This month's book group selection was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I saw the 2005 movie, and sometime before that but probably after 2000 was the last time I reread the book/series. I read those books over and over and over again as a kid. I listened to the radio show. I read the radio show transcripts. I watched the TV version repeatedly. This time around, I was a little curious whether there would be a difference in how I perceived the writing, story, characters, etc.
One of the reasons I stopped rereading the books is the reason I've had to stop rereading a lot of books: I sort of memorized them. I didn't memorize them in the sense of being able to read them out loud from memory, or write them down -- but when I read them, I know exactly what is coming in every next sentence. Sort of like when you know a song well enough to sing along with every word, but not well enough to sing it cold without the song playing in the background. Book karaoke. With the Adams' books, it's slightly worse. When I read them, I hear Simon Jones and the rest of the cast of the BBC TV series, and I can almost, but not quite, watch the TV series in my head. It's distracting and bizarre, and I wind up reading very slowly through some parts of the book.
After I read the first half, I stopped for a while and thought about the books in the way that I _now_ routinely think about books, but did not previously ever think about books, except possibly when I was writing a paper about them back in school, or really, really, really irritated when reviewing something for r.a.b. or r.a.sf.w. Blogging, it appears, has changed my brain. I thought about how I would blog about the Adams' books, if I were reading them for the first time, because I knew everyone at book group would be reading this for the first time.
And I realized how apocalyptic and genocidal the book(s) is/are. I knew the tone was flippant; that's most of what makes the themes of the books bearable. What makes the books enjoyable is something else entirely, and that is the pervasive kindness of the idiots bumbling through the story with us. Adams and Pratchett turn out to have a lot in common, and not actually in the humorous tone, where one might expect it. Adams' is often darker -- it isn't just a sense of impending doom in Adams' universe, it's a sense of ongoing, utter tragedy -- but along with the characters' relentless forward momentum, there is an ongoing drive to make things, if not better, then at least tolerable, and to find a way to treat each other well. And to do that while certain of failure, certain of personal loss and, ultimately, destruction and, worse, certain of one's complicity in the ongoing disaster.
It's surprisingly beautiful, and much more adult than I realized at the time.