Calming manatees

At the risk of making the blog a touch random, I want to share something which has both cheered me up and calmed me down today.  I, personally, think it is marvellous.  I hope you do too.

Fingers crossed, it will also stop you thinking I am entirely lacking a sense of humour, after I’ve failed to properly appreciate both Douglas Adams and P.G.Wodehouse (oh the shame…).


Book Love: My First Wodehouse

PG Wodehouse 4

PG Wodehouse – to-read…

That’s right, in (nearly) 21 years I had not read anything written by P.G. Wodehouse.  But that gap in my literary experience has now been filled, as I introduced myself to What Ho! The Best of Wodehouse.  This is a pretty good (or so it seemed to me) anthology of Wodehouse stories, with an introduction by Stephen Fry, whom I unashamedly adore, and some more autobiographical writing with some letters and stories of his time in the USA.

I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s yet another must-read that I didn’t love.  And, much like my post on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I feel really guilty saying that.  I’m sorry, Wodehouse fans!

I didn’t find the stories hilariously funny, like so many people seem to.  I probably laughed three times through the whole book.  But that’s not to say that I didn’t find them entertaining  – I enjoyed reading the stories and they definitely cheered me up.  They just didn’t send me into fits of laughter, as the multiple celebrity quotes at the start of the book had promised.

But one thing that most certainly did come across as advertised was the famously lovely Wodehouse style of prose.  His talent for choosing the perfect word and forming beautiful sentences is incredible.  I cannot possibly do it justice by gushing, and I’m sure that many people will know it already, so I will just say that I hugely enjoyed being able to lose myself in the flow of the writing.

I think I may also have lost something by meeting the characters in an anthology, rather than reading a full book as it was originally written.  So many people have a huge passion for the characters and their world, which is definitely necessary to really appreciate their stories, and which I was missing.  I’m just about old enough to vaguely remember Fry and Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster, but I hadn’t even heard of the other characters before I picked up this book!

But the part of this anthology that I most enjoyed had nothing to do with any of Wodehouse’s fictional characters.  The autobiographical writing and letters tagged onto the end of the anthology were the things that actually did have me laughing out loud, and I now have my eye on Wodehouse on Wodehouse, from which there was a truly funny extract in this book, and possibly P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, especially if I can get hold of it my local library.  Further updates on those to come…

So, while my first taste of Wodehouse doesn’t have me running off to find the full books, it certainly hasn’t stopped me from wanting to read more.  I fear he may have become a touch too revered, so I had a classic case of overly high expectations reading this book.  Hopefully, if I try again with the originals, I’ll be able to love these characters too.  And I really want to, because Wodehouse truly does deserve his reputation as a magnificent writer.

Book Love: Thoughts on a cult classic

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (novel)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soooooo… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Audiobook number 2.  Read by Stephen Fry.  Everyone’s favourite book.  Got to be a hit, right?

Um, not really.  And I’m sorry!  I wanted to love it, really I did.  But it just didn’t grip me like I expected it to, even combined with the sheer magnificence of Stephen Fry.

All the indicators were pointing to me adoring this book – I share its random sense of humour and it gets you thinking in a light, fun way.  But I found it a bit boring.  I found myself tuning out in parts that seemed pretty long-winded and irrelevent.

Now I’m worried I sound as though I disliked it, which I didn’t at all.  There were lots of bits that I enjoyed a lot and I completely get why it is so infinitely quotable.  This line, for example, I enjoyed immensely:

‘The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.’

I was also a big fan of Marvin the depressed robot, the poor falling sperm whale, Deep Thought and the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, the mice and plenty of other ideas.  I’m always jealous of people with wonderfully random minds that appear to pull entirely unique ideas out of thin air, and this is Douglas Adams’ speciality.  The man’s mind is incredible.  So perhaps I would go back to reread pieces of the book, skipping over anything that didn’t quite do it for me.

As a side note, I tried watching the film that by some twist of fate appeared on BBC iPlayer just as I finished the book.  I got about 45 minutes in and gave up – it seemed to me that they had got rid of all the parts I genuinely enjoyed, leaving the boring bits!  Bad job, Hollywood…

I’m glad I listened to this book (that sounds so wrong!), it has such a cult following and is so widely referenced, everyone probably should read it, simply to share in the jokes if nothing else.  And many more people seem to adore it than be bored by it, so odds are you’ll enjoy it!  I had a go at reading this book about 5 years ago and didn’t make it to the end, so unfortuntely I don’t think I can blame my opinions on the audiobook.  I shall persevere with my audiobook education, in pursuit of one I enjoy!

Since I enjoyed The God Delusion so much, I’m going to finish off with a pretty long extract from Hitchhickers about the Babel Fish.  I reckon it sums up a big part of what Dawkins was talking about and was one of the parts of this book that I really did love and found funny.  Enjoy!

“The Babel fish,” said The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, “is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe.  It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.”

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’

‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’

‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

‘Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next pedestrian crossing.

Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his bestselling book, Well That about Wraps It Up for God.