Monday, August 13, 2001


There's an elegantly written, erudite and delightful GUARDIAN article at,6121,535420,00.html -- it's about Douglas Adams, and his love and admiration for Lewis Carroll.

Carroll, it tells us along with Wodehouse, was one of Adams's comic heroes, and his affection for him tinges his writing. Like Carroll's fabulous mock-epic poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), the Hitchhiker series is a brilliant skit on quests for ultimate meaning of any kind. Carroll's crew fruitlessly pursues the Snark, while Adams portrays the Earth as a miscued mega-computer vainly dedicated to calculating the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. That it eventually spits out '42' is a nod to Carroll, who was obsessed with the number.

Adams also shared with Carroll a love of pataphysical nonsense, as in the Vogon Captain's lovelorn ode, which causes Arthur Dent such unimaginable suffering early in Hitchhiker : 'Oh freddled gruntbuggly!/ Thy micturations are to me/ As plurdled gabbleblotchits in a lurgid bee/ Groop I implore thee my foonting turlingdomes/ And hopptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewerdles'. This is, in its deranged and glorious musicality, a clear homage to Carroll's 'Jabberwocky' poem - "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe'.

Where Lewis Carroll, an academic mathematician, insinuated Victorian abstract algebraic thought into the Alice books, so Adams, a techno-zealot, quickly incorporated late twentieth-century science into his writing. and so on.

There's only one thing wrong with it.

Douglas Adams hadn't read any Carroll. He didn't like Carroll. When I was writing DON'T PANIC! I asked Douglas about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and the Rule 42 line) and he said he'd started to read it as a kid and hated it, and stopped, and he'd started to reread it as an adult, and hated it in the same way, and had stopped.

But it's not the kind of thing a fact checker is ever going to check, is it? It's too big and too basic.


Worried e-mails have started trickling in about yesterday's post. Should I point out that this is from Terry Gilliam again?