October 21, 2017
The Douglas Adams GalaxyOn this day in 2001 Douglas Adams died of a heart attack in a Santa Barbara gym, aged forty-nine. He had moved to California to be more involved in negotiations with Hollywood producers on the movie version of his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a frustrating process which Adams likened to "trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." The 1979 book and its sequels (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long and Thanks for all the Fish; Mostly Harmless) have sold fifteen million copies, and the Dirk Gently books (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul) have also done well, but Adams said that he was proudest of Last Chance to See, a documentary account of his expeditions with zoologist Mark Carwardine to observe a handful of near-extinct animal species. The message is dire but the writing is entertaining, as in this account of animal life at one Tourist-Trap-at-the-End-of-the-Universe in Bali, encountered while stalking the Komodo dragon:
The tourists with their cans of lager and their FUCK OFF T-shirts were particularly familiar to anyone who has seen the English at play in Spain or Greece....
"With a goat?" I asked.
"A dead goat."
I toyed with my food.
"It's best," continued Mark, "if the goat has been dead for about three days, so it's got a good smell going. That's more likely to attract dragons."
"You're proposing twenty hours on a boat -- "
"A small boat," added Mark.
"On violently heaving seas -- "
"With a three-day-old dead goat."
"I hardly know what to say. . . ."
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