Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Our brother's keepers

A River Runs Through It and Other StoriesA River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Norman Maclean's only novella to date, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, consists of three semi-autobiographical short stories set in Western Montana.  In each story, we are introduced to a specific art and presented with a memorable portrait of a complex character. In the novella's titular story, A River Runs Through It, we learn about the art of fly-fishing and meet Norman's brother, Paul; in "Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim'", we read about the nature of logging as well as an enigmatic logging expert, Jim; finally, in "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky," our characters pass their time playing cribbage, eventually betting on the mysterious and dislikable cook - a cardshark - to win big in Hamilton, helping them "clean out town" at the end of the summer.

Bill, the ranger from "USFS 1919," calls the cook an artist; yet the true artist of the novella is in A River Runs Through It: Paul. Our narrator, Norman, speaks of Paul as an artisan multiple times throughout the story, even calling his fishing stick "a wand."
"At the end of this day, then, I remember him both as a distant abstraction in artistry and as a closeup in water and laughter"
As is the case with so many artists, however, Paul is reckless, troublesome and hard to understand. Everyone in Paul's family adores him and wants to help him - yet the difficulties of both articulating and accepting a help offering stand between them until the final, irreversible end.

The difficulty of extending a helping hand is already captured at the beginning of the story, where Norman humorously admits that giving advice on fly-fishing could pose a "strain on family relations" if not carefully expressed. It's one of those relatable sibling problems where giving tips and suggestions is considered offensive/inappropriately authoritative/nosy. And it is because of this, a problem equally noted in the first part of Paul's father's claim, that Paul is so tragically unhelp-able: "Help," he said "is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly." The difficulty of mutual understanding is also captured through fly-fishing, particularly in the scene where both brothers are shouting at each other across a raging river, unable to fully interpret the other's words. "Finally, we understood each other," is the remark Norman makes about the end of that conversation - but sadly, it is not a truth he can declare at the end of the story.
“In the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as "our brother's keepers," possessed of one of the oldest and possible one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting instincts. It will not let us go.”
Neal Burns, the brother of Norman's wife in the story, is another example of a brother who needs help but doesn't accept it. In stark contrast to Paul, Neal is much less likeable, less adventurous, more preened ("Jessie's brother Neal stepped off the train trying to remember what a Davis Cup tennis player looked like") and, to Paul's disgust, fishes with worms (instead of flies). Yet like Paul, he is the subject of worry for those around him; Jessie's family hopes that fishing with the Macleans, the "preacher's sons," will correct Neal's morals, while "Old Rawhide," a horsewoman-turned-whore, thinks that she can help Neal ("He's my man," she keeps insisting).

The frustration and sadness Norman feels about his inability to help is eloquently voiced by both himself and his father:
"Tell me, why is it that people who want help do better without it - at least, no worse. Actually, that's what it is, no worse. They take all the help they can get, and are just the same as they always have been."
"So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don't know what part to give or maybe we don't like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, 'Sorry, we are just out of that part.'"
Yet the moving beauty of such a relationship is this:
"But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.”
“Do you think I could have helped him?” Norman's father asks. “Do you think I could have helped him?” answers Norman in response. As he accurately remarks, How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions? 

But sometimes, as Norman says, "Help doesn't have to be anything that big."
He asked me, "Do you think your mother helps him by buttering his roll?" 
"She might," I told him. "In fact, yes, I think she does."
Does Norman help Paul by taking him fishing? Yes, I think he does.

In the novel, Maclean also portrays a magical quality of the river, and the way it shapes not only rocks and geology, but also our stories and our lives. The water has a certain power over its fishermen ("Eventually, the watched joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river") as well as an inclusivity ("As the heat mirages on the river in front of me danced with and through each other, I could feel patterns from my own life joining with them.")

Maclean uses the metaphor of a story to write about "reading the water," and how "it is much easier to read the waters of tragedy." It is thus fitting that he says, "stories of life are often more like rivers than books." For the river that he writes about, Big Blackfoot, was the family river that ran throughout his life, the medium that connected both him and his brother, the landscape in which he witnessed an artist at work, the place where the "Dance of Death" of a fish would foreshadow his brother's, the one place where came closest to understanding and helping Paul.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
If I eventually do become an English teacher/professor, A River Runs Through It is a story I want to teach. It is at once humorous (the hilarious shock of seeing not two "bears," but two "bare asses") and poignant. This may sound childish, but I feel so joyous to have a beautiful short story I can call my all-time favourite.
“One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful even if it is only a floating ash.”
“Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.”

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Take her to the moon for me, Joy

Pixar and Disney have done it again. Inside Out is the best animated movie of the year (sorry, Minions). Innovative in concept, instantly loveable, hilarious and heartwarming, it is a timeless film for all ages.

"Ever wonder what goes inside your head?" is the question the movie asks and answers. The movie opens with a newborn baby, Riley, crying - and then takes us immediately inside her head, where we are introduced to Joy - Riley's first emotion. It's a lovely and optimistic (and very Disney) thought, that happiness is the first feeling a human being experiences. But the golden, brightly-dressed and sparkly-haired Joy is not alone, for she is quickly followed by the blue, plump and somber Sadness, the purple, lanky, jumpy Fear, the red, stout and thick-browed Anger, and the green, sassy and stylish Disgust. 
(Yes, they left out Surprise - Fear seemed to embody her role, though). 

This ensemble directs Riley's internal narrative from "HQ," the headquarters of her feelings (the limbic system?). True to Pixar and Disney, the whole film is fabulously imaginative - inside Riley's head, we watch an actual "train" of thought go speeding by, see how she is who she is because of her "islands of personality," and even understand how the most ridiculous songs get stuck in her head (they get sent up to HQ by the "Forgetters"). Riley's memories are captured in large, glowing marbles - most of which take on Joy's golden-hue - and the major ones become "core memories" that are safely stored away to form the bedrock of her personality. 

"I'm not really sure what Sadness does," Joy remarks at the beginning of the movie. Indeed, Joy takes the steering wheel throughout Riley's childhood. Whenever a sad moment threatens to appear, it is always Joy who saves the day, while Sadness is ushered to a side. It is only when Sadness and Joy are accidentally ejected from HQ that Joy begins to realize the importance of a tear, of a quiet moment, of sorrow.

Throughout the film, Joy always tries to help Sadness understand happiness ("we'll work on this when we get back to HQ," she says). However, it is Joy who needs to understand the power of sadness the most. When Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong is upset, it isn't Joy's jokes that cheer him up, but rather Sadness's empathy that helps him pick himself up again. When Joy and Sadness are trying to wake up Riley, it isn't a bundle of laughs that jolts her awake, but Fear. You need sadness in your life - it is catharsis, relief, and - as one of Riley's core memories prove - a door to happiness. 

There is so much that this film gets right about emotions and the human brain. For starters, what Sadness says is spot on: "Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life's problems." On the train, Joy rightly remarks, "All these facts and opinions look the same. I can't tell them apart." 

Moreover, when we zoom into the parents' heads, we see that their emotions all seem to get along. For example, the father's "Joy" is all for "putting the foot down," something that is Anger's job. Inside mom's head, Sadness sits at the centre, although all emotions take part in decision-making. And finally, once Riley turns twelve, her HQ "upgrades" - her "emotional panel" expands so that all emotions have a say in what dials to turn. Her feelings become more complex, Anger now has access to all the swear words he likes, and there is a big "Puberty" button that will be pressed sooner or later. 

This is a film that will make you laugh and cry. Joy using a tower of Riley's imaginative boyfriends to get back to HQ is hilarious, as is what goes on inside the parents' heads ("Signal the husband!") And the most poignant moment of the film is undoubtedly Bing Bong's sacrifice, for this episode carries with it the sad truth that we do forget about parts of our childhood in order to grow up. 

There are going to be times in your life when Joy just isn't there (hopefully not lost in the maze of your long-term memory or trapped in your subconsciousness). Sometimes, that's just what you'll need - yet at the same time, Joy might be there all along, just on the others side of your marble or around the corner. Ah, emotions. They are complex, extensively researched and part of our mental network since day one. No matter what, it is always better to feel something - than nothing at all.

Now I need to RAVE about Lava. My heart melted. It is most lava-ly short I've ever, ever seen. I'd forgotten that mini animations precede every animated movie (I definitely had an "am I in the right room moment," though). I've already played the song on my uke and listened to it endlessly on Youtube. How precious and warm. Adorable, visually gorgeous, funny, brilliantly imaginative. Best pun ever. I didn't know I could feel so much empathy for an animated volcano. It's the perfect lullaby and lover's duet. I lava that short with all my heart. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

You is in the Word or you ain't—ain't no halfway with God

Go Tell it on the MountainGo Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel nervous about writing this review because with every sentence that I write, I am aware that I am only scratching the surface of a complex and undeniable masterpiece: James Baldwin's Go Tell it on the Mountain. 

The heavily autobiographical novel traces the lives and histories of various characters; primarily our protagonist, John Grimes, but also his father, Gabriel, his mother, Elizabeth, and his aunt, Florence. Between them are conflicts,  and - as evidenced by the family tree below - secrets.

In the characters' world (the story is set in Harlem, NYC, 1935), religion is the highest absolute; however, an indelible element of danger, wrath and fear lies in the holiness of their faith. 
Neither love nor humility had led her to the altar, but only fear. And God did not hear the prayers of the fearful, for the hearts of the fearful held no belief. Such prayers could rise no higher that the lips that uttered them. 
God was just, and He struck no people without first giving many warnings. God gave men time, but all the times were in His hand, and one day the time to forsake evil and do good would all be finished: then only the whirlwind, death riding on the whirlwind, awaited those people who had forgotten God. 
This kind of paradox is also captured by a simple sentence in the novel when Baldwin writes about "the ambulance that raced to carry someone to healing, or to death."

It is almost inevitable, then, that John - who cannot separate his devotion to God with his submission to his fearsome father - begins to wonder, "and why did they come here, night after night, calling out to a God who cared nothing for them—if, above this flaking ceiling, there was any God at all?" What he, and some other characters in the novel suffer, is essentially this: a crisis of faith.

The novel thus captures the hypocrisy of the church through the double standards of its upholders; Gabriel, although a holy man, is haunted by the "lions of lust and longing that prowled the defenseless city of his mind"and still beats his son, using religion as his reason. Elisha, although committed to the church, is berated for spending time with Ella Mae. It is not only duplicity that is associated with the church, but also repression. And it is from this portrayal of the house of God that Baldwin's criticism stems most strongly.

At the same time, the novel also tackles social issues that are still inherent in today's society. The first is repressed homosexuality, evident from the start through young John's intense fascination with Elisha (their wrestling scene is so tense and powerful for this reason). At the same time, we are also briefly exposed to the matter of gender inequality, seeing how the young and reckless Gabriel received "the education that Florence desired far more than he" just because he was the "man" of the family. And in a brief moment from Elizabeth's past, we learn about how John's biological father - Richard - was wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit just because "all black men looked the same" to the police officer in question.

Go Tell it on the Mountain is a novel I'd love to study in an academic setting, so that I could better grasp its biblical references and historical context. Written with an unceasing intensity, magnetic rhythm and focus, it is a book that deserves to be reread and preserved.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Because I have been on a steady diet of words since the age of three

The Best American Poetry 2013The Best American Poetry 2013 by David Lehman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A short review this time -

A poetry anthology is like a great, big international conference: you have poems from various states, countries and cultures present, each sitting in their respectful pages, their presence contributing to the literary atmosphere of the room. Some poems are absolutely outstanding, the kind of people you want to talk to over and over again at such a gathering. Some are the guests you speak to once and then forget about soon afterwards. Others seem like they are putting on airs, trying too hard, communicating at you from a level that is both inaccessible and convoluted. Yet as it always is with meeting new people, it is always a matter of personality - I don't blame the poems any more than I blame myself.

From this collection, notables include "Foundling" by the ever-reliable Billy Collins, the very relatable "Why I Write Poetry" by Major Jackson, the stunningly powerful "The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV." Anthologies offer such a wide variety of different styles and voices that one reads not only for pleasure, but also for discovery and guidance.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Before I start anywhere with this review, let me just say: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books ever. Of all time. It confirmed my love for bildungsromans, fuelled my interest in said genre, and warmed my heart in so many ways. When it was announced that Harper Lee - who has famously only published that ONE book - would be releasing a sequel, Go Set a Watchman, I knew at once that I would have to read it.

Whereas Mockingbird is perfect for a young audience, Watchman comes across as an adult-geared book. It deals with the same difficult themes through not the eyes of young "Scout," but rather the now 26-year old, cigarette-smoking, New Yorker Jean Louise Finch. Everything (and everyone) is different. The famous court case, around which which Mockingbird largely revolved, is only given a couple of paragraphs in Watchman. Dill is in Italy, Jem died of a heart stroke years ago, Henry Clinton wants Jean Louise's hand in marriage, and the almost prophet-like Uncle Jack is suddenly a principal character. And to many readers’ dismay, the legendary Atticus Finch is 72, has arthritis and - as nearly all online reviews boldly declare in their titles - is racist.

Atticus Finch, arguably the most respected father in American literature—a racist? In Watchman, Jean Louise returns from New York to discover that her father is suddenly on the board of directors on the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council, a union that holds KKK meetings and is viciously pro-segregation. Instead of echoing his “equal rights for all, special privileges for none” philosophy, Atticus instead asks his daughter, “do you want them in our world?” A priori, such a turn defies everything Mockingbird stood for and stamps out its very heart and soul. Such change is best captured by Jean Louise's own words:
“You who called me Scout are dead and in your grave.”
“I am their blood and bones, I have dug in this ground, this is my home. But I am not their blood, the ground doesn’t care who digs it, I am a stranger at a cocktail party.”

Yet Atticus’s racist views, framed by cold pragmatism and a harsh sort of “balance out the equities” approach, urges us to think about racism on a deeper level because this sort of prejudice differs from the more conspicuous and easier-to-criticize violence presented to us in Mockingbird. In Watchman, the racism we encounter is spoken by good people, explained in sophisticated ways and pronounced without raised voices. “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people,” says Atticus. That is why it is so difficult to agree, as Jean Louise herself lashed out, that the Atticus we once knew is now a “coward as well as a snob and a tyrant.” Indeed, there are moments in the novel when Atticus is defended (the notion that his motive is to observe the racism, and hence understand how to combat it, is raised a couple of times). Regardless, one cannot depart from the novel with the same reception of Mockingbird’s Atticus.

Yet just as we are given deeper insight into Atticus’s beliefs, we are also enlightened as to Jean Louise's own shortcomings. Interestingly enough, she has a flaw that is and isn’t a flaw:
“You have never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you're still unable to think racially.”
Lee seems to have taken the sweet innocence of Mockingbird and whammed it with a heavy dose of real-world bitterness.

More significantly, as Uncle Jack explains, Jean Louise's biggest problem is that she had always confused her father “with God:”
The most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father.
Which is why,
If a man says to you, “This is the truth,” and you believe him, and you discover what he says is not the truth, you are disappointed and you make sure you will not be caught out by him again.
But a man who has lived by truth — and you have believed in what he has lived — he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing.

So, whereas Mockingbird is a bildungsroman, a coming of age novel, Watchman is, to use Uncle Jack's words, a "coming into this world" novel. It is a story about having deep-rooted beliefs shattered, of struggling to reconcile with the people you love whose principles oppose yours completely. When Jean Louise screams at Atticus, therefore, she is—according to Uncle Jack—reducing her father “to the status of a human being.” Readers are forced to do that too, eroding the legendary status of one of literature’s most memorable heroes.

And it is in this complex father-daughter relationship that the significance of the title unravels itself:
For thus the Lord said to me: “Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees." 
“I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour. I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”
To set a watchman is to follow your own moral compass despite the disillusionment you suffer; it is to be surrounded by a county of people who think differently from and but still be able to discern what is right by your own standards. The title "To Kill a Mockingbird" is hypothetical, suggesting a scenario, but"Go Set a Watchman" is a direct command. In all walks of life, we need to set our own watchman—to set us straight.

Watchman asks bigger questions than Mockingbird does. We read about a more complicated form of prejudice—not simply discrimination against a different race—but a fixed-mindset that brutally labels even the nicest of people. For example, Henry points out that Jean Louise is entitled to a certain wildness because she is a “Finch” and “all Finches” are “mad.” On the other hand, he is obliged to toe the line because any false step would  mean that it is the "red-necked" “trash” within him rearing its ugly face.

Towards the end of Watchman, when everything turns unwelcomingly dialogue-heavy, and Jean Louise keeps interrupting everything Atticus and Uncle Jack was saying, the conversations becomes overdramatized and excessively vicious (sadly, I think Jean calling Atticus a “son of a btch” is going to be permanently ingrained in my memory). Another thing I don't like about the novel is Uncle Jack's oracle-esque, all-knowing role. Yes, he has his charm, but his character’s wisdom and insight seemed purported and unconvincing at times. Overall, Watchman lacks the warmth and imaginative plot of its prequel.

Nonetheless, despite everything that is different in Watchman, Lee still includes a couple of "throwback" chapters in the novel that recount stories from Jean Louise's childhood and are written in the same young and humorous voice I loved so much in Mockingbird. Lines such as "Atticus was in bed reading" (215) do take on back. If you don't read the whole book, do read Chapter 11 - it is an absolute gem.

So, I appreciate Watchman for its depth and exploration. Yet thankfully, despite everything, Mockingbird will still have a special place in my heart forever.

(P.S. Every time I typed "Jean Louise" in this review, I was aching to type "Scout")

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Des traces subsistent dans des registres et l'on ignore où ils sont cachés et quels gardiens veillent sur eux et si ces gardiens consentiront à vous les montrer

Rue des boutiques obscuresRue des boutiques obscures by Patrick Modiano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Je ne suis rien. Rien qu'une silhouette claire, ce soir-là, à la terrasse d'un café."
Ainsi commence (thus commences) Rue des boutiques obscures de Patrick Modiano - a blank, a void, a man without an identity.

Guy Roland is an amnesiac detective who, now retired, decides to embark on his most puzzling case yet - the search for himself. Along the way, a myriad clues serve as his compass. Some are factual information, like addresses and telephone numbers provided by Hutte (his old employer); others are vague sentences dropped here and there by strangers who are not as distant as they seem; and some are material, like an old photo of friends found in a box of memories ("tout finissait dans de vieilles boîtes de chocolat ou de biscuits. Ou de cigares.").

The reader is immediately pulled into our narrator's search for his own past. We scrutinize every hint he receives, sympathize with him when he loses a lead, and struggle to connect the constellation of people, places and locations that dots the obscure sky of his journey. In a way that adds nuanced layers to the storyline, Guy's memory seems to return as he makes progress: he recalls "des bribes" (snatches, fragments) of his past, and the road becomes less obscure.
Oftentimes, Guy is quick to believe that a certain man he learns about is him, only to suffer disappointment soon after (reinforcing my belief that the question of "who am I?" is one of the most poignant in literature).

At first, it seems that we are only dealing with a personal history (Guy's). As the novel evolves, however, and as more characters are pulled into the web of this complex search for identity, we are beset with mysteries from every angle: an assassination. A suicide. A couple separated in a snowstorm in 1943. Indeed, we come face to face with a vaster history still: the Nazi-occupation of France.

In English, this book is (unjustly) titled, Missing Person.  Perhaps this gives readers the expectation that the ending should bring around closure, and that a person should be found. Yet, as the French title fittingly reveals, we are still somewhat wandering "une rue des boutiques obscures" at the end of the novel. Such an ending (which I've become used to, in fact e.g. Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki), however, is always the most striking. With Guy pursuing a past that is still somewhat shrouded in a veil of obscurity, while heading to Rome to locate the exact "Rue des Boutiques Obscures" itself, the novel concludes with mystery - like it began - but also with renewed hope and purpose. Rue des Boutiques is a compelling narrative about memory, history, and uncovering what is deeply personal to us - despite the fact that our lives are quick to dissipate into the night, "se dissiper dans le soir."

“Je crois qu'on entend encore dans les entrées d'immeubles l'écho des pas de ceux qui avaient l'habitude de les traverser et qui, depuis, ont disparu. Quelque chose continue de vibrer après leur passage, des ondes de plus en plus faibles, mais que l'on capte si l'on est attentif.”

"I think we still hear, in the entrances of buildings, the echo of the footsteps of those who used to cross them, but have since disappeared. Something continues to vibrate after their passage, waves that grow increasingly weak, but that one picks up if one is paying attention. "

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Sunday, July 5, 2015


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (henceforth fondly referred to as HG2G) has been on my High-School-Texts-I-Never-Read-But-Must list for the longest time - until this morning, that is. The book is an absolute, intergalactic, devour-in-one-sitting gem.

Our protagonist is Arthur Dent, a humble earthling whose longtime friend, Ford Prefect, turns out to be an alien from another planet entire. Yet there are perks to such a friendship, for Arthur is the only human who is whisked away to 'safety' when the hulking and poetry-loving Vogons implode his little green and blue home. The rest of the characters are a fascinating bunch - there is Zaphod Beeblebrox, the brilliant and bizarre Galactic present, Trillian, a human who was fleetingly Arthur's potential love-interest on Earth before being "picked up" (quite literally) by Zaphod, Marvin, a comically depressed robot ("paranoid android"), an enigmatic old man on a legendary planet, a chatty computer... the list goes on.

The norm is twisted, warped and contorted in HG2G. Poetry - an elegant, melodic art form - is a torture mechanism; the possibility of being "late" is interpreted as the threat of being "late, as in the late < insert your name here >;" and most memorably of all, "what's so unpleasant about being drunk" is something only "a glass of water would know."

We, like Arthur, keep HG2G's top-notch life advice in our minds as we read on: Don't Panic.

On the one hand, HG2G delivers the joyously imaginative: we meet the mind-bogglingly useful Babel Fish, are inside the head of a confused/existentialist spermwhale for a brief moment, and learn that Norway's fjords are design-award-worthy.

At the same time, the novel also invites us to question the profound, which is often masked in the simplest of terms:
“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
“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—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
“All through my life I've had this strange unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world, something big, even sinister, and no one would tell me what it was." "No," said the old man, "that's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the Universe has that.”
Throughout the story, there are times when the characters jump into hyperspace - similarly, we also make leaps from our mundane lives into absolute absurdity. We go from Arthur's house being demolished, for instance, to a whole planet being pulverized, just as we go from having a pint on earth to having tea on a spaceship (or at least "something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"). All of a sudden, telephone numbers seem to have an otherworldly purpose that is on par with the most unlikely of possibilities (infinity minus one?)

There is so much about HG2G that is unforgettable, such as the hilarious "proof" of God's non-existence via the Babel fish, the utterly quotable “So long, and thanks for all the fish,” and the sheer wackiness of suddenly becoming prey to two white mice (who are the guinea pigs, now?)

Yet the the one thing readers will never forget about this book - the two-digit number we all know by heart - is the bafflingly simple and incomprehensible answer to the "life the universe and everything": 42. It is ironic how a book involving concepts of astronomical scale boils down the solution to The Ultimate Question to 6*7... but is that truly all that it is?

As we age, it seems that we “demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty" by default; however, Adams expands these areas to wild and thrilling proportions in the novel. We read on, believing nothing (debatable) but loving everything. I shall be reading the sequels. It is little wonder HG2G has achieved the status of legend.

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