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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams Camilla Send a noteboard - 02/07/2010 12:07:18 PM
Everyone and his grandmother have now read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and those who haven't have seen the film or heard the radio show. They made Douglas Adams the icon he is, and ensured that my mother recognises his name. Dirk Gently, however, is more of an unknown entity in the world of nutty literati and grandmothers alike. Rather undeservedly; it should be remedied.

Adams once wrote occasional episodes for the magnificent television series Doctor Who (and some of the better episodes at that). When, from time to time, the scripts did not pan out, he was known to convert them into pieces of books (see the Krikkit robots and the incident with the ashes, for example). Shada, which was left unfinished and unaired because of a strike, is one such, and Adams converted key bits of it into the strange composition of insanity, absurdity, hilarity and very, very close plotting which is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

The Doctor does not figure in it. Instead the reader must deal with the strange workings of the very odd minds of Professor Chronotis (Reg), and his cryptic comments, very strange behaviour and impressive magic tricks; and Dirk Gently, with his very strange hat, penchant for massive amounts of free pizza, and his tendency to notice things. The hat is very strange.

Dirk Gently is a holistic detective, which means he will use his gifts to find the missing cat by visiting Bermuda -- for holistic reasons, you understand. And he never gets paid. And he went to school (and by "school" I mean Cambridge, as you do) with Richard. And was kicked out for correctly divining the correct questions of an exam. Down to the smallest comma. By accident.

Richard is more boring (despite having an interesting sofa), but serves as the hub around which all the crazy happens. You see, Adams takes The Interconnectedness of All Things very seriously. So a lot of crazy has to happen in order to reveal itself as interconnected. And it is strangely disorienting when you are in the middle of it. And then, two weeks after you put the book down, you go "Ah! Right! I get it now". Or that is what I suspect. The first time I read it I read it twice in two days because I need to know that things fit. And they did. I read it again, now, after 12 years or so (with very fuzzy memories from the last time), and it took me a while to stop going "ah, yes, that was why he included that bit" once I had finished the book.

There is a lot of technobabble. It is 1980s technobabble from Adams, which means it is weirdly mac-centered in a strange unworldly kind of way and may induce bouts of nostalgia in geeks (or, indeed, people who were old enough to know state of the art technology in 1987). Be warned.

More importantly (as I see it), it pokes and prods literary and musical history in just the right places and will reward anyone familiar with key Coleridge poems. It might also help you appreciate Bach's Mass in B Minor from the Brandenburg Concertos in a new way.

And the extinction of the dodo is explained.

It is very much a Douglas Adams book. The weirdly absurdist carnivalesque style and the perfect wording that makes apparent True Meanings of things and which are characteristic of a certain type of British writing -- it is all here. People who like it, will; those who don't … well, I can't help you.
structured procrastinator
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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams - 02/07/2010 12:07:18 PM 4712 Views
And just how in the hell did that couch get stuck there? - 02/07/2010 02:16:11 PM 1155 Views
Re: And just how in the hell did that couch get stuck there? - 02/07/2010 02:30:36 PM 1155 Views
Great review of a vastly underrated book. *NM* - 02/07/2010 02:19:55 PM 547 Views
I expect to see a review of The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul in short order. *NM* - 02/07/2010 03:41:38 PM 559 Views
I have to do Dunsany and Byatt first, or Rebekah will hurt me. *NM* - 03/07/2010 09:12:46 AM 569 Views
Bah, of course you have to do the Byatt right when I'm not there. - 06/07/2010 05:03:21 PM 1006 Views
Going somewhere? *NM* - 06/07/2010 05:07:06 PM 554 Views
Yes, Spain, for a few weeks. *NM* - 06/07/2010 05:12:20 PM 543 Views
Have fun. - 06/07/2010 05:14:01 PM 1131 Views
Thanks, I'm sure I will. - 06/07/2010 05:16:52 PM 1134 Views
I love Dirk Gently books *NM* - 03/07/2010 06:32:55 AM 543 Views
I have appropriated Mr Gently's holisitic approach to detective work as a study aid. *NM* - 06/07/2010 03:24:35 PM 549 Views
wise choice *NM* - 06/07/2010 03:26:02 PM 557 Views
great book! - 09/07/2010 02:16:45 PM 1031 Views
Re: great book! - 09/07/2010 02:30:06 PM 1099 Views
I know it's a sequel, not a prequel - 09/07/2010 02:45:26 PM 1009 Views
I still use his holistic navigation method and amazing it works sometimes - 11/07/2010 03:37:01 PM 1149 Views
I imagine I would do the same if I had a car - 11/07/2010 03:41:12 PM 1074 Views

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