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Tonight our book group did "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", which is an odd choice for a book group. Attendance was way up--twenty people--whereas if we read something longer or harder (like last month's "Riddley Walker") it may be under ten. I like it when there's fewer people, so I'll have to campaign for really unreadable stuff next year.

"Hitchhiker's" is a favorite of mine. It's not structured in any particular way, as far as anyone can tell, and often seems frankly sloppy, but I enjoy it just as a sequence of sketches and little comic essays.

Somebody reminded me of a favorite line, describing a spaceship that "hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don't." It's got the surprise that makes it funny (though ending a phrase with an unexpected negative--"a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye", "a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"--is a device he uses a lot), while calling attention very succinctly a comparison that describes the situation (the ungainly ship shapes, the incongruity of their hanging in the air).

Another random bit I like:

Trillian said quietly, "Does that mean anything to you?"
"Mmmm," said Zaphod, "ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha. ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha?"
"Well?" said Trillian.
"Er ... what does the Z mean?" said Zaphod.
"Which one?"
"Any one."
One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid. He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so--but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous. This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it.

I don't know how original an observation that is, but it is common for people to act stupid to cover up some other confusion, and I think he captures it in a clever way here. And I like how it fits into the dialog--taking an aside like this right at the place where Trillian would respond with an exasperated silence.

There's other jokes of course that have been repeated so many times that I just get sick of them.

I think I've got a poor reading memory--I enjoy it when someone points out connections between different scenes in a book, for example, but it's rarely the sort of thing I notice on my own--so I think I read most books as a sequence of local details, and miss the coherency less than others might.

I've been feeling a little under the weather the last couple days--nothing obvious, just kind of achy and tired. Hopefully it'll clear up.