Tuesday, September 1, 2009

240. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul – Douglas Adams

July 2009
History: Written in 1988, it is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently.
Plot: Dirk Gently, who calls himself a "holistic detective", has happened upon what he thinks is a rather comfortable situation. A ridiculously wealthy man in the record industry has retained him, spinning a ludicrous story about being stalked by a seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster. Dirk pretends to understand the man's ravings involving potatoes and a contract signed in blood coming due; in reality, however, Dirk is musing about what he might do if he actually receives payment for his "services". Get rid of his refrigerator, for one; the seemingly innocuous appliance has become the centrepiece of a dangerous showdown between himself and his cleaning woman. The apparent seriousness of his client's claims becomes clear when Dirk arrives several hours late for an appointment to find a swarm of police around his client's estate. The aforementioned client is found in a sealed and heavily barricaded room, his head neatly removed several feet from his body and rotating on a turntable. While at his recently deceased client’s house, he discovers that his client had a son. However, after disconnecting the television set the boy had been watching, the boy promptly breaks Dirk’s nose.
Nearly incapacitated by great thudding pangs of guilt, Dirk resolves to belatedly begin taking his now-late client's wild claims seriously. During his investigation, Gently encounters exploding airport check-in counters, the gods of Norse mythology, insulting horoscopes, a sinister nursing home, a rhinophagic eagle, an I Ching calculator (to which everything calculated above the value of 4 is apparently 'a suffusion of yellow'), an omnipotent being who gives his powers to a lawyer and an advertising executive in exchange for clean linen, and an attractive American woman who gets angry when she can't get pizza delivered in London.
Review: As always, Adams has managed to gather a large collection of trifles and assemble them into a hilarious story. In Tea-time the references to his holistic methods mostly take the form of acts rather than sermons delivered to clients. His driving method, where he chooses a car that appears to know where it is going and then follows it until it reaches its destination, for example, relies heavily on the principle. While he rarely ends up where he wanted to go, he does usually end up somewhere he needed to be. Or at least somewhere more interesting than where he was headed. Adams writing is too silly, too ridiculous to be taken seriously. His imagination is wonderful, but the story itself goes nowhere. Just one big comedy.
Opening Line: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.”
Closing Line: “He turned to the front page to see I there was any interesting news.”
Quotes: “He astounded himself at the wild fantasies he had built on the flimsiest amount of, well he would hardly call it evidence, mere conjecture.”
Rating: Mediocre.

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