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Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

My middle school aged daughter was assigned to read this book. I read through it and thought it was a step up from a comic book, not much literary value that I could discern. Actually, I think I would rather her read Fantastic Four comics over the Guide. Maybe I am missing something?

You are missing so much that I don't even know where to begin.

I think I've read the entire series (I have the leatherbound "trilogy" which is actually 5 of them) about 4 times.

It's a great satire on religion, science, travel, etc--and the science fiction genre in general.

I'm not saying it's Great Literature, but it's certainly more than a step above the Fantastic Four....
Yes, you are SO missing something. To really appreciate the Guide, get hold of the BBC radio dramatisations - they are fantastic - or the BBC TV series from 25 years ago. On NO account see the film from last year - it's rubbish.

Are you sure that you're reading the full text and not some cut-down Middle School version?
Ok, two steps up.

I would never be confused for an English major (CK - restrain yourself!).

Well, you both are fans and neither of you are declaring it great literature. I have asked the teacher what she is trying to teach and she can only tell me she liked it and the American Library Association likes it.
I'll agree with CK and Peter as well -- they are a great read, and a great intro to wry humour. (and agree with opinion of film version -- diabolical awful). I don't know, maybe the style just doesn't tickle your fancy.

And I wouldn't measure "kids books" on whether they'll ever win literature awards, or have a pounding message. If they draw young readers into the pages, and make them want to pick up another book -- they are already great literature in their own way. So... I'd also include the Fantastic Four. Or the Magic Faraway Tree, Wind in the Willows, The Magic Pudding et al.

"Reading by yourself" is what I hope the teacher is "teaching". It is, I understand, quite a difficult task these days... The students can work themselves up to Dostoyevsky and Gogol.

Actually I still like reading all those children's books now -- borrowed kids who stay over love to be read to at bedtime, from the very earliest age. Even in these DVD-driven times. Picking them up from the shelf, reading the birthday and Christmas messages from long dead relatives, their feel and smell and sound -- it's just like meeting up with old friends :)
Here's how The Guide is good for kids:

Observations about human nature:
"One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continuously stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right?"

Introduction to Logic:

4. Population
It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

Introduction to the cosmological argument for the existence of God and fideism:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. Q.E.D."

"Oh dear," says God, "Oh dear, I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
CK - I really appreciate the time you took to pull out those references. They are helpful. I had read the last one you provided. I am not sure middle school students can grasp the nuance. I think many will just focus on the vanishing in a puff part.

As for the teacher, this blog has provided more rationale than she has. So far, all she has said after two requests for the educational purpose is that she chose the book because she liked it and the ALA endorsed it. Uh, ok but what are you trying to teach?

Actually this has been good because I am finding out that English class is just reading books and taking tests over the content. As far the components of literature, nothing. And these are not kids who don't read and need entertainment just to get in a book. Sigh.
Yeah well, suck it in Warren :)

All part of being a concerned parent.

I believe.

PS if your kids love reading -- that's half the "battle" won with ejakashun. I believe. But if they read ya gotta anticipate the awkward questions, therefore, and possible "I don't think that is the case, Dad..." Literacy works that way, most cases.

Something to look forward to in your dottage, I guess.

(And you thought we were bad -- wait 'till your kids start on you!)
PS I don't think we'd accept a "non answer" from a teacher if we asked what was the "purpose" either. (Actually since we ARE actually paying to put the girls through school we do ask that -- a lot! Obviously this Gay Lifestyle (c)1969 is not what is cracked up to be... )

We would be happy with "I want the children to read, by themself" as an answer.

But an "Umm, urgh, durh" response -- nope, and you are their English teacher????
The Blessed Mother save us...
grantdale - I have older kids so believe me you guys are tame in comparison :)
Yep -- we know. Funny what a good flog through a search engine will find. My daughter the recording artist :) Jeepers they grow fast, as do expensive tastes no doubt...

Apart from the never ending stream of cousins while growing up... the oldest is now 13. 13! THIRTEEN!!!! Gawd I'm now old.

We first "borrowed" her at 2 weeks. We spent 4 hours staring at a sleeping baby. I mean, just sitting there and really staring. I think she moved her arm, a bit. I'm not sure either of us blinked.

She has, urgh, changed a lot since... now we go shopping for shoes and those umm, what, oh yes, skirts and "stuff". We sit at cafes surrounded by bags and pretend we're soooo sophisticated. And then we go out for dinner and waiters know us by name and say "Oh hi, this must be Rebecca?" She's mighty impressed. Kind of sad she'll wake up some day.

There's one in the middle. And a nephew. Various assorted honouraries.

And then there's the 3 year old who still likes dirt. LOTS of it. Putting an obsession to good use, she "helps" with the vegetable garden. Actually her wee fingers and sharp eyes are mighty good with the weeds, come to think of it. She can also spot a ripe cherry tomato at 400 paces, and eat it before you get a chance to tell her to wash it under the garden tap. TG for immune systems.

$5 per hour, she's yours. (airfare and households at customer's expense. No cotton or sugarcane.)
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