Monday, March 11, 2013

"Don't Panic"

I remember when I was first introduced to Douglas Adams--and by that, I of course mean introduced to his work because my life is not THAT awesome.

Also, I was 14 when he passed away, so... I would have had to been amazingly lucky.

Not the point.

I was in 8th grade and poking through the library at school when I first came across the book. Someone had left it sitting on a shelf for the librarian to put back. And as I passed that book, the Cosmic Cutie that Adams hated so much, caught my eye. I wasn't sure what it was but this impish green thing was sticking its tongue out at me and being slightly impish myself, naturally it had my attention.

I may have stuck my tongue back out at it.

However, the Cutie isn't what got me to open the book. My parents had just made the decision that we were going to move across the state which seemed rather from my little home town of Aberdeen, Washington (which is not a remarkable place but when you've been somewhere for 10 years, it's hard to not get attached) and I was feeling rather conflicted. And here was this odd little book emblazoned with the words "Don't Panic".

It's stupid that all of my parental reassurances, the promises of friends that relocation would 'be okay' and nothing would change were rather ineffectual but these simple words got through my impossibly stubborn skull.

And it was enough to get me to pick it up and read it.

In less than five minutes I discovered that Arthur Dent's struggle wasn't really relevant to my 8th grade moving woes but I did laugh out loud.

And then I got some looks from the few students there to study and I remembered libraries were supposed to be quiet.

If I owned a library, I think I'd encourage discussion and laughter. That much knowledge in one place shouldn't be silent. That just seems silly. If a book makes you laugh out loud  you should feel free to do it wherever you're reading it.

Regardless, it made me check the book out.

I remember the librarian smiling and whispering that it was one of her favorites and she hoped I enjoyed it.

This series completely altered my outlook of what a narrator could and couldn't do--admittedly I'd already been exposed to the whimsical narration of Lewis Carroll (who seemed a character of his own as the narrator of the Alice books) but this was entirely different. This narrator practically had conversations with the reader as if commenting on the story he was telling as he told it.





I was surprised to discover that it started as a radio play and that Douglas was, at best, a reluctant novelist. Though it did explain why even narration would somehow feel like dialogue.

I've often found a preference to writing scripts simply because you got to skip the narrative exposition.

If you have never (for some reason) picked up this book series, just do it. Get the audio books, listen to the original radio play, whichever appeals to you the most, it's a kind of story telling everyone should experience once.

Douglas Adams would have been 61 today. He passed away over 10 years ago at age 59 from a heart-attack and that... is baffling to me. Too young, in my opinion... but if I had my way, we'd all live to be a hundred.

Take care of yourselves out there. Inside and out. Remember "Don't Panic", and don't forget your towel.

"What the strag* will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
--Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

*Strag: Non-Hitch Hiker

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