42 Is Me

Crop of image from 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' with hand making thumb gesture and planet with grinning toothsome mouth, tongue out, amidst various decorative circles

When the dad of a dear friend gave me a copy of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 5th grade — for me, obviously, not for him — I’m sure I didn’t think of the cosmically resonant number of 42 in terms of the age I’d be over three decades hence.

And yet here we are. I don’t know if reaching, in human years, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything will impact my existence in any positive way but it’d sure be nice.

The Hitchhiker’s series, which began as a radio play, became a trilogy and finally numbered five novels plus a short story in prose form. I think it was the first series of books that I was keen to snap up and read as soon as they came out — excepting comics material, as usual. (Comic books are periodicals, yes, once and more properly known as comic magazines, but the Fireside imprint of Simon & Schuster launched a series of books proper that collected key comic books, starting with Origins of Marvel Comics, in 1974 and Precocious Young Reader Blam was all in from jump on that.) I remember, appropriately, just devouring The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Early in those books’ history, I got introduced to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain by a librarian in middle school. That was the first series I recall hardly being able to read fast enough until realizing with the fifth book that I had to slow down because it was going to end and I wouldn’t be able to follow the characters any further. Some friends turned me on to Piers Anthony’s decidedly less chaste Xanth novels soon thereafter and those, as well as his Incarnations of Immortality series into high school, were must-haves for a time as well.

I can’t believe how far back in the rear-view mirror of my reading existence — which is to say, really, my existence overall — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is now, but I’m so grateful to that friend and her dad and Douglas Adams for, eventually, All the Fish.

Related: A, Plus Myth and Fingerprints Dragon Tale

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