Wish You Were Here: The Offical Biography of Douglas Adams
Time has stretched like chewing gum. Surely it cannot be a decade since Douglas Adams died?
He seems to be everywhere. His books can be found, as they say, in every good bookshop. The number 42 has become shorthand, Douglas’s works are still being dramatized for radio and telly, and his turns of phrase have entered the language and may now need footnoting for youngsters. Above all, a sense of the strangeness of the world –especially at the quantum level – seems to have percolated like some hallucinogenic Arabica into many areas of public life.
Somebody has undermined our grasp of reality. Sensible, everyday objects are made, the scientists tell us, of unimaginable squillions of juddering, shaking and deeply ambiguous bits of something or other that we cannot quite define and certainly cannot measure with any certainty. Using a cup of tea as a Brownian motion generator does not seem so eccentric. And why not search, as Dirk Gently does, for a cat that, like Schrȏdinger’s, is in a superposition of states? Can anybody truly understand the scale of the universe or- even more mind-buggeringly – the multiverse? And if we could, without Zaphod’s unextinguishable self-regard could we stand up to it? Comfortingly Douglas suggests that the answer is yes; we primates cannot concentrate on the infinite for very long before some commotion in our underpants pulls us back into the merely human.
Douglas was an author who churned philosophy and science with good gags and verbal invention; he was a writer (he liked to quote Chandler at this point) who heard the music. But after his jokes have been adapted, reformatted and plagiarized to the point of cliché, his quirky and subversive world view will still continue to influence generations of writers and readers.
Let us wish a long life to the books , ebooks, wireless downloads into the cortex (coming next week?) and all the other media that Douglas, a serious technophile, would have loved. Not only will we be amused, but our sclerotic old brains will be given a healthy bashing.