Do you know who Douglas Adams is? How about George Carlin? Well, these are the two guys who basically invented all the jokes and humour in the world. A few thousand years ago they sat together and figured out that laughter was very important in the development of human beings. So they painstakingly created a few million jokes for the world, which would last until our sun exploded. That’s why every joke by every comic or other sounds familiar, because basically two guys created them all. True story.
Today we’re going to talk about Douglas Adams.
Douglas Noel Adams was born on March 11th 1952 in Cambridge, and his initials were DNA. He would often state this fact in his speeches and debates. Douglas Adams was DNA much before deoxyribonucleic acid was discovered, some months later in the same year. His childhood is filled with stories of listening to the Beatles on the matron’s record player, of his love for Apple computers and rhinos. The most influential writer till date (according to me; you can please yourselves) was also the funniest. The thing that I liked about him the most was that he turned his career timeline into a big punch line - how his books and radio-scripts had various confusing and self-contradictory versions, etc. His writings are as varied as there are stars in the Universe, which we got to see in an entirely different light after he gazed at them. Writings on rhinos (he was very close to the ‘Save the Rhino’ project), on the letter ‘Y’, on the rather shameful state of the ‘Do Re Mi Fa…’ song by Oscar Hammerstein. Then there were things about his nose, his height, and an unusual episode with his trousers. There is also his clearly evident respect for P. G. Wodehouse, whom he would often cite as an influence. Anything and everything he said eventually became a catch phrase. The most popular one - “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by”. Along with his writing skills, his ability to utterly and completely miss deadlines was legendary.
His writings are full of more intellectual musings than can be counted in a lifetime. The best-selling The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and its sequels, married science to comedy, thereby creating a genre that must be reckoned with. DNA was for the most part influenced by Wodehouse, Bach, Keats and Mozart, and never failed to see beauty at work. And this is not to say that he was a literary geek, if, again, I may use this term for such a genius. He had very cool friends, including Paul McCartney and members of Monty Python and Procol Harum. An advocate of science, technology, evolutionary biology and ‘rhino-saving’, he always had a rational view on everything, whether it be his famous “Is there an Artificial God?” debate, or his sudden liking for palmtop computers, which started one night while he was “leaning against a nameless architectural mistake” in a hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Charles Dickens has written innumerable novels. P. G. Wodehouse has many novels to his name. Douglas Adams wrote thirteen, and that’s about it, really. He wrote just thirteen books during a time when there were already too many writers fighting for acceptance. But what’s great about his books is that EVERY SINGLE LINE, every single statement, will make you prance and giggle about your room for hours. In his too-short forty-something-year life, he has made more people laugh than any man before him. And for a person who turned the Somebody Else’s Problem field (a revolutionary way of ignoring the problem) into a marvel of physics, this was a great thing…
You probably know all about his writings, and all about his sense of humour. I started reading his books around three to four years back, and I instantly got hooked. Although he hasn’t written too many, the ones he has are so great that you want to read them ten times over. If you consider the yardage of Dickens work, and compare it with the number of times a person has read Douglas’s novels, I bet Douglas wins. The reason why I plan to give DNA a separate place on my website is that my favourite author, and also that of very many others, died “suddenly” in 2001. An otherwise fit over-six-foot-tall man, his readers, me included, were as shocked by his death as anyone.
This little page I dedicate to Douglas Noel Adams; writer of funny things, inventor of ways of making funny things funnier, discoverer of new ways of making the previous ways of making funny things funnier better, and a generally good man, as well.
As I sit here, at a terrible loss for words to describe the one man who could have single-handedly made World Peace a reality, I can’t help but wonder whether he will be missed by non-readers or not. The man who gave the world a sharp, hilarious intellect, an entirely different view on things, and a Guide to the entire Galaxy, has left a hole in our lives with his passing. “The sunset was never the same since Walt Disney looked at it, and the Universe has become clearer through Douglas Adam’s eyes.”
Books by DNA. Please read them all.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
- Life, the Universe, and Everything
- So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
- Mostly Harmless
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
- The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
- The Meaning of Liff (with John Lloyd)
- Last Chance to See (with Mark Carwardine)
- The Deeper meaning of Liff (with John Lloyd)
- Starship Titanic (Terry Jones, based on story/computer game by Douglas Adams)
- The Original Hitchhiker Radio scripts
- The Salmon of Doubt
(Post originally written August 2005)