Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy



I really have to stop posting “expected posting dates”. I have yet to hit a single one, no matter how finished the post already is, or how liberal I am with my time frame. Either I need to stop, or I should put the “expected posting date” as, like, a month in the future, so I always come in ahead of schedule. That would work, right?

Whether I hit the date or not, I am posting, so I should stop getting so worried about it. More importantly, I’m reading – and the books are stacking up! Right now, I have 5 books sitting on my desk just waiting to be blogged about, so I better get to it.

With that in mind, the 13th book of Project 84 is:


The Hitchhiker’s Guide
to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

I knew if I didn’t get around to reading this book eventually someone was going to take my nerd card away. Of course I’ve been meaning to read this book for years. I was a book nerd in high school, into computers, love the internet…so I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s also a little, pulpy book, only 215 pages long, and it’s listed in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, so I ran out of excuses and finally picked it up.

Stop the presses: I loved it.

The story is barely important, but I’ll give a short synopsis before I get into what I loved so much about this novel. The book opens on Arthur Dent, whose house is about to get bulldozed to make way for a bypass to be built. He’s lying in front of the bulldozer when his friend, Ford Prefect, arrives and convinces him to go for a drink. Ford then tells him some fascinating news: he is not from this planet, and the Earth is going to be destroyed that day.

Ford is a researcher for an intergalactic guide entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and just as Earth is about to be destroyed, he and Arthur Dent are boarded onto a ship headed to parts unknown. From there, they are catapulted into a set of circumstances made interesting by their randomness, and Arthur learns how small he is in the grand scheme of the universe.

I liked this book for myriad reasons, but first comes first: it’s funny.

I am not someone who laughs out loud while I’m reading, particularly because much of my reading is done in restaurants, parks, libraries, or other places where onlookers can catch sight of the crazy girl cracking up at her book. But this one had me chuckling. I don’t want to give away the jokes by giving direct quotes, but the humor in the absurdity of this book is truly funny, not just lighthearted.

But it isn’t just the humor and “easy-to-read” aspects of the book that made it so compelling and interesting. I really got caught up in what Douglas Adams was saying about our place in the universe – or, at least, what I perceived his point to be. I won’t be the first person to pick out this quote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and dissect it, but hrtr is the fictional guide approaching the topic of size:

“‘Space,’ it says. ‘is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.’” – Page 76

That idea of vastness – of how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things – is one that I try to focus on where I can in my life. Reading it in this context made it all the more attention-grabbing for me. Mixed with the humor, the sense that we are all so small and inconsequential in relation to the universe took on an absurdity that I appreciated.

For me, that anonymous, miniscule feeling can either make my life feel really insignificant…or it can make me realize that what I do has very little impact on anything outside of my own life, so I need to make it all really count. If the only ones being affected live inside my circle, than what I do becomes infinitely more important to them, while it loses importance to the rest of the world.

In addition to our infinitesimal place in the universe, the book also addresses the idea that most things that happen are mere, random coincidence. To quote another piece of art I love – the movie Reality Bites ;) – “There's no point to any of this. It's all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes.” The randomness is mentioned constantly, usually hilariously, and always in keeping with the theme:

“Its crew of four were ill at ease knowing that they had been brought together not of their own volition or by simple coincidence, but by some curious perversion of physics – as if relationship between people were susceptible to the same laws that governed the relationships between atoms and molecules.” – Page 109

There are 4 more books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Trilogy”, but, as of right now, they are not on my reading plan. I will probably read them eventually, but with everything I have on tap for Project 84, there just wasn’t time. But I’m sure they are as great as this one…which I recommend to just about anyone.

***

Like I mentioned, I have 5 more books ready to be reviewed, so I should get going at a pretty good clip from here, at least for a while. The next few are “Other” novels, so the reviews will most likely not be as glowing as they are for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die books, but there are some great gems in the mix!

Next Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Estimated Posting Date: December 31st…get it?!)



**All quotes and annotations refer to the first American publishing of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, published by Harmony Books in 1979**

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