Amanda Reads: Listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Picture me walking in with a sheepish “sorry it’s been so long, guys” look on my face. I’ve been settling in to my new life (new apartment, new job, etc), and haven’t had time to think about all of you lovelies. Now that I’m a month and a half in, I’m ready to give you more of my words. So, without further excuses, I give you my response to (finally) reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Dont Panic(I have my towel and am fully prepared to try not to panic)

I’ve done it at last. I have finally, after much avoidance and several false starts, read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Well, technically, I have finally listened to it. Take your audio-book quibbles where you will, but this was one of those books I would probably never have read if I couldn’t listen to it in my car on the way to work.

Let’s have a bit of history, shall we? Once upon a childhood, I watched the film adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide with my best friend because she was a massive fan of the books. Into adulthood, I took only a few memories: something about dolphins, something about a towel, a depressed silver robot, and a weirdly vivid mental image of Zaphod Beeblebrox. Needless to say, I was mostly useless in terms of understanding references to the books, and took quite some time to come to the realization that what someone meant when they said “42” was the answer to life, the universe, and everything. So it came to my attention that I must read the book, as part of my vital nerd girl/ literature girl education or something.

Except that I frankly couldn’t do it. I started the book. I got through what felt like hundreds of chapters. I found a book I liked better and abandoned the endeavor, leaving Beeblebrox on a hovercraft or something—a scene which I spent a great deal of the next few years assuming happened about midway through the book.

What I learned immediately upon actually plugging into the glorious Stephen Fry audio edition is that this scene actually takes place around Chapter 4. Well, that left me a lot of work to do in the understanding things department.

Hearing the book, rather than reading the book, helped me to appreciate the subtlety of the humor in new way—the inflections and voices Fry used added a whole extra layer to the book for me. I found myself chuckling in my car like a lunatic in a way that I’m sure was very comforting to those around me.

At the end of the day, however, my main complaint about the book remains—it’s kind of a random mess. I recognize that the random-mess-ness of the book is largely part of its charm, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to reach the end of the book with no real sense that there is any rhyme, reason, or purpose to anything that’s happened. In a recent Facebook comment about the plot, I referred to it as a plate of spaghetti—a bunch of different plot threads all tossed on a book plate together without being sorted through. It’s quite amusing spaghetti, admittedly, and has some lovely dashes of satire cheese on top, but it’s not a book that I think I will be revisiting any time soon.

However, if you love a bit of dry humor, and the idea of manically depressed robots and super intelligent shades of blue appeals to you, then you may well want to give it a go. Just don’t expect to make much sense of it.

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