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New Leaf October 2019 Discussion • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
#11  Bookpossum 10-16-2019, 08:17 AM
On the issue of the two storylines that you raise gmw, I thought they did tie together. The ghost of Gordon was released, as it were, after he finally managed to get through to Susan’s machine with the vital information about Michael, thus for once doing something of real value for others instead of himself. Indeed, of value to all life on earth!
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#12  issybird 10-16-2019, 08:39 AM
Quote gmw
I am curious about the title. We don't meet Dirk, nor see his agency, until almost half-way through the novel. In many respects the Holistic Detective Agency doesn't seem that important to the story. Dirk is important, yes, but the Agency not so much. I guess "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" made for a more inspiring title than "The Sofa in the Stairwell".
I wonder if the title could have reflected an original intention to make this the first of a series, rather than just a twofer?

How about The Horse in the Bathroom?
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#13  gmw 10-16-2019, 08:54 AM
Quote Bookpossum
On the issue of the two storylines that you raise gmw, I thought they did tie together. The ghost of Gordon was released, as it were, after he finally managed to get through to Susan’s machine with the vital information about Michael, thus for once doing something of real value for others instead of himself. Indeed, of value to all life on earth!
I actually thought this was all headed to some big Gordon-saves-the-day thing, and so it sort of was, but look at what it actually turned out to be: Gordon was walking along Noel Rd - that the reader had no reason to recognise but Gordon did - and saw a woman running out screaming. We later learn that this must (presumably) have been someone discovering that Ross had been murdered, and Gordon passes this on to Susan who passes it on to Richard.

So, on the Richard side of the story, any of them could simply have heard it on the news. I can see that it was convenient to use Gordon, having bothered to keep him around this long, but his involvement didn't really add much to this aspect of the story because it wasn't critical to it (as far as I could see).

On the Gordon side of the story it's just confusing. Up to this time, Gordon had desperately been trying to talk to or to leave messages with Susan (or someone, anyone) and never succeeding. Now, suddenly, he succeeds and disappears. What was holding Gordon around as a ghost? Why was reporting this murder, about a man that he (as far as I could see) barely knew, a resolution for him?

Indeed it was good for all life on Earth, but it was inconsistent with the general expectation that ghosts hang around because of something unresolved for themselves (just as is the case for our 4-billion-year-old ghost). Perhaps the resolution was that Gordon finally got to finish the call he started while he was still alive (albeit about a different subject).

I'm not really that hung up about it, I just found it an unsatisfying aspect to the book.
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#14  issybird 10-16-2019, 08:56 AM
Quote gmw
We end up with effectively two quite separate story lines: The story of the Electric Monk and Gordon Way is told in parallel with the events surrounding Richard, Dirk, Reg and the 4-billion-year-old-ghost. Yes the two sets of events touch on each other, but just touch, either could have existed without the other with only very minor changes to the text.
Quote Bookpossum
On the issue of the two storylines that you raise gmw, I thought they did tie together. The ghost of Gordon was released, as it were, after he finally managed to get through to Susan’s machine with the vital information about Michael, thus for once doing something of real value for others instead of himself. Indeed, of value to all life on earth!
The two plots run more or less parallel, but are linked first and last and I think are managed quite elegantly by Adams. The monk found the door that linked back to Reg, hence his showing up at St. Cedd's on the critical night - otherwise, that might have been a little too random. And as Bookpossum points out, the ghost of Gordon was key to the resolution.

I think this structure is paralleled in the two Coleridge poems; I read the ghost as an Ancient Mariner figure and of course the slimy wiggly things had their origin in that poem. I need to reread both poems more closely now that I'm done.

My own real issue with the resolution is that it's an example of people (almost) doing something fatal that any dunderhead on the sidelines knows is a very. bad. idea., like the girl who decides to explore the deserted house in the dead of the woods, on her own. Anyone who's been exposed to the Twilight Zone, as an earlier example, knows that aliens do not have man's best interest at heart. Reg wouldn't save the dodo, but was going to give the ghost another chance? There's no eyeroll big enough.

I was blindsided, however, in that I confidently expected the time-changing agecy to be used to undo Gordon's death, especially as it resulted from the time-travel aspect itself. But that would have been an example of the Hitler paradox, so I clearly didn't think that through.
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#15  gmw 10-16-2019, 09:04 AM
Quote issybird
I wonder if the title could have reflected an original intention to make this the first of a series, rather than just a twofer?

How about The Horse in the Bathroom?
The horse works for me.

Actually, speaking of the horse, I guess we must presume it's actually a mechanical thing, much like the Electric Monk, otherwise it would need scuba gear like Wenton-Weaks did at the end. One can't help but wonder what becomes of them after they were "taken home".
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#16  issybird 10-16-2019, 09:08 AM
Quote latepaul
One of the things I like about Adams writing is that a lot of his jokes, which I merely thought of as funny when I was young, I now realise are astute and clever too. I like his explanation of hypnosis for example, or the decision-making software. There are lots of examples in Hitch-hiker's too.
Reason® got a snerk from me, and it was nicely set up, too, with the earlier reference. It was a bit meta, though, shades of 42, and I tend to wish authors wouldn't do that kind of thing. Dorothy Parker, in reference to Sinclair Lewis, said something along the lines of, "No one has a better right, but sometimes I wish authors would stop just this side of what no one has a better right to do."
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#17  issybird 10-16-2019, 09:12 AM
Quote gmw
The horse works for me.

Actually, speaking of the horse, I guess we must presume it's actually a mechanical thing, much like the Electric Monk, otherwise it would need scuba gear like Wenton-Weaks did at the end. One can't help but wonder what becomes of them after they were "taken home".
There was a reference to horses being cheap to make that I thought was explicit. I did enjoy the exploration of the horse's thoughts, as all paradise in the horse sense lay before him, once he got ride of the monk(ey) on his back. Stay away from that tree!
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#18  gmw 10-16-2019, 09:24 AM
Quote issybird
There was a reference to horses being cheap to make that I thought was explicit. I did enjoy the exploration of the horse's thoughts, as all paradise in the horse sense lay before him, once he got ride of the monk(ey) on his back. Stay away from that tree!
It's the monk that was cheaper to make with two legs, or that's the way I read it:
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So the Monks were built with an eye for originality of design and also for practical horse-riding ability. This was important. People, and indeed things, looked more sincere on a horse. So two legs were held to be both more suitable and cheaper than the more normal primes of seventeen, nineteen or twenty-three;
This was also where I got the impression that monk and horse came together as a sort of package deal.

When I got to the end I assumed this monk was the same one that aided our ancient ghost engineer, but it seems not. In the second chapter he says of the horse:
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No. Although it was certainly a handsome and well-built example of its species, it was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found.
So "convergent evolution" suggests it is a different world, so it can't be the same monk.
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#19  issybird 10-16-2019, 10:09 AM
Quote gmw
It's the monk that was cheaper to make with two legs, or that's the way I read it: This was also where I got the impression that monk and horse came together as a sort of package deal.
Package deal, yes, but horses are manufactured also.

Quote
The faulty Monk was turned out into the desert where it could believe what it liked, including the idea that it had been hard done by. It was allowed to keep its horse, since horses were so cheap to make.
Quote gmw
So "convergent evolution" suggests it is a different world, so it can't be the same monk.
I'm reading this to mean that the manufactured horse is a perfect representation of natural horses. It seems the monk was humanoid by accident (and cheapness, but why two eyes?), but the horses were designed to be equinoid.
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#20  Victoria 10-16-2019, 10:16 AM
Just a quicky to say sorry but I’m still reading so will be a bit late to the discussion. I’m having a flair up of arthritis in my neck, so can only read in very short bursts. But it’s fun so far.

I told myself not to read the discussion because of the spoilers, but have peeked anyway . It’s good to know some of the more confusing strings come together.
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