Very Well Read

Quotations from, and the occasional reflection on, things that I have read.

Archive for the month “March, 2007”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

At long last I have finished my re-re-reading of the Hitchhiker’s 5-part trilogy, in reverse order, to grab my favourite lines from the books to put up here for all to see. I was recently at a blogging conference where one of the presenters discussed one of the functions of a blog as a “brain dump” – a place to put information so that you didn’t need to keep remembering it… it can be duly noted in an appropriate forum, which is searchable at a later date should the need arise, and thus the information no longer needed to clutter up one’s brain. I think this little book blog of mine fits that description. I have a terrible memory for books/movies, and although I generally remember if I liked a given book or movie, I’ll be damned if I can remember why I liked/disliked it, or really tell you anything about what happened in a book I’ve read or movie I’ve seen. This blog allows me to dump that info, before it disappears into the vast recesses of my grey matter, for later retrieval if necessary. And so, without further ado, I give you my favourite quotations from The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy!

  • Obviously somebody had been appallingly incompetent and he hoped to God it wasn’t him” (p. 6)
  • He felt that his whole life was some kind of a dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it“(p. 15) – perhaps this is why I’m always trying to do amusing things… just in case my life is someone’s dream… I want it to be an entertaining one!
  • There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (p.23 )
  • The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.“(p. 28) – man, I love the way Adams plays with language like this
  • “[The President’s] job is not to wield power by to draw attention away from it” (p. 32) – this book was published in 1979, but I think we can agree that this fits very well into the early 21st century
  • Ford’s father was the only man on the entire planet to survive the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster, by an extraordinary coincidence that he was never able to satisfactorily explain. The whole episode was shrouded in deep mystery: in fact no one ever knew what a Hrung was or why it had chosen to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven particularly. Ford’s father, magnanimously waving aside the clouds of suspicion that had inevitably settled around him, came to live on Betelgeuse Five where he both fathered and uncled Ford; in memory of his now dead race he christened him in the ancient Praxibetel tongue.

    Because he never learned to say his original name, his father eventually die of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the language of Betelgeuse Five translates as ‘boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven.” (p. 41) – I love that he “both fathered and uncled Ford”… when does anyone ever use “uncle” as a verb? And also that he literally died of shame! Again with the playing with the language.

  • ‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die from asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wished I had listened to what my mother told me when I was young.’

    ‘Why, what did she tell you?’

    ‘I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.” – too funny.

  • The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bableweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood – and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess’s undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy.
    Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for this — partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.” (p. 74) – having been to a party attended by a large number of physics types, I’d hate to see the ones that don’t get invited to parties.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes,” with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

  • Curiously enough, an edition of
    The Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.” (pp. 79-80)

  • “One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.” (p. 85).

  • “…he had turned unfathomably into an art form.” (p. 95)

  • “Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

  • The planet in question
    is in fact the legendary Magrathea.

    The deadly missile attack shortly to be launched by an ancient automatic defence system will result merely in the breakage of three coffee cups and a mousecage, the bruising of somebody’s upper arm, and the untimely creation and sudden demise of a bowl of petunias and an innocent sperm whale.

    In order that some sense of mystery should still be preserved, no revelation will yet be made concerning whose upper arm sustains the bruise. This fact may safely be made the subject of suspense since it is of no significance whatsoever.” (p. 103).

  • “He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” (p. 104) – Adams and I are kindred spirits insofar as our love of tea goes
  • “…against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.
    And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then has to come to terms with not being a whale any more.” (p. 113)

  • “Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was, Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why a bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.” (p. 114)

  • “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dophins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.” (p. 132).

  • In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioural research laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man. The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted this relationship was entirely according to these creatures’ plans.” (p. 132-133)

  • “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” (p. 145). – making fun of philosophers. Good times.

  • “‘Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm. (p. 152) – any good Hitchhiker’s fan has to love this moment.

And so ends my summary of the Hittchhiker trilogy!


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