Dodii, Raato-A:n suosittelun johdosta kirja tuli joku aika sitten luettua, ja tylistyttäkseni teitä pläräytän enkun esseeni tähän, joka aika pitkälti selostaa näkemykseni kirjasta. Hyvää Adamsia, joskin ensimmäiseen Dirk Gentlyyn verrattuna hieman (mutta vain hieman) kuivakkakkaampa matskua.
THE LONG DARK TEA-TIME OF THE SOUL
By Douglas Adams
English writer Douglas Adams (1952-2001) is most profoundly known for his critically acclaimed 5-part "trilogy" The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979-1992). The book is a witty adventurous epic parodying scifi-literature, best characterised by its legendary philosophical thoughts on society, ending up nearly always (and deliberately) in an ironically inconclusive result, which respectively left the reader wondering about the absurd mentality of the author. Between and after his works on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Adams had time to work on several, more 'earthlier' projects, one of them being the Dirk Gently series. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988) is a follow-up sequel to the series' first part Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987). Both books follow the course of an eccentric private detective, who by mere chance seems to entangle himself with supernatural cases considering for instance jet-fighters transformed into aggressive eagles, and saving the world from an electrical monk who believes everything around him is pink. The third instalment on Dirk Gently was unfinished due to the author's sudden death at the age of 49, yet this work (amongst other unfinished texts discovered) can be found in a collection novel in tribute to Douglas Adams called The Salmon of Doubt (2002).
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is set in London, where a mysterious accident in Heathrow airport has caused great a great reactionary tumult amongst the local people and the media. Apparently a check-in desk in the airport has blown up for reason unexplained, resulting in the disappearance of the check-in girl and a comatose for one of the two protagonists of the story; a young journalist named Kate Schechter. Meanwhile, our second main character, holistic detective Dirk Gently (also known as Mr. Slavd, precise ethnical backgrounds unknown), learns that someone, or something, has beheaded his only client in the client's luxurious mansion. A series of random encounters finally interrelate these two happenings, and Kate and Dirk will eventually confront the sources of these bizarre occurrences: the legendary Viking gods from the even more legendary halls of Valhalla.
Reading this particular book is comparable to trying to simultaneously understand three people talking to you at once; the juxtaposition of events and the perspective of characters cross over and transition in such a manner, that it would require quite an exceptional memory to digest and store all of the story at one read. But when considering Adams' writing style, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although confusing at a first glance, the story offers an intricate plot, which ingeniously manages to disperse sub-plots and seemingly unrelated 'mini-stories' along the path, which actually turn out to be crucial factors in explaining the major plot. An example situation from the story, Dirk Gently gets highly frustrated at one point, to which he reacts by blaming a random lady he bumps into for all the misfortunes he has gone through. The last pages of the story indicate that he was in fact right about the lady all along, even though this was nothing but a random and unintentional thought during the time.
Dirk Gently's character is a good way of exploring the story's main theme further, which circulates mainly around the concept of interconnectedness of every particle in the world. Gently's theory explains, that everything within the Universe is related to each other, no matter how unlikely this relation could possibly be (in other words the world is holistic - Dirk’s method detective investigation). Hence, it is technically possible for any person to figure out the meaning of life from any other random person by posing them the precisely correct questions in order to derive the ultimate answer. But since nobody has the faintest clue what these questions could be, this is highly unlikely to happen. This quirky idea concerning the laws of nature and life is an easy excuse for Adams to present numerous oddities (natural as well as supernatural) along the story, which after making no sense at all make all nothing but sense after the correct explanations have been given to the reader. It might possible that in this way Adams wanted to point out, that although we as human individuals are mere specs in the realm of the Universe, all of our actions are nevertheless equally important in the organic system of existence.
The characters in the story seem to follow the same sort of surrealism to which the story is blended in. Dirk Gently is nothing short of plain weird, and all of his actions seem to contradict every generally accepted social norm of human behaviour. This feature does however radiate a sense of deeper wisdom from Gently, who seems be impermeable to influences from other people, since he simply does not fit the mould of other people. This feature happens to make Dirk Gently an exceptionally persuasive speaker, as he tends to surprise people with his unexpected approaches to such an extent, that they tend to agree to his wishes without even considering of arguing back. In practice Dirk uses this unusual gift to avoid paying trivial matters such as household bills, café charges and credit card payments. Kate Schechter is not nearly as colourful a persona as Dirk, yet her personality and way of thinking strike uncommon in similar ways. Kate does not seem to live a life of any particular goals, and rather concerns herself with petty obsessive compulsions, such as trying to desperately get a pizza delivered home in England (an apparent impossibility in all means) or filling her bathroom cupboard with all the shampoo fragrances known to man. She is half-hearted about life-important decisions such as flying to Norway to move in with her boyfriend, and the combined anxiety of lining behind a Norwegian God of Thunder and passing time in an airport which she detests, is enough for her to call the entire trip off. The story includes several other equally bizarre minor characters, and mentioning all of their various and highly original personality traits would be an immense task. The characters are generally so strange that their improbable behaviour makes it difficult to relate to them; it is likely that Adams created them in such a fashion in order to reflect his ironic and immensely intellect sense of humour into the plot. One could assume though, that if the world had more people like Douglas Adams portrays, life would without a doubt be slightly more fascinating.
Interestingly enough, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul doesn’t serve (regardless of a detective as the main character and crime scenes in the plot) as a very efficient mystery novel, since nothing about the story really reflects a sense of suspense or shocking twists in the plot which define the particular genre. The story is indeed humorous at certain parts, yet it would be wrong to say that Adams has tried to simply parody detective literature, as most of the jokes are mainly directed towards the extreme aspects of human behaviour. The environments where the happenings take place are not very descriptively mentioned (one would have a general idea of what London looks like) yet the static people who don’t play a crucial role in the plot strike as exceptionally apathetic souls, not having enough inspiration to even generate a smile on their face. So generally modern London is portrayed in a very gloomy sense, making the setting of the story in this respect something of a mystery novel, yet apart from that the book lands somewhere within the middle grounds of a mixture of fantasy, drama, science fiction and humour literature. Putting blatantly: the novel is a bit of various genres, but one could not categorise it in any particular one.
Personally I found The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul a bit of a disappointment in comparison to Adams’ Hitchhiker series, since in comparison this book did not serve the same speedy adrenaline and a blast of consecutive humour sessions as the epic novels of Arthur Dent’s space travelling. It also falls somewhat short to the first Dirk Gently book, which had a more linear structure of storytelling and managed to leave some logical space for the reader to think over the possible development of the plot. However, the book offers a fun read regardless of its few flaws and slight shortness. The dialogue lines are masterfully clever, and Adams once again proves his elaborate vocabulary skills which are enough to potentially force a native English lecturer to have a glance in the dictionary. Adams once again pulls off an uncompromisingly original and absurd story, which can be summarised in a sentenced message: Never take life too seriously.