Sunday, June 05, 2005

Douglas Adams was basically the guy who invented the subgenre of science fiction comedy. I first read his novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" when I was somewhere around 15, I think, and it's got to be right up there with my formative influences. His writing style, the sharp brilliance British humor was capable of, the insight and deep thought woven into the jokes, his extremely bizarre and tinted worldview...

In a bookstore a couple weeks ago I saw something called "The Anthology at the End of the Universe," a collection of essays about him and his five-part trilogy. Aside from the articles that were mostly sophistry, philosophical ramblings with less humor than the original Adams or none at all, and heartfelt tributes to the man who inspires millions (he died in 2001), one of the essays stood out to me because basically the woman said that she couldn't stand the series any more. It had aged terribly, its politics were heartless and immoral, its philosophy and deep thought, to the extent that there were any, were transparent and simplistic... Or so she said. But, almost shaken by reading her opinion of it, I got my book off the shelf and started reading it again and you know what? The author of that essay is full of shit. Whatever else you can say about it, there's a ton of ideas packed into those skinny books. And as far as quality of writing goes it's one of the best in its class.

Of course, for all that I lionize Adams, I of all people - sort of prone to depression, family history of alcoholism - could have chosen a much better role model than the guy who wrote this trilogy. The Earth gets destroyed twice, the second time for an even more pointless reason than the first? A quest to find the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything gets hijacked by accident by a bunch of "Dilbert" refugees? A fifth book he was about to basically write out of continuity because he was just so depressed while writing it that he watched the world die? This is the author whose lifestyle I want to emulate?

I bring all that up because tonight I've been thinking about settling. Giving up on your dreams, the spark, the poetry in life, because to pursue them any longer seems hopeless. Not, it's important to note, because attaining them really is impossible, but because it seems that way. And though I can't point to a specific quote in H2G2 that sounds just like that, it's a general mood that seems prevalent throughout the trilogy.

"I'd rather be happy than right any day."
"Are you?" Arthur asked.
"Not really, no. that's where it all falls apart, of course."

That quote comes as close as I can find in the books to the mood I'm trying to talk about. (And forgive me if it's not an exact quote; I'm too lazy to sneak upstairs without waking up my family and check it against my book.)

At this point, there are some things I have to settle for. Or so it seems. I'm in this mood mostly because of a book I bought while in Burlington today - I got two packs of cards, by the way, like I mentioned in the last entry, but I also stopped by Borders - which should have been a piece of fast-paced escapist fiction by an author I usually enjoy, but one scene in it reminded me very painfully of how things have gone wrong in the past. I spent a little while running in circles mentally, asking myself how I could avoid what happened to me before and what just happened to the protagonist.

In the end, all I came up with was that maybe I couldn't. But I was just sitting here talking to Gretchen, and she mentioned (even though she might not have seen it that way) that she had a low opinion of me about a certain issue. In most cases when someone thinks little of me, I don't care much. I'm a lot more thick-skinned than I used to be, so sure, I don't like insults - who does? - I'm usually capable of getting past them quickly. But in this case I cared more than usual for the simple reason that her doubts were entirely justified. She was exactly right not to trust my judgement about this.

Maybe I can't change the things that really bug me. Maybe for whatever reason, I'm doomed to have a fucked-up social life or, as it's been for the past few weeks, no social life at all. Maybe I'll die old and alone like until recently we were afraid would happen to my uncle. But you know what? There is at least one thing that I don't have to put up with or settle for, and that's myself. So on that note, I'm damned if I'm going to spend the next three years the way I've spent the past one. Out of shape - well, listing all my faults on top of this rant in the first place is just self-flagellation. Suffice it to say that I think I'm finally ready, WILLING and able to change things.

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