The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul – Douglas Adams

Les Miserables is a long, almost interminable book. It is time to take another breather from it and read something a shade lighter.

I like The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, it meanders easily through the plot and has some interesting things to say as it goes. The HHGTTG is a funny book, or rather it’s a funny book adaptation of an excellent radio series. The books rather lack the crispness of the radio.

The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul is the second of Adams’ Dirk Gently novels. I haven’t read the first. I don’t think I shall.

The LDT-TOTS centres on the idea that Norse gods are still here in a sort of parallel universe which can be entered, and that they have negotiated with a music industry executive a lot of their power. One god rebels and this is that story and Gently’s involvement in it. I didn’t like the story at all. I felt no empathy for any of the characters, Gently appears to be able to come to conclusions through some psychic power which is never explained or justified. There are loose ends throughout which a competent writer would have tied down.

It is interesting actually as Adams had editorial help with the HHGTTG. It was too cumbersome for the radio and had to be cut back. The result is a very tight radio series which works very well. The books re-introduce some of the missing edits and are as a result a little sloppy and loose. I do wonder therefore whether the loose, meandering tale is the norm for Adams and what he really needed throughout was a tough editor to keep things in check. Further, the recent tour of the radio series reinstated some of the missing edits from the radio series under the guise of improving the broadcast radio script under the guise that this was the real HHGTTG. It might have been what Adams originally wrote but it’s not the HHGTTG that was broadcast, and the reinstatement diluted the HHGTTG on stage. It was a big let-down. The edits were essential.

Merely an observation. I realise that Adams is a god in some quarters. I appreciate the quality of the HHGTTG, but I realise that in some of the edited forms it doesn’t hit the right spots.

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3 Responses to “The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul – Douglas Adams”

  1. I always like his work – but it is better in the details than the overall arc of story.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I would like to venture a word about the Hitchhiker books and the Dirk Gently books and, more particularly, about your main criticism of all those books.

    It seems to me that plot is not really the point. The point is wonderful and somewhat deep jokes. So wonderful are those jokes, that it is fine for the plot (or, yes, ‘plot’) to be a mere scaffolding for them. Or so it seems to me. I am not sure how I could (further) argue for the view. I suppose, though, that I could say more about ‘the LDT-TOTS’ . .

  3. Yes, I agree, the humour is central to the success of HHGTTG, but equally the plot, and again I agree with you that the plot has the role of ‘skeleton’ holding the flesh of the jokes, has to be able to stand on its own. If the plot is not rigorous then the flesh falls off and we are left with a mere joke book. The jokes, are they jokes or is it humour, benefit from being placed within a structured story.

    The radio series of HHGTTG was edited to make it snappy, the books were not and I think this shows. I enjoy the HHGTTG books, they are funny, but the radio HHGTTG was far funnier and is a classic comedy…the books will never achieve that.

    Adams had talent, I just think it needed a little more polish.

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