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A Terrible Stupid Mistake
Oliver Moor

Douglas Adams has been taken from us at forty-nine.

I never knew him, of course. The first time I heard of him was about twenty years ago. He was being interviewed by LBC Radio: a man with an enthusiastic, laughing voice was talking about how he'd been lying in a field looking at the stars, thinking that someone ought to write a guidebook for the Galaxy, which sounded intriguing, but at the age of twelve many ideas seemed intriguing, and I didn't give it much more of a thought.

Then, two years later, I either was given, or found, a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I read it till it fell apart. That in itself isn't particularly unusual- it's been the fate of several of my books - but the Guide was different. Every time it seemed fresh. Everything about it - from the descriptions of the excitingly chunky controls of the Starship Heart of Gold, to the subliminal signal, transmitted when under extreme stress, indicating exactly how far one is from one's birthplace - seemed incredibly original and in some mad way entirely believable (I believed the signal idea for years).

And of course it was funny. No, not funny. It was hysterical. Absurd.
Hilarious. Brilliant. Satirical. Sparkling. I could go on until I've used up the thesaurus - it still wouldn't be enough. The amazing thing was, though, was that it always seemed funny, no matter how many times you read it, and it was one of those books you wanted to share with everybody - but at the same time you didn't want to share it with anybody - no, only I get this little comment, only I've noticed that phrase. It was also one of those books where it really didn't matter if everybody didn't like it. You didn't want everybody to like it.

Naturally, all this reading and re-reading left large chunks of Hitchhikers squatting in my brain: whole paragraphs, entire pages. Everything about it seemed right. I remember buying an American edition and feeling let down that they'd placed a few commas in the wrong places. For those of us who have a particular... fondness doesn't seem quite enough... alright, obsession... with the book, we find it useful - even now -- to spit out a couple of phrases to each other, like little bundles of friendship, just now and again. All boyish and stupid, I know, but there you go.

But, I hear you cry, that hasn't changed. The book's still there: and you never knew the author. Why, then, do you (in your small way) mourn him? Because of the injustice, that's why. Because for the amount of genuine pleasure he brought me, and so many other people, it seems almost unbelievable that he was not rewarded, in some way, with a life of at least several hundred years. Forty-nine is cruelly, almost shamefully young - it almost feels as if the world has let him down. Somebody, somewhere must have made a mistake - a terrible stupid mistake. Why wasn't there enough life around to let Douglas have a little more?

© Oliver Moor 2001

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