The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

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Overview

Douglas Adams changed the face of science fiction (to a uniquely and irresistibly funny one) with his cosmically comic novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and its classic sequels. Sadly for his countless admirers, he hitched his own ride to the great beyond much too soon. But for anyone who ever laughed out loud at the absurdist adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, chuckled knowingly at the daffy definitions detailed in The Meaning of Liff, or experienced the wonders of encountering endangered ...
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Overview

Douglas Adams changed the face of science fiction (to a uniquely and irresistibly funny one) with his cosmically comic novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and its classic sequels. Sadly for his countless admirers, he hitched his own ride to the great beyond much too soon. But for anyone who ever laughed out loud at the absurdist adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, chuckled knowingly at the daffy definitions detailed in The Meaning of Liff, or experienced the wonders of encountering endangered species in Last Chance to See, here's a wonderful opportunity to revel in the droll wit, off-the-wall humor, and keenly inquiring mind of Douglas Adams just one more time. Culled posthumously from Adams's fleet of beloved Macintosh computers, this selection of essays, articles, anecdotes, and stories offers a fascinating and intimate portrait of the multifaceted artist -- as a devout Beatles and Bach fan, radical atheist, enthusiastic technophile, crusading conservationist, and of course delightful wordsmith. Join him on an excursion to climb Kilimanjaro ... dressed in a rhino costume: peek into the private life of Genghis Khan -- warrior, conqueror, and world-class neurotic; root for the harried author's efforts to get a Hitchhiker movie off the ground in Hollywood; thrill to (and laugh at) the further exploits of private eye Dirk Gently and two-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox. In the immortal words of The Hitchhiker's Guide, "Don't panic!" -- though our friend Douglas Adams is gone, he's left us something very special to remember him by. Without a doubt.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When Douglas Adams, that intergalactic hitchhiker, departed this planet on May 11, 2001, he left behind a trove of percolating manuscripts, which he had slyly stashed in no fewer than four computers. Gathered into this posthumous collection, this haphazard batch of truly fugitive writings seems like the last great cosmic laugh of our sweet navigator.
Publishers Weekly
Edited by Peter Guzzardi and with an introduction by Christopher Cerf, this bittersweet collection comprises letters, fragments of ideas for books, films and TV, ruminations on a diverse array of subjects and a good bit of a final unfinished novel by the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, who died in May of last year. Included are a letter to the editor of a U.K. boy's magazine (written in 1965, when Adams was 12); a reminiscence about his lifelong love for the Beatles, written when he was in his 40s; a 1991 piece from Esquire entitled "My Nose"; and an undated article for the Independent espousing his preference for whiskey. Also on hand are a q&a in which he identifies the most interesting natural structure as being a "2,000-mile-long fish in orbit around Jupiter, according to a reliable report in the Weekly World News"; a spiritual encounter with a giant manta ray while testing a mechanical diving device at Australia's Great Barrier Reef; an affecting introduction to P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished novel, Sunset at Blandings; an account of a Save the Rhino pilgrimage across Africa; ruminations on computerization; and a philosophical address about the authorship of the universe entitled "Is There an Artificial God?" Two sketches "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" and "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe" from the Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, 1986, are also here, as are 10 chapters from various versions of the title novel-in-progress. National advertising. (May 7) Forecast: The audience for this will be Adams completists, but there are enough of them to make for respectable sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Posthumous trunkful of items found on four beloved Mac computers belonging to the late high-techie best known for his first novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979). Chosen from over 2,579 entries, magazine pieces, Web site squibs, etc., the collection's longest piece is "The Salmon of Doubt," ten chapters selected and rearranged from those Adams wrote over a ten-year period for his novel-in-progress, the third book in the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency series that also included The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1989). A long prologue, written in 2000 by British journalist Nicholas Wroe, includes much interview material and gives a sketch of Adams's life and ebullience, of his writing venues and love of Monty Python, his first $2 million-dollar contract with an American publisher while he was still in his mid-20s, his adored but angst-ridden fallow periods, which required much gadget-buying, and so on. The pieces here bounce with charm: Adams discourses on awaiting his favorite magazine at 12, his endless love affair with the Beatles, his curiously substantial nose that will not admit air, the refreshing shock of reading Richard Dawkins on evolution, dogs excitedly hurling themselves against walls, "The Little Computer That Could," his radical atheism, whiskey, the writing life, the rhinoceros, Bach, and "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" (written with Monty Python's Graham Chapman). Also included: his introduction to The Meaning of Liff and a superb appreciation of P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished last novel, Sunset at Blandings. Fans will dig the paranormal but incomplete "The Salmon of Doubt" itself. Dirk Gently first turns down then accepts a job to find the missing halfof a Siamese cat whose front half conducts itself as if the aft half were still there. Among Dirk's friends is Thor, the ancient Norse God of Thunder, who bellows into telephones from ten feet off, "which made actual conversation well-nigh impossible." A beautiful sendoff, Douglas, wherever you are.
From the Publisher
“Above all, of course, Douglas Adams was a transcendent, multi-faceted, comic genius. What made Douglas’s work unique, I think, were the wildly contradictory attributes he displayed in his writing. He seamlessly blended world-class intelligence—and a daunting knowledge about an impossible variety of subjects (literature, computers, evolution, pop culture, genetics, and music, to name but a few)—with transcendental silliness; technophobia with a lust for, and fascination with, every high-tech toy imaginable; deep cynicism about virtually everything with an effusively joyful spirit; and one of the quickest wits on the planet with a relentless perfectionism in pursuing his craft.” —From the Introduction by Christopher Cerf

“The bottom drawer of recently deceased writers is often best left firmly locked and bolted. In the case of Douglas, I am sure you will agree, the bottom drawer (or in his case, the nested subfolders of his hard drive) has been triumphantly well worth the prising open. There are those who write from time to time and do it well, and then there are Writers. Douglas Adams, and it is pointless to attempt here an explanation or anatomisation, was born, grew up, and remained a Writer to his too-early dying day.
“You are on the verge of entering the wise, provoking, benevolent, hilarious, and addictive world of Douglas Adams. Don’t bolt it all whole—as with Douglas’s beloved Japanese food, what seems light and easy to assimilate is subtler and more nutritious by far than it might at first appear.” —Stephen Fry, author of The Liar and Making History: A Novel

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345455291
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/26/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 214,701
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Adams was the author of the five novels in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (yes, you read that right!); two Dirk Gently novels; Last Chance to See (with Mark Carwardine); and The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff (both with John Lloyd).

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Life

Dear Editor,
The sweat was dripping down my face and into my lap, making my clothes very wet and sticky. I sat there, walking, watching. I was trembling violently as I sat, looking at the small slot, waiting—ever waiting. My nails dug into my flesh as I clenched my hands. I passed my arm over my hot, wet face, down which sweat was pouring. The suspense was unbearable. I bit my lip in an attempt to stop trembling with the terrible burden of anxiety. Suddenly, the slot opened and in dropped the mail. I grabbed at my Eagle and ripped off the wrapping paper.

My ordeal was over for another week!

D. N. Adams (12), Brentwood, Essex,
January 23, 1965,
Eagle and Boys' World Magazine


[Editor's Note: In the sixties The Eagle was an enormously popular English science-fiction magazine. This letter is the first known published work of Douglas Adams, then age twelve.]

The Voices of All Our Yesterdays

I vaguely remember my schooldays. They were what was going on in the background while I was trying to listen to the Beatles.

When "Can't Buy Me Love" came out, I was twelve. I sneaked out of school during morning milk break, bought the record, and broke into matron's room because she had a record player. Then I played it, not loud enough to get caught, but just loud enough to hear with my ear pressed up against the speaker. Then I played it again for the other ear. Then I turned the record over and did the same for "You Can't Do That." That was when the housemaster found me and put me into detention, which is what I had expected. It seemed a small price to pay for what I nowrealize was art.

I didn't know it was art then, of course. I only knew that the Beatles were the most exciting thing in the universe. It wasn't always an easy view to live with. First you had to fight the Stones fans, which was tricky because they fought dirty and had their knuckles nearer the ground. Then you had to fight the grownups, parents and teachers who said that you were wasting your time and pocket money on rubbish that you would have forgotten by next week.

I found it hard to understand why they were telling me this. I sang in the school choir and knew how to listen for harmony and counterpoint, and it was clear to me that the Beatles were something extraordinarily clever. It bewildered me that no one else could hear it: impossible harmonies and part playing you had never heard in pop songs before. The Beatles were obviously just putting all this stuff in for some secret fun of their own, and it seemed exciting to me that people could have fun in that way.

The next exciting thing was that they kept on losing me. They would bring out a new album and for a few listenings it would leave me cold and confused. Then gradually it would begin to unravel itself in my mind. I would realize that the reason I was confused was that I was listening to Something that was simply unlike anything that anybody had done before. "Another Girl," "Good Day Sunshine," and the extraordinary "Drive My Car." These tracks are so familiar now that it takes a special effort of will to remember how alien they seemed at first to me. The Beatles were now not just writing songs, they were inventing the very medium in which they were working.

I never got to see them. Difficult to believe, I know. I was alive at the time the Beatles were performing and never got to see them. I tend to go on about this rather a lot. Do not go to San Francisco with me, or I will insist on pointing out Candlestick Park to you and bleating on about the fact that in 1966 the Beatles played their last concert there, just shortly before I'd woken up to the fact that rock concerts were things you could actually go to, even if you lived in Brentwood.

A friend of mine at school once had some studio tickets to see David Frost's show being recorded, but we ended up not going. I watched the show that night, and the Beatles were on it playing "Hey Jude." I was ill for about a year. Another day that I happened not to go to London after all was the day they played their rooftop concert in Savile Row. I can't-ever-speak about that.

Well, the years passed. The Beatles passed. But Paul McCart-ney has gone on and on. A few months ago the guitarist Robbie McIntosh phoned me and said, "We're playing at the Mean Fiddler in a few days, do you want to come along?"

Now this is one of the daftest questions I've ever been asked, and I think it took me a few moments even to work out what he meant. The Mean Fiddler, for those who don't know, is a pub in an unlovely part of northwest London with a room at the back where bands play. You can probably get about two hundred people in.

It was the word we that temporarily confused me, because I knew that the band that Robbie was currently playing in was Paul McCartney's, and I didn't think that Paul McCartney played in pubs. If Paul McCartney did play in pubs, then it would be daft to think that I would not saw my own leg off in order to go. I went.

In front of two hundred people in a pub, Paul McCartney stood up and played songs he'd never, I think, played in public before. "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Blackbird," to name but two. I've played "Blackbird" in pubs, for heaven's sake. I spent weeks learning the guitar part when I was supposed to be revising for A-levels. I almost wondered if I was hallucinating.

There were two moments of complete astonishment. One was the last encore, which was an immaculate, thunderous performance of, believe it or not, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." (Remember, this was in a pub.) And the other was one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll songs, "Can't Buy Me Love," which I had first heard crouching with my ear cupped to the Dansette record player in the school matron's room.

There is a game people like to play that goes, "When would you most like to have lived and why?" The Italian Renaissance? Mozart's Vienna? Shakespeare's England? Personally, I would like to have been around Bach. But I have a real difficulty with the game, which is that living at any other period of history would have meant missing the Beatles, and I honestly don't think I could do that. Mozart and Bach and Shakespeare are always with us, but I grew up with the Beatles and I'm not sure what else has affected me as much as that.

So Paul McCartney is fifty tomorrow. Happy birthday, Paul. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The [London] Sunday Times, June 17, 1992

Brentwood School

I was at Brentwood School for twelve whole years. And they were, by and large, in an up and downy kind of way, pretty good years: fairly happy, reasonably leafy, a bit sportier than I was in the mood for at the time, but full of good (and sometimes highly eccentric) teaching. In fact, it was only later that I gradually came to realise how well I had been taught at Brentwood—particularly in English, and particularly in Physics. (Odd, that.) However, the whole twelve-year experience is, for me, completely overshadowed by the memory of one terrible, mind-scarring experience. I am referring to the episode of The Trousers. Let me explain.

I have always been absurdly, ridiculously tall. To give you an idea—when we went on school expeditions to Interesting and Improving Places, the form-master wouldn't say "Meet under the clock tower," or "Meet under the War Memorial," but "Meet under Adams." I was at least as visible as anything else on the horizon, and could be repositioned at will. When, in Physics, we were asked to repeat Galileo's demonstration that two bodies of different weight fall to the ground at the same speed, I was the one who was given the task of dropping the cricket ball and the pea, because it was quicker than going to an upstairs window. I always towered over everybody. Right back at the very beginning of my school career, aged seven, I introduced myself to another new boy (Robert Neary) by coming up behind him and, in a spirit of experiment, dropping a cricket ball on his head and saying, "Hello, my name's Adams, what's yours?" This, for Robert Neary, I'm sure was his one terrible, mind-scarring memory.

In the Prep School, where I was for five years out of my twelve, we all wore short trousers: grey shorts with blazers in the summer, and in the winter those pepper-and-salt tweed suits with short trousers. There is of course an extremely good reason for wearing shorts when you're young, even in the depths of an English winter (and they were colder then, weren't they?). According to Wired magazine, we can't expect to see self-repairing fabrics until about the year 2020, but ever since we emerged from whatever trees or swamps we lived in five million years ago, we have had self-repairing knees.

So, shorts made sense. Even though we all had to wear them, it did begin to get a bit ridiculous in my case. It wasn't towering over the other boys I minded so much, it was towering over the masters. Wearing shorts. My mother pleaded with the principal on one occasion to please make an exception in my case and let me wear long trousers. But Jack Higgs, ever fair but firm, said no: I was only six months away from going up to the main school, whereupon I, along with everybody else, would be able to wear long trousers. I would have to wait.

At last I left the Prep School. And two weeks before the beginning of the Michaelmas term, my mother took me along to the school shop to buy—at last—a long-trousered school suit. And guess what? They didn't make them in a size long enough for me. Let me just repeat that, so that the full horror of the situation can settle on you reading this as it did on me that day in the summer of 1964, standing in the school shop. They didn't have any school trousers long enough for me. They would have to make them specially. That would take six weeks. Six weeks. Six minus two was, as we had been so carefully and painstakingly taught, four. Which meant that for four whole weeks of the next term I was going to be the only boy in school wearing shorts. For the next two weeks I took up playing in the traffic, being careless with kitchen knives, and neglecting to stand clear of the doors on station platforms, but, sadly, I led a charmed life, and I had to go through with it: four weeks of the greatest humiliation and embarrassment known to man or, rather, to that most easily humiliated and embarrassed of all creatures, the overgrown twelve-year-old boy. We've all experienced those painful dreams in which we suddenly discover we are stark naked in the middle of the high street. Believe me, this was worse, and it wasn't a dream.

The story rather fizzles out there because a month later, of course, I got my long trousers and was readmitted into polite society. But, believe me, I still carry the scars inside, and though I try my best to bestride the world like a Colossus, writing best-selling books and . . . (well, that's about it, really, I suppose), if I ever come across as a maladjusted, socially isolated, sad, hunched emotional cripple (I'm thinking mainly of Sunday mornings in February, here), then it's those four weeks of having to wear short trousers in September 1964 that are to blame.

Y

"Why" is the only question that bothers people enough to have an entire letter of the alphabet named after it.

The alphabet does not go "A B C D What? When? How?" but it does go "V W X Why? Z."

"Why?" is always the most difficult question to answer. You know where you are when someone asks you "What's the time?" or "When was the battle of 1066?" or "How do these seatbelts work that go tight when you slam the brakes on, Daddy?" The answers are easy and are, respectively, "Seven-thirty-five in the evening," "Ten-fifteen in the morning," and "Don't ask stupid questions."

But when you hear the word "Why?," you know you've got one of the biggest unanswerables on your hands, such as "Why are we born?" or "Why do we die?" and "Why do we spend so much of the intervening time receiving junk mail?"

Or this one:

"Will you go to bed with me?"

"Why?"

There's only ever been one good answer to that question "Why?" and perhaps we should have that in the alphabet as well. There's room for it. "Why?" doesn't have to be the last word, it isn't even the last letter. How would it be if the alphabet ended, "V W X Why? Z," but "V W X Why not?"

Don't ask stupid questions.
—From Hockney's Alphabet (Faber & Faber)

Copyright 2002 by Douglas Adams
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Table of Contents

Prologue xv
Introduction xxxi
Life 1
The Universe 83
And Everything 153
Epilogue 289
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

Life

Dear Editor,
The sweat was dripping down my face and into my lap, making my clothes very wet and sticky. I sat there, walking, watching. I was trembling violently as I sat, looking at the small slot, waiting—ever waiting. My nails dug into my flesh as I clenched my hands. I passed my arm over my hot, wet face, down which sweat was pouring. The suspense was unbearable. I bit my lip in an attempt to stop trembling with the terrible burden of anxiety. Suddenly, the slot opened and in dropped the mail. I grabbed at my Eagle and ripped off the wrapping paper.

My ordeal was over for another week!

D. N. Adams (12), Brentwood, Essex,
January 23, 1965,
Eagle and Boys' World Magazine


[Editor's Note: In the sixties The Eagle was an enormously popular English science-fiction magazine. This letter is the first known published work of Douglas Adams, then age twelve.]

The Voices of All Our Yesterdays

I vaguely remember my schooldays. They were what was going on in the background while I was trying to listen to the Beatles.

When "Can't Buy Me Love" came out, I was twelve. I sneaked out of school during morning milk break, bought the record, and broke into matron's room because she had a record player. Then I played it, not loud enough to get caught, but just loud enough to hear with my ear pressed up against the speaker. Then I played it again for the other ear. Then I turned the record over and did the same for "You Can't Do That." That was when the housemaster found me and put me into detention, which is what I had expected. It seemed a small price to pay for what I now realize wasart.

I didn't know it was art then, of course. I only knew that the Beatles were the most exciting thing in the universe. It wasn't always an easy view to live with. First you had to fight the Stones fans, which was tricky because they fought dirty and had their knuckles nearer the ground. Then you had to fight the grownups, parents and teachers who said that you were wasting your time and pocket money on rubbish that you would have forgotten by next week.

I found it hard to understand why they were telling me this. I sang in the school choir and knew how to listen for harmony and counterpoint, and it was clear to me that the Beatles were something extraordinarily clever. It bewildered me that no one else could hear it: impossible harmonies and part playing you had never heard in pop songs before. The Beatles were obviously just putting all this stuff in for some secret fun of their own, and it seemed exciting to me that people could have fun in that way.

The next exciting thing was that they kept on losing me. They would bring out a new album and for a few listenings it would leave me cold and confused. Then gradually it would begin to unravel itself in my mind. I would realize that the reason I was confused was that I was listening to Something that was simply unlike anything that anybody had done before. "Another Girl," "Good Day Sunshine," and the extraordinary "Drive My Car." These tracks are so familiar now that it takes a special effort of will to remember how alien they seemed at first to me. The Beatles were now not just writing songs, they were inventing the very medium in which they were working.

I never got to see them. Difficult to believe, I know. I was alive at the time the Beatles were performing and never got to see them. I tend to go on about this rather a lot. Do not go to San Francisco with me, or I will insist on pointing out Candlestick Park to you and bleating on about the fact that in 1966 the Beatles played their last concert there, just shortly before I'd woken up to the fact that rock concerts were things you could actually go to, even if you lived in Brentwood.

A friend of mine at school once had some studio tickets to see David Frost's show being recorded, but we ended up not going. I watched the show that night, and the Beatles were on it playing "Hey Jude." I was ill for about a year. Another day that I happened not to go to London after all was the day they played their rooftop concert in Savile Row. I can't-ever-speak about that.

Well, the years passed. The Beatles passed. But Paul McCart-ney has gone on and on. A few months ago the guitarist Robbie McIntosh phoned me and said, "We're playing at the Mean Fiddler in a few days, do you want to come along?"

Now this is one of the daftest questions I've ever been asked, and I think it took me a few moments even to work out what he meant. The Mean Fiddler, for those who don't know, is a pub in an unlovely part of northwest London with a room at the back where bands play. You can probably get about two hundred people in.

It was the word we that temporarily confused me, because I knew that the band that Robbie was currently playing in was Paul McCartney's, and I didn't think that Paul McCartney played in pubs. If Paul McCartney did play in pubs, then it would be daft to think that I would not saw my own leg off in order to go. I went.

In front of two hundred people in a pub, Paul McCartney stood up and played songs he'd never, I think, played in public before. "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Blackbird," to name but two. I've played "Blackbird" in pubs, for heaven's sake. I spent weeks learning the guitar part when I was supposed to be revising for A-levels. I almost wondered if I was hallucinating.

There were two moments of complete astonishment. One was the last encore, which was an immaculate, thunderous performance of, believe it or not, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." (Remember, this was in a pub.) And the other was one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll songs, "Can't Buy Me Love," which I had first heard crouching with my ear cupped to the Dansette record player in the school matron's room.

There is a game people like to play that goes, "When would you most like to have lived and why?" The Italian Renaissance? Mozart's Vienna? Shakespeare's England? Personally, I would like to have been around Bach. But I have a real difficulty with the game, which is that living at any other period of history would have meant missing the Beatles, and I honestly don't think I could do that. Mozart and Bach and Shakespeare are always with us, but I grew up with the Beatles and I'm not sure what else has affected me as much as that.

So Paul McCartney is fifty tomorrow. Happy birthday, Paul. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The [London] Sunday Times, June 17, 1992

Brentwood School

I was at Brentwood School for twelve whole years. And they were, by and large, in an up and downy kind of way, pretty good years: fairly happy, reasonably leafy, a bit sportier than I was in the mood for at the time, but full of good (and sometimes highly eccentric) teaching. In fact, it was only later that I gradually came to realise how well I had been taught at Brentwood—particularly in English, and particularly in Physics. (Odd, that.) However, the whole twelve-year experience is, for me, completely overshadowed by the memory of one terrible, mind-scarring experience. I am referring to the episode of The Trousers. Let me explain.

I have always been absurdly, ridiculously tall. To give you an idea—when we went on school expeditions to Interesting and Improving Places, the form-master wouldn't say "Meet under the clock tower," or "Meet under the War Memorial," but "Meet under Adams." I was at least as visible as anything else on the horizon, and could be repositioned at will. When, in Physics, we were asked to repeat Galileo's demonstration that two bodies of different weight fall to the ground at the same speed, I was the one who was given the task of dropping the cricket ball and the pea, because it was quicker than going to an upstairs window. I always towered over everybody. Right back at the very beginning of my school career, aged seven, I introduced myself to another new boy (Robert Neary) by coming up behind him and, in a spirit of experiment, dropping a cricket ball on his head and saying, "Hello, my name's Adams, what's yours?" This, for Robert Neary, I'm sure was his one terrible, mind-scarring memory.

In the Prep School, where I was for five years out of my twelve, we all wore short trousers: grey shorts with blazers in the summer, and in the winter those pepper-and-salt tweed suits with short trousers. There is of course an extremely good reason for wearing shorts when you're young, even in the depths of an English winter (and they were colder then, weren't they?). According to Wired magazine, we can't expect to see self-repairing fabrics until about the year 2020, but ever since we emerged from whatever trees or swamps we lived in five million years ago, we have had self-repairing knees.

So, shorts made sense. Even though we all had to wear them, it did begin to get a bit ridiculous in my case. It wasn't towering over the other boys I minded so much, it was towering over the masters. Wearing shorts. My mother pleaded with the principal on one occasion to please make an exception in my case and let me wear long trousers. But Jack Higgs, ever fair but firm, said no: I was only six months away from going up to the main school, whereupon I, along with everybody else, would be able to wear long trousers. I would have to wait.

At last I left the Prep School. And two weeks before the beginning of the Michaelmas term, my mother took me along to the school shop to buy—at last—a long-trousered school suit. And guess what? They didn't make them in a size long enough for me. Let me just repeat that, so that the full horror of the situation can settle on you reading this as it did on me that day in the summer of 1964, standing in the school shop. They didn't have any school trousers long enough for me. They would have to make them specially. That would take six weeks. Six weeks. Six minus two was, as we had been so carefully and painstakingly taught, four. Which meant that for four whole weeks of the next term I was going to be the only boy in school wearing shorts. For the next two weeks I took up playing in the traffic, being careless with kitchen knives, and neglecting to stand clear of the doors on station platforms, but, sadly, I led a charmed life, and I had to go through with it: four weeks of the greatest humiliation and embarrassment known to man or, rather, to that most easily humiliated and embarrassed of all creatures, the overgrown twelve-year-old boy. We've all experienced those painful dreams in which we suddenly discover we are stark naked in the middle of the high street. Believe me, this was worse, and it wasn't a dream.

The story rather fizzles out there because a month later, of course, I got my long trousers and was readmitted into polite society. But, believe me, I still carry the scars inside, and though I try my best to bestride the world like a Colossus, writing best-selling books and . . . (well, that's about it, really, I suppose), if I ever come across as a maladjusted, socially isolated, sad, hunched emotional cripple (I'm thinking mainly of Sunday mornings in February, here), then it's those four weeks of having to wear short trousers in September 1964 that are to blame.

Y

"Why" is the only question that bothers people enough to have an entire letter of the alphabet named after it.

The alphabet does not go "A B C D What? When? How?" but it does go "V W X Why? Z."

"Why?" is always the most difficult question to answer. You know where you are when someone asks you "What's the time?" or "When was the battle of 1066?" or "How do these seatbelts work that go tight when you slam the brakes on, Daddy?" The answers are easy and are, respectively, "Seven-thirty-five in the evening," "Ten-fifteen in the morning," and "Don't ask stupid questions."

But when you hear the word "Why?," you know you've got one of the biggest unanswerables on your hands, such as "Why are we born?" or "Why do we die?" and "Why do we spend so much of the intervening time receiving junk mail?"

Or this one:

"Will you go to bed with me?"

"Why?"

There's only ever been one good answer to that question "Why?" and perhaps we should have that in the alphabet as well. There's room for it. "Why?" doesn't have to be the last word, it isn't even the last letter. How would it be if the alphabet ended, "V W X Why? Z," but "V W X Why not?"

Don't ask stupid questions.
—From Hockney's Alphabet (Faber & Faber)
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
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(30)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2002

    one last work from adams

    I strongly disagree with the last two reviews, both of which appear to be from the same person, someone without a clue of what was in the book. So it was released after his death. So it contains 10 chapters of an unfinished book. If that offends you, then I see no reason why the rest of it would, as its full of witty and great essays and stories spanning Adams's whole tragically short life. Most authors have a similar collection, and frankly it excites rather than offends me. Douglas Adams, my favorite author and most mourned celebrity, showed great promise with the beginnings of another guide book, as well as demonstrated his enormous talent with the many essays and stories. The world is quite a bit less bright for me without him, but at least we have this last testiment to his life.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    One of a kind

    Douglas Adams was truly one of a kind. From his unique humor to his odd reasoning, he always gave us something to remember in his books. This collection contains some of the funniest material ever written. As the other reviewers have said, it's a crying shame that Adams will never write again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2014

    so long and thanks...

    A great last book to have published under dna's name. So long Douglas....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    A wonderful visit with Douglas

    A hitch-hiking reader stuck on the roadside for awhile, I was pleased to catch a ride with this refreshing assemblage of Douglas Adams' wit and insight. It sheds light on how he developed and maintained the talents so evident in his previous work. Thanks to all who labored on this prize.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    An amazing collection of stories.

    OK, first I have to admit that I was a Douglas Adams fan before I read this book. I actually have two copies my original paperback and now the ebook version. This book has numerous short stories which are ideal for when you don't have time to get suck into a novel. Most of the stories are funny, educational and thought provoking. There are so many gems in this book that I bought the ebook version just so I could bookmark all the sections of interest and carry a copy on my phone for future reference. Another reason I rate this book so high is that it directed me to read "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins which I would rate a the number one book I have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Thank you

    So long ...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2004

    The World's Loss

    My God, perhaps the best book i've read in my life...i dont think ive ever felt more connected to an author through their works before...it is truely an incredible read to go through this book and feel deeply saddened that you will never read something like this again, because he was so truely unique...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    An incredible read

    This is a special book for any Douglas Adams fan. After reading this book, I guess that the feeling I have is one of lonelieness more than anything else. As I began to finish the book, the humor was overshadowed by the knowledge that Mr. Adams will never again put pen to paper, and I felt the ache of having lost a friend. DNA has been one of my favorite authors since a child hood friend introduced me to a new book called The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. This book is a treasured read, and not just because it is new DNA material, but because it really does show what a genuinely nice guy he was. Somewhere out there I'm sure that Douglas has a clean towel in his satchel, and is sipping on a 'gin and tonic'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    So long....

    Posthumous this book maybe but if posthumous work brings to mind those disgraceful Jimi Hendrix lps released after his death during the 70's, then think again. In many ways I enjoyed this book more than others he has written where he is limited by a story line. Adams writes of music, diving, travelling, animals etc and never fails to leave one moved by his wisdom. His fans, of course, will love this. The Adams personality comes over stronger than ever. The Stephen Fry introduction sums up the reasons to read the book far better than I could.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

    Not great, not awful.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    To come ON

    Well then buy the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Come ON!

    The sample didnt even go past the introduction.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    Blossomrain

    I love you too. Thank you.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    I know it may sound like a cliche

    but this book changed my life. You've heard people say "oh gosh that-or-the-other book changed my life", but please, _please_ trust me when I say that such thrown-about exclamations are ridiculously exaggerated hyperboles, compared to the effect of this book. Not each and every story will inspire a profound minute or two of staring into space in awe, but enough will to deserve such acclaim. The particularly most un-missable piece would be "Is There An Artificial God", which is comparable in ingenuity to the works of Asimov and Feynman.

    Get this book; I don't care how, I don't care if it's not from Barnes & Noble, I don't care if you even pay. It's a textbook must-read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    I really miss him!

    I absolutely LOVED it! Yes, I am biased and it really went to my heart knowing this is his last book! I liked reading about his life, family, and the adventures he got to go on! I still can't get over that he his gone from this Earth.I held on to every sentence and story for as long it would last and still thought of them afterwards.You can see where some of the stories and characters may have come from or at least his train of thought. I hope that when you read it you have read all the other stories first because this is really a closing chapter :(

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2003

    last chance to see, indeed

    Unlike the first two reviewers I knew what I was reading. This book gives you great insight to one of the greatest minds this world has known. I was so happy to read the book that I couldnt put it down, but when I finished I felt such loss. I wish I could read all his books over again for the first time. Mr Adams was my favorite author before and this book did not disapoint me, besides that this is the last of his work I will be able to read :( ....NEVER FORGET YOUR TOWEL!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    Well composed and edited

    I found it to be a great tribute to Adams. Gave insite to parts of his life and his ideas and values. Worth the read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Douglas, you simply cannot be dead!

    Douglas Adams was a man who really knew where his towel was - the hoopiest frood this side of the Horsehead Nebula! For all I know he may not be dead, he might have just caught a ride from a Teaser. I love this book, the critics reviews give details of The Salmon of Doubt so I won't repeat any of them. I never met Douglas, but Zarquon's Knees!, I miss him. Buy everything by Douglas Adams, it's all really good stuff... ...well, it's better than Vogon poetry!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2002

    The Salmon does not dissapoint!

    The Salmon of Doubt is an excellent title. It provides the exact thing that it promises, which is a profound (perhaps too profound) insight into the mind of our dearly departed DNA.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2002

    A must for all Adams fans

    I loved it. The man was more than Hitchhiker's Guide. He saved Rhinos. You have to admire that. I am glad that this book was published, I think it was put together and delivered superbly.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews

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