Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
August 18, 2016 3:23 PM - by Douglas Adams - Subscribe

Given the upcoming Dirk Gently TV show it's probably time to have a read of the book. From Douglas Adams, the legendary author of one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, comes a wildly inventive novel—in trade paperback for the first time—of ghosts, time travel, and one detective’s mission to save humanity from extinction.

The book is essentially the Doctor Who episode Shada, which was unaired and only part filmed due to a technicians strike, merged with the episode City of Death rewritten to exclude anything owned by the BBC.

This book is also responsible for Richard Dawkins becoming acquainted with Douglas Adams, and ultimately responsbile for Dawkins meeting, and Marrying Lalla Ward (who you may know better as Romana)

The soundtrack for this thread is "Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ" from the cantata "Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden", which is the Bach piece Adams had in mind playing in the Alien satellite.

And finally, if you find the ending of the book confusing Adams has this to say:
"All I can say is that it was as clear as day to me when I wrote it and now I can't figure it out myself. Sorry about that. "
posted by Just this guy, y'know (26 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's been a while, but my main memories are: an early scene with a tremendous hangover, and, being unable to give this a fair read given constantly comparing it to Hitchhikers Guide. On the other hand, my 13 yo just read it and laughed really consistently through the whole thing.

I'm looking forward to the TV show because my memory is the books had fun ideas but are not so beloved (by me) that I will inevitably hate anyone else's interpretation.
posted by latkes at 3:46 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This book contained my favorite line ever, which I hope I am not mangling:
"Gordon Way's astonishment at being suddenly shot dead was nothing compared to his astonishment at what happened next."
*cue chapter end, nothing from him in the next one*

Loved it.

(Although judging from electionfilter2016, nobody needs an electronic monk. We can apparently exceed any such technology as a species.)
posted by mordax at 4:08 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh man... I was so excited that this announcement for the new show was that there was going to be more episodes of this version of Dirk Gently. Sadly, it is something else entirely.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:26 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's got lots of good bits, but I feel it really shows DNA's fundamental inability to plot out a novel.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


When I first read it as a youngster, the whole part about the U.S. government contracting a software firm to write code to justify the decisions that they had already made seemed very real to me. Unfortunately, after becoming a U.S. government employee in my adulthood, I have learned nothing to make it feel any less real to me. And I feel with some certainty that the branch I work for is the one with the older version.
posted by Quonab at 10:04 PM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's been a while for me, too, so it will need a reread. I do remember it scrambled my brain, somewhat (especially since I was expecting some kind of offshoot to HHGTTG).

At some stage, when we've all recovered (or the TV series comes out) we might need a good Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, whatever that was.
posted by arzakh at 5:06 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The one part I remember the most often from Dirk is the couch stuck in an impossible way. I think of it whenever I help someone move a couch.
posted by drezdn at 5:13 AM on August 19, 2016 [19 favorites]


Allegedly the sofa part was inspired by Douglas's university days at St John's College, Cambridge.
The rooms overlooking the river in Third Court were being redone, including new sofas, and a staricase refurbishment.

When they finished the staircase refurb they discovered that the sofas wouldn't fit down the finished stairs. The sofas remained in that room for several decades, puzzling many generations of students who tried, and failed to remove them.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:06 AM on August 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


And finally, if you find the ending of the book confusing Adams has this to say:
"All I can say is that it was as clear as day to me when I wrote it and now I can't figure it out myself. Sorry about that. "


Robert Browning: When that passage was written, only God and Robert Browning understood it. Now, only God understands it! [The Barretts of Wimpole Street]

Having recently devoured the Hitchhiker series (then a tetralogy), I remember how excited I was when I saw this newly-released book sitting on the shelf at my local bookstore. I also remember being confused and slightly disappointed after my initial read-through, though I loved many parts of the book. I think I just wasn't ready to let go of the utter silliness of the space books just yet.

But after many readings of his entire oeuvre through the years, I think Dirk Gently is probably my overall favorite. (The sequel, however, I've never quite warmed up to.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


The sequel is my favourite Douglas Adams book.
But that might be because I always into Thor and less keen on ghosts.

I'm glad to hear someone else prefer Dirk Gently over hitchhikers though. I think people were expecting something more hitchhikersy and DG has a very different feel to it.
I also really like the character as described, and no TV show has yet cast dirk as I'd imagined him. (Nor zaphod, for that matter...) but I think he's very much not a televisual character and I can see why he always gets paired with a sidekick in adaptations.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 11:25 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I will also stand up as someone who prefers Dirk to Hitchhiker's, to the extent that I reread the Dirk Gently books occasionally. (In fact, I have Teatime beside the bed right now. I tend to get hung up around the point where everyone stops running around trying to figure out what is going on and starts running around trying to figure out what to do about it.)
posted by eruonna at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really liked this book. I think it personally ranks a little below the first HHGTTG, but above the others. Because of some of the timey wimey aspects of this book, it might also benefit of a re-reading.

Also, I often mix up plot points in this book with plot points from Ellis' Crooked Little Vein because I read them back to back. It makes for a much more complicated narrative.
posted by lownote at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2016


I also love the Dirk Gently books more than the HHGTTG. It might have to do with the age I read them at. Or it might have to do with the fridge in the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul being easily the best bad guy in any book ever.
posted by fshgrl at 8:25 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Love, love, love The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul—but then So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish is my favourite HHGTTG instalment. Not so keen on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, probably because of its hokey sci-fi roots.
posted by Panthalassa at 1:33 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just remembered: at one stage, my gamer name was Electric Monk.
posted by arzakh at 5:03 AM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also really like the character as described, and no TV show has yet cast dirk as I'd imagined him. (Nor zaphod, for that matter...) but I think he's very much not a televisual character and I can see why he always gets paired with a sidekick in adaptations.

Tom Baker was all right.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:46 PM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is one of my all-time favourite books - I love the twisted, intricate plotline that takes a few reads to understand, I love the characters, and I love how much of it I can picture so clearly. It's like this perfect little gem that you need to stop and really examine to totally appreciate it's beauty. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook read by Adams.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:00 AM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I read the book in first year undergrad. Instead of working. Loved it.
posted by tel3path at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's probably one of the things that I'm a bit of a bore about, but Dirk was based on Adams' friend Michael Bywater, who actually played Dirk in some dramatised bits they did for a South Bank Show on Adams in about 1990. So Dirk is actually supposed to be like this.
posted by Grangousier at 3:17 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


(He's definitely supposed to be more of a grizzled bullshit-artist than an infinitely slappable millennial quirk-monkey, anyway.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:21 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks for that! Yes, that is much closer to the Dirk I was imagining.

I thought Enfield actually did a fairly decent Dirk in the radio play. but was juuuust not quite there.
Perhaps though we could compromise on a relatively slappable grizzled bullshit monkey.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:43 AM on August 22, 2016


Non-working YouTube link in original post... here's a Variety article: BBC America Gives Series Order to ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’.
posted by larrybob at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2016


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is perhaps, no not perhaps, definitely absolutely the best title evah.
posted by sammyo at 6:53 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Although the phrase itself was originated in a Hitchhiker's book (Life, the Universe, and Everything).
posted by Chrysostom at 8:08 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Haven't seen Stephen Mangan's take on it, but I imagine Guy Secretan would nail the grizzled bullshit artist angle.
posted by whuppy at 6:25 AM on August 24, 2016


I've always pictured a taller, British version of Philip Seymour Hoffman when I think of Dirk Gently.
posted by h00py at 5:22 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


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