Immediately after I finished reading Cat’s Cradle, I began the second installment of Adam’s H2G2: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy….
I finished reading the book a few weeks ago. And… ever sense then… I’ve been trying to figure out… why I am not very enthusiastic about the book. The concept is nice. And… there are some good parts…. But… for the most part… I don’t find the execution to approach the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy….
With Cat’s Cradle and The Restaurant at the End of Universe both… I wondered if maybe it was just me. Maybe I didn’t get it. Maybe I didn’t get into it. Maybe I was in a hypercritical funk….
So… I read some other things…. Parts of things…. Like part of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and his Fortunes and Adversities…. And several of the mystery novels and short story collections of Robert van Gulik…. And… I loved those. I even read some of Moby Dick. And… the Bible.
First… I enjoy Adams’ writing style. And… he has some good ideas. The scene in which Marvin the Depressed Robot faces off with the Vogon tank is witty. The concept of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe is very clever. The black spaceship is very interesting. As is the Rock and Roll star and his Income Tax issues. I suppose that Adams was intentionally trying to be understated. Maybe even droll. But… the execution of the plot elements… struck me as being… somewhat less that exciting.
Adams must have been a brilliant man. He is apparently the ONLY person outside of the members of Monty Python ever to receive a writing credit for his contributions. And… his contributions were during a time when Monty Python was at its creative peak. And… I think Monty Python is hilarious! But… this… doesn’t measure up… to that….
So… I asked myself… WHY?
Two things. Two impressions….
One. Adam’s didn’t seem to be very passionate about his writing. At least not after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published. He had an editor assigned to sit with him while he wrote so that he could stay somewhat on schedule. He famously admitted that he didn’t really enjoy writing. At least he was witty about it…. Adams seems like a literary genius… who probably took his talent for granted….
Two. And this is what strikes me about Vonnegut, too. He is preachy. Arrogant. Aloof. Speaking down from on high almost.
I don’t mind a story that delivers a message. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is one of my favorite books and it’s really hard to escape the message. 1984. Brave New World. Even Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov. All of those stories deliver a message. And… all of those stories deliver the message effectively.
I don’t mind philosophical stories. For a long time my favorite author was Albert Camus. I read Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre not too terribly long ago… and THAT was a struggle…. But my struggle there was that I was draw into the story… and kept re-writing the story in my own head. Same with Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The short stories of Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges…. I LOVE Borges…. So… eclectic…. Such an imagination! So… I started reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being last night… and I LOVE that, too. So… I don’t think it’s just some kind of mental funk….
The best that I can come up with… is that I feel Vonnegut… and especially Adams… are preaching…. I get the same feeling with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss. That they are geniuses… and I’m an idiot… if I don’t immediately jump on their bandwagon. Not just their writings. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are intentionally contentious… and over-the-top… in their proselytizing their dogmatic religious and political beliefs. So is Lawrence Krauss. But they are also rather loose in their Science. They require levels of evidence… levels of proof… from their opponents… that they don’t demand of themselves…. They are perfectly willing to present an argument based on nothing but faith to justify their beliefs… while claiming that they have facts… while stating that they won’t be able to test their hypotheses for at least somewhere between a Century and a Millennium… if EVER!!!
So… I also considered that maybe I’m offended by Vonnegut and Adams. I concluded that I am not offended by the beliefs they present. I just can’t comprehend why they are so one-sided in their humor…. They leave a LOT of very funny stuff lying fallow… because they can’t seem to bring themselves to the point that have enough confidence in what they believe… to attack their own Sacred Cows…. And… that’s a pity…. They hold themselves back. And… that’s a big NO-NO in humor. Pulling punches… because of political or religious reasons… isn’t really satire…. It’s propaganda…. Ridiculing those who believe differently… while pasting over your own ugliness… is bigotry… not open-mindedness….
The issue I have… is one of integrity….
No one… no matter how intelligent they sincerely believe they are… can dissect someone else’ beliefs… as thoroughly… as they can their own…. It’s an issue of knowledge of the anatomy. Fetal pigs and cats and dogfish… and humans… are different. That’s why human Surgeons dissect humans: because other species are different. The anatomy is different.
Richard Dawkins’ criticisms of Christianity… and American Conservatives… lack authenticity… because he is only capable of constructing Straw Men to attack… because he is too close minded to actually listen to… to look at… to truly examine… other people’s opinions….
That is what I feel about Adams and Vonnegut, too.
Adams gives me the impression that he knows more than his readers. That his beliefs are superior. That his god… is unassailable…. And… Adams seems to be some sort of primitive Secular Humanist Progressive Liberal Communist Radical Environmentalist… just based on the views of government and leaders… and cataclysms… portrayed in his work.
Vonnegut is more subtle. His religious beliefs take a back seat to his political pursuits. Vonnegut is anti-war. Which is fine. But… their was a lot of unmined humor in the anti-war movement, too.
If you look at the list of authors and works that I listed as my favorites… or at least works I enjoy… and admire… you will notice that only ONE of those listed is generally described as being Christian. And that’s Dostoevsky. Who was the first Christian Humanist. And… I am definitely not a Christian Humanist….
Anyway…. I suppose my point can most concisely be described as… a criticism of the lack of equality… a criticism of the inherent bigotry… displayed in most social satire….