So recently I got on this masochist kick where I find stuff I used to love as a kid and watch it with adult eyes, knowing it will almost certainly ruin it. Essentially, what happened is that a few years ago I did a rewatch of Xena and a rewatch of Pinky and the Brain and both were so much better than I remembered that I decided my entire childhood was worth ruining for a the few pearls of proof that it was possible for me to have good taste before I hit 20.
I find materials written exclusively by men to rarely be those pearls. There is always something in there that makes me want to literally break stuff.
So this review is really more for people who love Douglas Adams but haven’t actually read the Hitchhiker’s Guide since their hormones stabilized.
It’s better. Even with modern eyes.
Yes, there are minor quibbles that are only valid, again, with a modern perspective. How many roads must a man walk down would probably not fly as an eternal question today, when you could just as easily say person but for a book written in 1979, that’s hardly even worth mentioning. And they could have more women, but that’s true of about 90% of media.
What really struck me was how differently I responded to the material as an adult. As a kid (i.e. like 16 because I did not have the English to read it any younger), I would blaze through the first bit with poor Arthur’s house getting mowed down. It was the boring set up that I was eager to get past so we can get to the bored space computers, depressed androids, and totally unbelievably stupid galactic leaders. Like, this is how you know it’s science fiction. People actually elected some corrupt, man-child for entertainment value.
Ha. Ha. Excuse me while I go cry in a hole for a bit.
Anyway! As much as I still loved all the quirky, fun, balls to the wall insane bits of the book, and as much as I still enjoyed the philosophical debates over the meaning of life and whether that even matters, the jokes that resonated with me, probably because they made no sense to me before, were the mundane ones. I was keeling over laughing on the subway, to the trepidation of many, I’m sure, over the bureaucratic mess of the demolition of Arthur’s house (and planet). I felt to my bones Trillian’s boredom and need for adventure in a way Younger, Less Nuanced Feminist Me saw as slutty and vapid (as if those aren’t, frankly, also valid reasons to do whatever). I cringed at poor Slartibartfast, who slaved over High Art glaciers for who knows how long only to have the project pulled out from under him at the last second. Dude, we’ve all been there. And the poor mice who are so so bored of their job that the search for the meaning of life has robbed them of their will to live. Sometimes even the most significant, intellectually stimulating roles can stifle the very soul out of you. Ask anyone who has volunteered or worked for an NGO.
Even though the book is now over 40 years old (yes, time, what even is this, how did I get this old and how do I make it stop) and even though it mostly just tried to be an absurd and funny, it has remarkable lasting power. It has a technicolor joy for life, even the boring, frustrating, annoying parts of it that aren’t really replicated by any other author I’ve read.
Also if you like audiobooks this one is read by Stephen Fry and he’s absolutely perfect.