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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Douglas Adams!

This morning I turned on Google to find a decoration centred around The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I thought it might be a date of the first publication or even the first broadcast of the radio series, but no - the radio show was first broadcast on March 8th 1978 and the book first came out in October the next year.

I learned that March 11 was Douglas Adams' birthday. If he had still been alive, he would have turned 61 today.

You know, I can remember when I first read it. I was studying librarianship at the time. It was such an exhausting course, a postgraduate diploma which required pretty much all my time during the day - and we all used to say that if the RMIT library had been open at five thirty in the morning we would have been there. Socialising? What was that? They were trying to fit what should have been a two year course into one year.

But what's the point of being a librarian if you can't fit in some time to read for pleasure? I couldn't bear to be without a book. And this one, the first, took me into another world, made me laugh till I cried. Those were the days when people were throwing quotes at each other. The librarianship students were no exception. We had very little free time, but in between classes we would go out for coffee to a place with the unlikely name of the Druids Duck Inn. We would complain about the lecturers and grumble about the exhausting workload... and we'd discuss the latest book to grab our imagination, giggle and quote from it. We thought the Answer To Life, The Universe And Everything was hilarious.

Of course, I ended up reading the lot, and listening to the radio series - oddly enough, not the original series, for quite some time. I think the one playing on the radio when I was listening was from the record, with some different cast members, and was closer to the TV series that came out later.

The thing is, Douglas Adams was always reworking it. The original radio series, for example, had Trillian and Zaphod eaten by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast Of Traal. So they're all legitimate versions .
I have enjoyed all versions. The whole thing is deliciously silly, and I love silly. There's enough sad stuff happening in the world and far too many dystopian books these days for my taste.

This book came to me at a time when I really needed something funny - and, in the end, it became a classic. It would be interesting to know what he would have been writing if he was still around.

Happy birthday, Douglas, even if you didn't live to enjoy it. 

4 comments:

Unknown said...

Douglas is terribly missed. His brand of humour was unique. But it does live on in others like Neil Gaiman, and in comic novels like THE MYOSHI EFFECT. Happy Bday DNA.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, he was special! So are Neil Gaiman AND Terry Pratchett, especially in Good Omens, which has the same kind of craziness as HHGG.

Austin Hackney said...

One of the things that delights me about Adams - aside from the sheer genius of his unequalled imagination - is that Hitch-hiker's continues to appeal across the generations. My buy has just discovered it and is every bit as enamoured, enthralled and amused by it as we were when it first came out.

I think it's true that Gaiman and Pratchett in some very real sense carry the standard that he raised forward.

Now. where's my towel...

Sue Bursztynski said...

Very true. Adams doesn't date... Except perhaps the bit about digital watches. ;-) But then, the Guide is very much an ebook, isn't it? And the same is true of Gaiman and Pratchett - they won't date either.