DOUGLAS ADAMS - "THE SALMON OF DOUBT - HITCHHIKING THE GALAXY ONE LAST TIME" (MACMILLAN)
Douglas Adams hurled me, almost kicking and screaming, into an entirely new state of awareness. I had never before read anything like his books. Never before had I found such intelligent hell-bent-for-leather absurdity in humour. Never before had I seen someone play so irreverently with the English language. That was in 1988, I recall the moment exactly, it was in late summer or early autumn. My life was changed virtually overnight. It was as if someone had flicked a mental switch in my head, causing me to suddenly see things differently, think differently, sometimes even act differently. My own creative writings changed drastically - at first attaining a style with "rip-off" written all over it, later becoming more of my own style doused in Adams' quirky uniqueness.
I have greedily devoured almost all of Douglas Adams' writings. I think his Dirk Gently books are my personal favourites, also being some of the few books that I found myself reading once, twice, even a third time. In fact I recently bought a hardcover omnibus version of said books and will undoubtedly read them again.
There is no way I can do justice to the true fun, the genuine LOL kind of fun, that can be had reading Douglas Adams books. However, it is definitely an acquired taste. One, I'd hasten to add, that seems for a variety of odd reasons to be present rather more in males than females. To me, it's almost like I know Douglas Adams personally - that's how touched I have felt, through the years, by his writings. He made me laugh more than anyone else, he changed my perception of, well, life, the universe and everything. When he turned 42 I sent him a 42000 character letter containing nothing but occurrences of the number 42 in daily life and art. The closest I ever got to meeting him was the autograph I received in return for this 42-related research, which in retrospect must have seemed pretty silly to him.
Of course, the vast potential that was Douglas Adams ceased to be in May 2001 when he quite suddenly died of a heart attack. Obviously I was shocked and saddened by this, however the true feeling did not sink in until the past few day that I spent reading "The Salmon of Doubt".
"The Salmon of Doubt" is not what I'd hoped it would be, which was a three quarters finished Dirk Gently novel. It is in fact a 10% finished Dirk Gently novel and a variety of other things he's written the past two decades. There are speeches, bits he's written for newspapers, bits he's written for computer magazines, and excerpts of (or entire) interviews. Not all of it is equally brilliant, obviously, but the bits that are, are so brilliant that it mercilessly drives home the fact we will never ever get more of this. There will be no next Dirk Gently book, there will be no more razor-sharp and impeccably reasoned articles supporting Apple or Atheism or some Environmental Cause. Indeed, there will never be a rather less bleak final chapter to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series. "The Salmon of Doubt" is a wonderful book that gives us one last glimpse into the life and talent of one of the most inspiring people I know of. Despite its "little piece of wood, little piece of rope" approach, such as we would call it in Holland, no appreciator of Douglas Adams should spend the remainder of his days without having read it.
Released 2002, ISBN 0-333-76657-1 (hardcover)
Written November 2002
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