Friday, August 7, 2009

The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Written by Douglas Adams

There are many authors who can lay claim to being funny. Most can, really, so long as we are operating within the broadest parameters of "funny" and "comedy." There are many authors who can lay claim to planning out large-scale stories, and can claim to doing it well enough. There are few authors who can claim to being funny and scale-capable. Precious, precious few. And Douglas Adams was one of them. Not only was he capable of making you laugh, and of telling a big story, but he did both brilliantly.

First, the stories. The stories in all of his books, from Holistic Detective Agency to each of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxys, are airtight, and wondrous concoctions. Without giving away much of what happens in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (as you will remember, I tend to avoid summaries), I was astonished by the dept owed to it by American Gods. There are a few more-than-passing resemblances between the two books, including a proclivity for Odin. I would go so far as to say Gaiman would not have conceived the same tale without having devoured Adam's book more than a few times. They aren't identical, not hardly, and Gods is, of course, heavier, but still, the flavour is undeniably there, the building blocks, the genes, are present in Tea-Time. And it's a comedy!

Which brings us to the humour. God, the humour. Most books defined as "comedies" are not outright hilarious; they usually have plots with absurdist touches, or occasional bits of laughter. This book, like all of Adam's authorial output, had me in, as they say, stitches, and often. Every page bore a laugh, a real laugh, with serious wit at its root. Adams is the writer Terry Pratchett wishes ever so terribly that he were, though Prachett himself is no slouch, and that should give you an idea as to how funny this book is. There were times I had to stop reading and recover, I was laughing so hard. That's something you can say about precious few books.

Grade: A

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