Gently does it

One of the best gadgets I’ve ever bought is my iPod Classic. Its 160Gb capacity means that I’ve been able to leave all my CDs and other music media packed up, along with my main stereo. All I need for instant music here until we move permanently is contained on the iPod which I’ve hooked up to a Panasonic mini hi-fi.

I’ve got about 150Gb of audio on the iPod which gives me plenty of choice and just lately I’ve been listening to some audiobooks.

I’ve never been too fond of audiobooks but listening to them whilst I was laid up with a cold which turned into a sort of stomach flu last month was very enjoyable and I’ve continued to listen to them.

With such a huge capacity on the iPod it’s easy to overlook things but I’ve rediscovered some Douglas Adams audiobooks I put on there a couple of years ago on a whim.

image

I have all five of the Hitchhiker books, read variously by Douglas Adams, Martin Freeman and Stephen Fry. I also have both Dirk Gently books read by the author.

I first heard ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ when it was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was OK, although I remember thinking at the time that it was a bit too clever-clever and perhaps tried too hard to be different.

However, I continued to listen to the broadcasts and after that the next two radio sequels and then the TV series. I even read the first three books.

After about 1982 I didn’t bother with Adams again until just recently, although I did buy the DVD set of the TV series and also borrowed the recent(ish) film from the library, although I found the latter to be an execrable piece of shit that should have never been made.

Being able to catch up, as it were, with Adams’ writings after the original trilogy I’m starting to really appreciate him again and a re-evaluation is now due.

From what I’ve heard of the last two Hitchhiker books (and also the two Dirk Gently novels), I reckon he got better and to me they seem to be a vast improvement over the original trilogy.

This might well be heresy to Hitchhiker fans, but his later novels seem to have benefited from concentrating more on character and plot and less on witty observations and all the fussy details when the Guide is quoted.

In short – more substance and less gimmick.

Arthur Dent becomes a far more rounded character and the passive, bumbling ingénue of the first three books develops into a far more realistic and assertive individual to whom one can relate more closely. The early Dent is a comic book character; the later one a comic novel character – a big and welcome difference.

This depth of characterisation extends to his Dirk Gently novels which were a real surprise to me. I thought they were excellent, with a wealth of references to all manner of things that piqued the intellect, plot lines which interwove in a labyrinthine way and, at times, some quite haunting descriptions of the ways in which the main characters’ minds worked.

Dirk Gently himself is an amazing invention. At times he seems to act as a deus ex machina facilitating intersecting twists and turns in the plots and subplots just when you think they can progress no further. The closest parallel I can think of is the character of Dr Who and so it was really no surprise to discover that Adams wrote the scripts for three series of the iconic TV show at around the same time that Hitchhiker got off the ground.

I’ve been reading more about the author himself and he was one of those people who was fortunate enough to be able to indulge his passions as part of his work. Interested in science, music, computers and the conservation of endangered species, Adams brought these all to bear on his work and they even became his work at times.

Adams’ life, before the phenomenon that Hitchhiker became, followed a pretty similar path to many of his peers’ – boarding school, Cambridge, BBC script writing; a bit of a cliche really. But Adams was much, much more than most of them, and, had he lived, then people like Stephen Fry might well have far fewer Twitter followers.

He was, if you like, what Stephen Fry thinks he is.    .   

Yes, Adams was a true Renaissance man for the technological late 20th century and, had he not died in 2001, would have been equally at home in the 21st.

To wrap this article up, here’s my favourite Adams quote:

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?

Advertisements

4 Responses

  1. Hi Steve,
    If you like Audiobooks, then go here. There’s a multitude of stuff there and it’s all free.

    http://www.archive.org/details/audio

  2. While I like my ipod (160GB version too), I absolutely LOVE my Kindle.

    You can browse blogs (and basic websites) in France free if you get the UK £149 one.

    Shop in Amazon and you can get free books, or free download of sample chapters (before buying if you so wish).

    No more paying for book delivery and waiting a week for Monsieur Postie to deliver.

    I’m living away from home but have hundreds of books handy (or samples of books) and the Kindle fits in a map pocket on my trousers so I can walk to a resto and surf / read away. Rather have a copine, but they run too fast.

    £3.50 for a French->English dictionary and when you highlight a French word, you get the translation.

    Best gadget in years, plus free surfing in France – magic. Just get the 3G version (£149)

  3. Yes, it’s on the must buy list – have to wait until all the building work is done and we can see how many euros are left!

  4. When my old (original) iPod finally gave up the ghost I too bought an iPod Classic, against the advice of the technologically far more knowledgeable Mrs Rob. I think it’s great, apart from the advertising pictures that appear opposite the main menu – I have each of The Proclaimers floating around, which can be quite unnerving.

    Being more superficial and shallow than Mr Shark, I prefer the “comic” (in both senses) genius of Adams’ earlier books – thin character development but loads of silly names and ideas. Bistromathics, the editor (Hurling Fruitmig?) who never came back from lunch and was posted as “missing, presumed fed”, the whole “do not be afraid” sequence in the meeting between Arthur and Agrajag which seems to have passed into English idiom, and many many more.

    Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 still holds my prize for the best opening line of a chapter though….”His name was Mudd”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: