Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Today is Towel Day. No doubt, the rest of you already know that. (I am always the last person on Earth to know anything.) But on the off chance that you don't, I'll just mention that May 25th is the day on which fans the late Douglas Adams carry about a towel in honor of the author and his work, especially the multitudinous permutations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

This is an embarassing admission for a bibliovore, but I have never liked the novels of Douglas Adams. I thought they were over-written and that there were far too many of them. And I just didn't think they were that funny.

However, I thought that the original radio broadcasts were brilliant! (How sad I sometimes feel when reading cranky reviews on Amazon from young people who think that the novels came first and that the radio shows are recent and faulty adaptations.)

I first heard the radio series in the early years of my marriage, possibly on KPFK and probably in the late '70s or early '80s. My husband recorded the two original series (including the bridge episode) on our reel-to-reel recorder from which he later made cassette copies for everyday listening. It must have been a recording of the original broadcast since it includes the Pink Floyd background music which was later cut from the segment where our heroes land on Magrathea. (Copyright problems.)

Over the years, The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy became an important cultural influence in our family. Our children grew up using phrases such as "You've got to build bypasses!" or "Forty-two?" in everyday conversation -- even though they had never read the book, heard the radio broadcasts, or seen the television series. And when they were not washing their heads at us, they generally considered their parents to be hoopy froods who really knew where their towels were. Until, of course, they got old enough to swipe our cassette tapes and discovered that we weren't actually witty, but merely given to inveterate quotation.

Actually, they may have first encountered Hitchhiker's in our library. For there, in the media and humor section, we had a copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts. Every now and then I reread them and "hear" once again the original voices, music, and sound effects of that long ago broadcast. And they still make me smile.

So despite not liking his novels, I'll raise a glass to Douglas Adams (carefully spreading a towel on my lap in case of spills) and thank him for enriching our family vocabulary. May he rest in peace.

(By the way, the shirt pictured at the beginning of this post can be found at Think Geek.)


Sherwood said...

I thought I was the only person in the universe who couldn't read those novels, and not for lack of trying.

Anonymous said...

What's difficult is when you can't respond with the same enthusiasm as your friends to "Hitchhiker's". I can't help being disappointed a little when I hear someone I know put Douglas Adams on their list of favorite authors. He strikes me as,well, if not exactly low-brow - too obvious, maybe? Pop-satire -but i really liked the radio show too - couldn't get the book down.

mrsdarwin said...

A line still oft-quoted here is, "No no, your monkey has got it wrong." Darwin swiped your tapes at some point when I was visiting out there and played the radio version for me, but I don't think I've ever read the books. Which is fine because I've got too much unread stuff sitting around here anyway. Good thing my own convalescence is upon me soon...