Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Douglas Adams: The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

While wandering aimlessly round the local library (as you do) I came across The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams. Which I have now read.

Adams died in 2001, aged 49, and he is, or was, a Big Name, at least in England. You can find a biography here. As a writer he was, I suppose, in the business of scifi-fantasy-humour, and by and large he was pretty good at it.

Adams's first success was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which began life in 1978 as a series for BBC Radio 4. It was subsequently turned into several bestselling novels, a TV series, a record album, a computer game and several stage adaptations. The whole thing will shortly get a new lease of life, because a movie version is due for release in May.

As for Teatime -- well, it was first published in 1988, and I dare say it looked more original, exciting, and funny then than it does now. It's not dull, exactly, but one does get the feeling of having been here before. I doubt that Adams was ever highly original (though his publicity machine doubtless claimed so), but he was pretty sharp in his day. Since 1988, however, an awful lot of people have mined the same territory.

By the way, it seems that as recently as 1988, if Teatime is to be believed, it was impossible to get a pizza delivered in London.

Adams himself must have had a few doubts about his writing ability, because he was a notorious sufferer from writer's block. His attitude towards deadlines was apparently to ignore them. At his death he was said to be working on a book that was fifteen years overdue. In some quarters this is regarded as a mark of great talent. I regard it as a lack of professionalism.

Adams died within a week or two of another writer, Betty Neels. Betty was a Mills and Boon machine, turning out vast numbers of romances. I have a distinct memory, though I can't find any internet evidence to support it, that at the time I read a report somewhere pointing out that, in the year before her death, Betty had actually sold more books than Adams. But guess who got the obituaries in the Times, Guardian, et cetera. Yup.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

How rude. Douglas Adams was an incredible writer who made fun of his time's modern science fiction stories. Not only was he funny, but he entrapped his readers and kept them laughing even nowadays. I agree with the previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Was this a first draft of that blog post? You mistakenly left out any actual evidence to back up the points you make and the result comes across as looking like the work of a peabrain.