangers. The thought of singing at people previously terrified me because I’m a dreadful singer, so 2 birds and all that.

8. Which show should I watch? Why?

Nashville, because it’s melodramatic and completely over the top, like a lot of country music.

Also, the main characters just happen to be women, without the show being self-consciously feminist or aimed at a mainly female demographic. This counts as progress.

Mainly it’s just stupidly entertaining, especially some of the acting from the men.

If you have kids they should watch Ren & Stimpy in part because you won’t be sure whether or not you approve of them doing so.

9. When did you last laugh?

Last night watching Nashville because one of the actors was trying to emote, but mostly ended up looking constipated. That’s cruel, but true.

10. Your 3 favourite books?

There’s no chance of me being able to answer this. But right this moment I’d recommend that people read these ones:

Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Because it’s just awesome and some of the time it’s my favourite.
Sven Lindqvist’s Exterminate All The Brutes, which defies easy categorisation but is about 19th century European imperialism. I keep meaning to write about this, because it’s not only phenomenally well-written (or translated) but also quote unquote important that people read it.
Douglas AdamsSo Long And Thanks For All The Fish, because it’s a gooey romance novel pretending to be a sci-fi comedy. Which is a nifty trick.

11. Which mistake would you make all over again?

The romantic ones, however much they might have stung or however much some of them might make me cringe in recollection.

Dr Frood’s Magic List Of Nominees (AKA The Bit You Shouldn’t Skip Through)

I won’t tell you what they’re about because that way you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Jowls of Derision
4th Street Review
Mind Of A Mouse
The Handyman Voyeur
Humans Are Weird
Yards of Grapevine
Stressing Out College
Notes On A Napkin

Apologies if you have too many followers to be nominated and feel accordingly offended.

11 Questions For The Nominees

Off the top of my head:

1. Which word do you say more often: yes or no?
2. Would you rather be rich or respected?
3. Where are all the good men dead; in the heart or the head?
4. Which film did I steal that from (don’t use t’internet to cheat)?
5. 5 changes you’d like to see in the world?
6. What song should I listen to right now?
7. If a tree falls in a forest, hits a man and there are no women to see it; is it still the man’s fault?
8. A child asks you for a life lesson. What lesson would you give?
9. You get to spend an evening with any historical figure: who and why?
10. Which is the best room in the house and why?
11. You’re on death row for a crime you didn’t commit but with no chance of parole. What’s your last meal, and why?

PS: I won’t be offended if you don’t bother, but do bear in mind that your failure to take part will probably result in negative consequences for kittens.

Once again, thanks for the nomination, Katia.