An author excites me the most when he or she turns a phrase in an original way. Playing with the rules of syntax makes for enjoyable and memorable prose. When asked about my favorite author, several authors who creatively twist the language come to mind (Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Glen David Gold, for examples), but one writer stands out as my personal favorite.
From the first passage of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams describes his fictional universe with twisted logic and language. Through the five books of the “Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”–itself a bit of playful language–Adams takes a comedic look at everything from diners to politics to rock and roll. All along the way, Adams’ absurd prose enhances the comedic effect of the novels. The following quotes demonstrate Adams’ unique ability to turn a phrase.
The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t. – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. — Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. – Life, the Universe and Everything
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Beyond the Galaxy
Adams’ wonderfully comic prose wasn’t limited to just the Hitchhiker’s Guide novels. Adams also wrote two fantastic novels featuring holistic detective Dirk Gently, a non-fiction book about endangered species entitled “Last Chance to See,” and, with co-author John Lloyd, penned “The Meaning of Liff,” in which the duo invent an entire dictionary of new words.
However, Adams voice wasn’t restricted to prose writing. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” began life as a radio play. Following the success of the novel version, Adams also turned the story into a text-based video game produced by Infocom, creators of the Zork series. Adams would then go on to create an entirely original text-based game for Infocom entitled Bureaucracy. A decade later, Adams would create Starship Titanic, a new video game which featured, appropriately enough, SpookiTalk, a system which enabled players to verbally interact with the game’s characters to a groundbreaking degree.
Adams also found success writing for television and films. His credits include well-known programs such as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Not the Nine O’Clock News,” and “Doctor Who.” Not content just writing, Adams took a few turns at acting as well. In 1990, Adams wrote and starred in a film entitled Hyperland, which examined the concept of hypertext before the World Wide Web had been released to the public.
Sadly, Adams’ unique voice has now been silenced. Douglas Adams passed away in 2001 at the age of 49. The novels Adams wrote in his all-too-short life excite, amuse and intrigue me every time I read them. For that, he certainly ranks among my favorite authors.
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