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Towel Day 2021
(This countdown is calibrated according to 10:10:10 UTC
as that, to me, is the best time for this planetary event.)
Unfortunately, the video above can’t be embedded here; the uploader has forbidden that. But they can’t stop me transcribing the words from it:
Interviewer:Transcript of ‘Richard Dawkins on what Douglas Adams was really like‘
Douglas Adams was a really close friend of yours, and you did something really nice in ‘The God Delusion’: you dedicate the book to him with the following statement, quote that Douglas Adams said, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful, without having to believe that there are faeries at the bottom of it too?”
What was Douglas like — and where did you find that quote, since it’s just such a great quote?
‘What was he like?’ He was about seven feet tall, and he was a wonderful, wonderful man. I first met him because I wrote him a fan letter; I think it’s the only fan letter I’ve ever written. I read ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ — which is not part of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ it’s another series that he wrote — I read the book, and then, it’s the only book I’ve ever turned right back to page one immediately on finishing it, and read it all through again straight away, because I felt there was so much in it that I had sort of only half got the first time through and I really wanted to get it properly.
I then wrote him a fan letter, and was delighted to get a fan letter in return! And he invited me to meet him in London, so I went to his house in London, knocked on the door, and it was opened by this enormous man, with an amused smile on his face, because he knew that I would be kind of amused and surprised to see how tall he was, and he was kind of joining in the joke and he — one of his endearing qualities was the way he would laugh at himself, laugh at his own jokes. Comedians aren’t supposed to laugh at their own jokes, but in Douglas’s case it was a most endearing quality.
He was immensely witty, immensely charming, curious, loved science — he’d actually studied English at the University of Cambridge, and I think he sort of wished he’d studied science; he once asked me whether I thought he ought to go back to university to take a science degree, and I told him “No.” He could, he could — he’s so bright, he could get all the science he needed from reading, he’d be bored if he went back to university. He read enormously in science; his knowledge of science and his playful amusement at science shows through The Hitchhiker’s series, and all his other books really. Things like ‘the infinite improbability drive’… read it, it’s so funny, I won’t try and expound it. There are science jokes, and you have to know quite a lot about science to get all the jokes in Douglas Adams’s book, they make you think; it’s not really, well, it’s kind of science fiction but it’s science comedy fiction. So he makes comedy out of science — but making profound points.
For example, in ‘The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,’ the heroes sit down to dinner, and a large bovine animal walks up to the table, and says, “I am your dish of the day!” And then it explains the moral philosophy behind it: for many years, people had been worried about the ethics of killing animals to eat them, and so the solution was found of breeding a species of animal which wanted to be eaten — and was capable of telling you so. And so it said things like, “May I tempt you with parts of my body? The rump is very good, and there’s plenty of good meat on the shoulder, I’ve been feeding myself grain for a long time.” And the hero, Arthur Dent, can’t bear this, it’s too much for him to bear; but actually of course it’s perfectly logical. If only the animals could tell you that they wanted to be eaten, it would be absolutely — I mean this is a beautiful piece of intellectual writing turned into high comedy. So all the other — Arthur himself orders a green salad, and everybody else orders large steaks, rare. And so the beast says, “A very wise choice. I’ll just go into the kitchen and shoot myself. Painlessly!”
A terrific tribute to a marvellous man…
I just wish Richard had actually answered the interviewer’s second question, the one about where he found that quote:
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