The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams; Del Rey

I actually came across a blog entry a few days ago that shared the author absolutely hated The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They also like to post “intellectual” posts – that they read things like the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen or other heady novels from the British world.  Well, I have read most of the truly “intellectual” books out there, from Umberto Eco to G. K. Chesterton, from Graham Greene to Hermann Hesse, from Nabokov to Murakami – and I can promise you that both The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe are just as enjoyable and worthy as any of those aforementioned “intellectual” reads.

At first, I was completely flabbergasted that there exists someone who did not like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And I puzzled this over for awhile. I also finished up The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and I have come to the conclusion that only very drab and dry people who are witless, humorless, and who take everything too seriously cannot enjoy these books.  Such people probably did not have very good childhoods. Or, maybe their childhood was full of “educational structured play.”   It takes a measure of absurdity, humor, and madness to appreciate the Hitchhiker’s canon.  Mind you, I am not calling these books childish or silly.  However, the point remains that if you are a person who had a stifling childhood and are currently living a stuffy life in suburbia with the rest of the Stepford Wives (or similar), then there is no way I can even explain to you why you ought to love this book.  You are incapable of understanding the wit – and I believe it’s not your fault, you just lack the correct experiences to make sense of this.

I finished The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and I was happy and amused and I wanted to copy down certain sections of the book that were so perspicacious that I want them available to read or quote in the future.  For example, there is a line in chapter 9 that made me giggle for several minutes:

There is, however, nothing soothing about being addressed by a disembodied voice out of nowhere, particularly when you are, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, not at your best and hanging from a ledge eight stories up a crashed building. – pg. 65

The above quote is only funny to people who can imagine such a situation – because they have imagination – and/or to people who have been in such a situation – because they have uncanny bad luck and find it better to laugh than be depressed when tragedy strikes.  Anyway, this quote really tickled me.

Another of my favorite sections is in chapter 6 wherein we are given an idea of the scope and purpose of the fictional Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; this section continues from page 36 – 37.   The best part of this section is that it handily muses on epistemology and leads into Keats without missing a beat and being ironic and amusing the whole way.

The Guide is definitive.  Reality is frequently inaccurate.

Ultimately, that’s the crucial point on which this entire novel spins – in all its seemingly random twists and turns:  entropy.  Along the way, Adams fondly mocks philosophers, religions, and politicians.  And it’s okay, because we need to make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

4 stars

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