Jem Roberts is a British writer, noted by
Stephen Fry as "Jem manages to write about popular cultural institutions with
knowledge and affection, while avoiding the dismal traps of nerdy fanboyism on the one
hand or grandiose cultural pseudo-intellectualism on the other. His research is flawless
and the results are readable, illuminating and delightful." Judging by his
results with The Frood, this is true. Douglas Adams is famous for
writing The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, and not a
great deal else. He also coined the term Frood, which DNA, as Roberts refers to him, would
like to have applied to himself. Roberts takes us through the development of DNA as a
writer, humourist, computer/technology geek, environmentalist and several other aspects
besides. Adams, although giving the advice which Terry Pratchett quotes, of a writer
should start another project the moment one finishes, was incapable of following his own
advice. DNA was continually trying to polish to perfection something that was only in
rough draft, which accounts for his rather meagre output over a working career of more
than twenty years.
Apart from attending Cambridge and writing for and occasionally performing
in Footlights, Adams had the good luck of meeting and working with several of his idols:
John Cleese and Graham Chapman of Monty Python, Gary Brooker of Procul Harum and David
Gilmour of Pink Floyd. The former were to explain the humour inherent in the number 42
(which is the answer to the question concerning life, the universe and everything).
Roberts also examines the development of The Hitch Hikers
Guide to the Galaxy from its initial brief genesis in a field in Austria,
with the retention of some of the more memorable lines Adams had the habit of
reworking good lines into more of his material than is apparent at first look. (But John
Cleese, in his autobiography comments on the tendency to reuse material.) For those who
remember the TV version of HHGTTG, this was its fourth format. The book was third
We are introduced to the heir to DNAs documents, his daughter Polly
Jane Rocket Adams. And while she and her late mother had to worry occasionally what
Douglas what have wanted (and Roberts uses an acronym for this) she tries not to trade on
her fathers fame, except when it directly impinges on his material.
I found this a great read, highly entertaining, and am wondering when
Im going to get it back from the guy I lent it to.