Being a 13-year old, American farmboy dabbling in British humor for the first time, I can probably be forgiven for assuming it was a typo. For assuming it was a typo that went consistently unnoticed across a series of four novels, I can probably be considered an idiot.
I thought his name was Ford Perfect.
It wasn’t until I was at an antique car show a few years later that I discovered there was a vehicle called the Ford Prefect. Naturally, I went back and re-read the entirety of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Which at the time was four books long. This bit of automotive trivia made quite a few things clearer and funnier.
God, I love those books. And I’m so thankful for them.
I hold a vivid set of memories related to discovering The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe, and Everything, and So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. Nostalgia isn’t the right word for it, though. Meeting Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Trillian was a transformative experience. Seeing existence through the wholly unique and skewed perspective Adams wrote from was thrilling. And I learned to love Vogon poetry despite myself.
The novels were on display in my high school library, part of a recent purchase the librarian made. I was instantly drawn in by the covers, particularly the Cosmic Cutie. That’s the green alien thingie sticking its tongue out at the reader. Adams hated that thing, I learned years later, but it was pivotal in getting my attention. Acting on impulse, I took all four books. The librarian hemmed and hawed about checking so many out at once, but she gave in. Two weeks later I returned them all, each being read twice in that time.
Within a couple of months, I’d bought my own copies at Walden Books. I still have them, and they’ve been read by both of my sons. My daughter has enough wisdom to stay away from the nonsense that makes her father and brothers act the way they do.
Don’t panic. 42. Always carry a towel with you. Vogon poetry is the third worst in the universe. “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” Pan-galactic Gargle Blasters. And on and on.
Wonderful books. And I’m thankful for them.
P.S. There are two more books in the trilogy, Mostly Harmless and And Another Thing …, but the first four are my head-canon. Sort of like how for me, there’s really only three Die Hard movies, three Indiana Jones movies, and four seasons of The West Wing. I wish I liked the last two novels more than I do, but they’re just not the same.