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  #1  
Old 05-01-2011, 01:21 AM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Questions about Dirk Gently:Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul (spoilers wanted)

Original thread is here http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=280499 (but doesn't address this question)

Can anyone tell me the significance of Thor's counting all the stones in Wales? It's brought up in Chapter 22 when he first goes to Kate's apartment. He says very fiercely that he thinks he lost count, but he's not doing it again.

At the end, in Chapter 32, Kate, who seems pretty on the ball and you think would remember the earlier conversation, brings it up again, trying to get him to tell her in exchange for the answer to Odin's linen problem. He basically gives her the same answer again, adding "Think, girl, think!"

Next we hear, she's apparently given him the solution. Did she just give in? Did he give in and give her a number, even though they knew it was probably wrong? The re-emphasis, and being part of the big wrap-up, smacks of a mystery that should have some kind of answer (perhaps due to several things in other Douglas Adams novels that just seemed weird or mysterious at the time having later fallen into place, sometimes years later, and added depth and meaning to the stories for me.)

Anyone have any background? What did it mean to you? Been driving me a little crazy. Thanks.
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Old 05-01-2011, 02:05 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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I can't answer your question. But apparently I need to go back and reread this, as I don't remember any of this stuff being in the book. In fact, every time I try to remember anything about it, I get stuff from the other book.

Sorry, I just had to share that. Back to your regularly scheduled thread...
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Old 05-01-2011, 02:17 AM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Background Info and Musings

Here's the long version, some of the factors I've considered that might be important.

At first I thought it might be an allusion to some folklore or mythology I wasn't aware of. Something about the number of stones in Wales, or some clever tricksters solution to a similar problem that got the answer without having to do the counting. But Thor is not known as clever, and I didn't see anything that might indicate he brought in Loki or Toe Rag or someone to be clever for him.

I did find some legends about various groups of standing stones in England (though I found none in Mid-Glamorgan) that said it was impossible to count them, or to count them twice and get the same result, sometimes saying that trying to count them more than once would make you go mad or die (and perhaps these legends are more common knowledge in England, so he just dropped it in without any further detail, thinking people would immediately know what he was talking about?)

Then there's several comments I've seen with people being unsatisfied with the endings of the Dirk Gently books, saying he ties things up a little too quickly, neatly, deus-ex-machina, whatever. This is possibly partly because Adams had a reputation for procrastinating and might have been pressured to just wrap it up and get it to the printers. So maybe he just brought in an element from earlier to try and tie it to the ending, add a little artificial drama where Thor got to yell some more, and the "Think, girl, think!" is just reprimanding her to remember what they'd already talked about, and not to work out for herself what he'd actually done about it?

That's kind of the simplest, if most unsatisfying answer. That there is no answer, no mystery. For me, it would make it's inclusion, and re-emphasis in the final act even more maddening. A lot at the end is kind of told in hints. You can make it all out if you concentrate, think a bit, and catch all the info you can connect it to other events and work it all out.

Is it something to do with the Guilt God? The "interconnectedness of all things"? Thor uses a similar gesture describing the smallest rocks he had to count and when referring to molecules (there are as many ways to get to Asgard as there are tiny pieces)...does that mean something?

The question of the stones is actually brought up a third time, by the god Dirk sits next to at the Challenging Hour feast. He mentions Thor won't tell anyone the answer, and always replies "Count 'em yourself" and goes off and sulks when asked. His response always seems to be a combination of anger at people who ask him to just give up the answer it took him years to get, and anger at himself for (presumably) not knowing the answer, at least not the correct answer.

Probably totally unrelated, but the old Seer who sits on top of the poles in Mostly Harmless also makes the point "You think I'm going to tell you just like that what it took me forty springs, summers and autumns sitting on top of a pole to work out?" Obviously I'm grasping at straws here...

Some kind of point about humans (even good-natured humans in the process of trying to help these gods fallen on hard times) wanting to quantify the gods, gain their knowledge of the universe, take from them the one thing that makes them special, or different from us? Or just Thor getting tricked and bested again, faced with a problem he can't solve with might and a hammer?
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Old 05-01-2011, 04:12 PM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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I think it might be more of a "How Long is the Coastline of Britain"-style question?
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Old 05-01-2011, 04:53 PM
Damfino Damfino is online now
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I don't know whether this is relevant, but in Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic there is a talking bomb that always gets confused when its countdown is interrupted.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:37 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Counting Method

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Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
I think it might be more of a "How Long is the Coastline of Britain"-style question?

Hmm...interesting concept. How he's supposed to be counting them is of course another question...just the one's sitting loose on the surface? Any that are visible at all (partially buried), or all the rocks down to where they become molten?

An of course, Wales is known for mining, so they'd constantly be making more rocks that fit his criteria out of larger rocks, and possibly then exporting many of those outside of Wales. From his reactions, my guess is he's mad because doesn't have a correct answer, so he doesn't have that one special piece of knowledge that would let him feel superior, and it burns him that he wasted all those years on the boring penance task with nothing to show for it.

So maybe the question is why Kate, knowing this, would ask him again at that point in the story, and what answer, if any, she finally got. He also mentions that while he was in Wales doing the counting, he shaved his beard. Just a coincidence? Trying to blend in? Or implying that his head (being within the size limits) is made of stone and he had to uncover it to count it? Thor gets confused just trying to count his heads?

Last edited by Whaleo; 05-01-2011 at 06:37 PM..
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:49 PM
Frank Frank is online now
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Originally Posted by Whaleo View Post
Can anyone tell me the significance of Thor's counting all the stones in Wales?
You're making far too big a deal out of it. It's not a reference, or an allusion, or a metaphor.

It's simply a ridiculous punishment. Kate, having been told about it by Thor, is naturally curious as to the answer.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:51 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I can't answer your question. But apparently I need to go back and reread this, as I don't remember any of this stuff being in the book. In fact, every time I try to remember anything about it, I get stuff from the other book.
I don't remember either book clearly, but I think this one had the stuff about pizza delivery and a wandering vending machine in it.
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Old 05-01-2011, 07:15 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is online now
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I'd always assumed it was Sysiphean task assigned to the mythological Thor, but if there's anything about such a task available online, it's not easy to find. So I guess it was just DA assuming that this is a way that Odin might have punished his wayward son, and completely invented but in tune with the mythology he was writing about.

And I think the answer was probably not an actual number, but '100% of the Welsh stones,' or 'lots.' The kind of thing that most people would say off the bat but that Odin could safely occupy Thor with because he was too dumb to realise it was a trick question.
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Old 05-02-2011, 12:52 PM
Azeotrope Azeotrope is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whaleo View Post
Original thread is here http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=280499 (but doesn't address this question)

Can anyone tell me the significance of Thor's counting all the stones in Wales? It's brought up in Chapter 22 when he first goes to Kate's apartment. He says very fiercely that he thinks he lost count, but he's not doing it again.

At the end, in Chapter 32, Kate, who seems pretty on the ball and you think would remember the earlier conversation, brings it up again, trying to get him to tell her in exchange for the answer to Odin's linen problem. He basically gives her the same answer again, adding "Think, girl, think!"

Next we hear, she's apparently given him the solution. Did she just give in? Did he give in and give her a number, even though they knew it was probably wrong? The re-emphasis, and being part of the big wrap-up, smacks of a mystery that should have some kind of answer (perhaps due to several things in other Douglas Adams novels that just seemed weird or mysterious at the time having later fallen into place, sometimes years later, and added depth and meaning to the stories for me.)

Anyone have any background? What did it mean to you? Been driving me a little crazy. Thanks.
When Thor does the "think, girl, think!" line it's right after he says to her, "I already told you I lost count in Mid-Glamorgan!" It's more like he's showing that he can remember and think clearly after his big ol' temper tantrum and Odin was no longer messing with his godly powers at Toerag's instigation.
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Old 05-02-2011, 05:00 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Subtlety

I'd wondered about something like that...if she was just being wily and feminine and trying to get a rise out of him to help him keep his edge (although he'd been grumpy several times before, including the first time she asked him that...seemed like he really needed to chew up some scenery for it to do much good as far as clearing his head...maybe just to cheer him up, get his determination back after he got kind of depressed and was saying "Blast everything." Although I'd think just giving him the solution to his problem would be enough to do that, without making him deny the count thrice before the cock crows.

Something else I came up with while thinking about this (and some of this may get into areas related to Gail Andrew's view of astrology as a way of sifting reality, or alternatively, the Foucault's Pendulum/DaVinci Code phenomenon of finding a secret conspiracy because that's what you set out to look for) is the idea that Thor, a god, a creative force in the universe, has been observing the world, literally looking under every rock for truth, and now the world wants him to share what he's found, but he's protective of it, and not sure if it's really good enough. Kind of a metaphor for the writing process, and people demanding new books from him, maybe before he thinks they're ready. (maybe something along the lines of the story metaphor at the end of Basquiat, if you've seen that)

Ideally, I'd like to find a neat little solution that ties in with several other facts from the book, and all becomes crystal clear and adds depth and meaning to the rest of the story (whether consciously intended by the author or no)...but a logical answer to why she asked her question again, and if she was just satisfied getting the same answer again, or perhaps got something more between the lines as a condition for her solution to putting Odin in Woodshead, would at least get rid of that nagging itch in the back of my brain.

(and while I'm perhaps "thinking too deeply" about all this...when Odin is at last back in Woodshead right afterwards, and Kate comes in to tell him everything's taken care of, he's thinking about how much he likes the way Sister Bailey smoothed down the sheets around him five minutes ago, and also 10 minutes before that. Assuming that she kind of tucks him in like that just after he gets back into bed after the bed's been remade...why had she also done it such a short time before? Is he just drifting in and out, his days all running together...or was there some strange reason she visited him twice so close together? Or was one of the Sister Baileys an IMPOSTOR!)

(again, depending on how much I'm feeling that there actually is a deeper meaning behind all this, that last little fact is either the key to everything, or proof that I'm crazy.)
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Old 05-02-2011, 05:11 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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SciFiSam, I know the task of counting the stones itself is just an immortals equivalent of writing "I will not ask Odin dumb questions during the Challenging Hour" on the board 500 times. I'm curious if there are similar myths (with answers) as a possible clue to what happened, but the main conflict seems to be that the question is asked three times, the last time in the form of
Step 1: "Tell me the answer you did not tell me before, or this story cannot have a happy ending."
Step 2: "As I said before, I cannot tell you the answer."
Step 3: ??????
Step 4: [story has a happy ending]

(and if step 1 was just an idle threat, why did she make it)

Thanks for all the responses and ideas...I think just talking about this is helping, giving me a lot of new things to think about and ways to think about them...feel like I'm getting close!
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Old 05-03-2011, 01:00 AM
wevets wevets is offline
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The other possibility is that, being Thor, when he gets frustrated at the mundane nature of the task, or at losing count, he goes and smashes something, thus creating more stones to count.

However, I don't think there's an added level of subtlety to the rock counting subplot.
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:27 PM
Azeotrope Azeotrope is offline
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Originally Posted by wevets View Post
The other possibility is that, being Thor, when he gets frustrated at the mundane nature of the task, or at losing count, he goes and smashes something, thus creating more stones to count.

However, I don't think there's an added level of subtlety to the rock counting subplot.
But Thor wasn't able to go THOR SMASH!!! at the start of the story because bad things happened to people when he lost his temper (like the fighter pilot, the girl from the airline counter etc).

I think it was more likely that Odin ordered Thor to do it just to give him a mindless task and keep him occupied for a while, probably urged to do it by Toerag (who was all along working to subvert Odin's authority and knew that Thor would put the kibosh on his plans if he found out).

Sister Bailey was probably just being a good nurse and fussing over her favorite patient. She had a definite soft spot for "Mr. Odwin" and for as old and sickly as he looked, it's not surprising she'd look in on him a lot . She didn't know he was immortal, after all.

I still don't think there's any cosmic riddle significance behind Kate asking Thor about how many rocks the second time. If I were Kate, and Thor A) blew up the airport and put me in the hospital, B) scared the hell out of me with the streetlights blowing out, C) pissed off my neighbor and turned the lamp into a cat, D) dragged me off to Asgard and threw a godly hissy fit, and E) left me behind with the crazy old woman, I wouldn't want to help him for free either

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Old 05-03-2011, 06:30 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Here's where it gets weird...

Like the Sister Bailey explanation. Yes, I can definitely see that. Like how that takes it from just something that happened to a reinforcement of the special care and attention she was giving him. Exactly the kind of deeper appreciation I'm looking for while playing around with the stones question.

Okay, so...the house leek. Common plant growing on stone walls and cottage roofs all over England. Called Sempervivum (or Liveforever, a big theme in the book)

http://www.oldtimeremedies.co.uk/labels/shingles.html

Also called stone-crop and Ayegreen (the green-eyed monster!)

Dedicated to Thor, and sometimes called Thor's Beard (he mentioned he shaved his beard off while in Wales!)

Called sedare in Latin, which comes RIGHT NEXT TO sedra in "The Plant Book- A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants" (sedra as a cure for eagle wounds is also mentioned a second time by the same god who brings up counting the stones the second time) (sedra being the Chinese Date or jujube)

The linked article mentions it is "identical with that of the Apple.", curiously capitalizing the common word apple, to make it like the Apple, Douglas Adams being known as a huge fan of Apple computers!

Coincidence? Or did Douglas Adams write this book while leafing through a plant guide!?! (okay, probably coincidence, although he did write the book about the same time he was really getting into biology and nature, building up to Last Chance to See)

Starting to re-read The Salmon of a Doubt (which I just kind of skimmed and was mad at when it came out, after billing itself as 'Hitchhiking the Galaxy One last Time", then including hardly any Hitchhiker material, but rather some disjointed notes and a few chapters of an unfinished Dirk Gently novel...yeah, I should have read the blurbs more carefully.) Haven't gotten to the Dirk material yet, may contain all kinds of insights. But I'm starting to like my 'counting stones as a metaphor for the writing process' idea more and more as a reason for it being in there.

Christopher Cerf attributes Adams books always being overdue to "a daunting blend of perfectionism and a terror of failing in his quest to put, as he liked to phrase it, 'a hundred thousand words in a cunning order' " Kate would be the publisher asking for the book, and then asking for it a second time later with a reason why he had to give it to her now, and he does, and thankfully, everything seems to turn out. (Apparently at least 3 of his publishers eventually had to resort to locking themselves in a room with him for days at a time to get him to finally finish the book he was working on.)

(tomato...as for payback, maybe she could get Thor to turn a certain Fender Precision bass into a pizza oven? )
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Old 05-03-2011, 08:09 PM
Frank Frank is online now
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Originally Posted by Whaleo View Post
Like the Sister Bailey explanation. Yes, I can definitely see that. Like how that takes it from just something that happened to a reinforcement of the special care and attention she was giving him. Exactly the kind of deeper appreciation I'm looking for while playing around with the stones question.

Okay, so...the house leek. Common plant growing on stone walls and cottage roofs all over England. Called Sempervivum (or Liveforever, a big theme in the book)

http://www.oldtimeremedies.co.uk/labels/shingles.html

Also called stone-crop and Ayegreen (the green-eyed monster!)

Dedicated to Thor, and sometimes called Thor's Beard (he mentioned he shaved his beard off while in Wales!)

Called sedare in Latin, which comes RIGHT NEXT TO sedra in "The Plant Book- A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants" (sedra as a cure for eagle wounds is also mentioned a second time by the same god who brings up counting the stones the second time) (sedra being the Chinese Date or jujube)

The linked article mentions it is "identical with that of the Apple.", curiously capitalizing the common word apple, to make it like the Apple, Douglas Adams being known as a huge fan of Apple computers!

Coincidence? Or did Douglas Adams write this book while leafing through a plant guide!?! (okay, probably coincidence, although he did write the book about the same time he was really getting into biology and nature, building up to Last Chance to See)

Starting to re-read The Salmon of a Doubt (which I just kind of skimmed and was mad at when it came out, after billing itself as 'Hitchhiking the Galaxy One last Time", then including hardly any Hitchhiker material, but rather some disjointed notes and a few chapters of an unfinished Dirk Gently novel...yeah, I should have read the blurbs more carefully.) Haven't gotten to the Dirk material yet, may contain all kinds of insights. But I'm starting to like my 'counting stones as a metaphor for the writing process' idea more and more as a reason for it being in there.

Christopher Cerf attributes Adams books always being overdue to "a daunting blend of perfectionism and a terror of failing in his quest to put, as he liked to phrase it, 'a hundred thousand words in a cunning order' " Kate would be the publisher asking for the book, and then asking for it a second time later with a reason why he had to give it to her now, and he does, and thankfully, everything seems to turn out. (Apparently at least 3 of his publishers eventually had to resort to locking themselves in a room with him for days at a time to get him to finally finish the book he was working on.)

(tomato...as for payback, maybe she could get Thor to turn a certain Fender Precision bass into a pizza oven? )
What the hell? Are you trying to write your doctorate on this? Or are you simply obsessed? Or what?

It's just a story. Written by an entertainer. Meant to entertain. (Well, and to make money.)
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Old 05-04-2011, 11:24 AM
Azeotrope Azeotrope is offline
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Or perhaps Douglas Adams just looked through an herbal to find a few herbs supposed to be good for flesh wounds, in order to make Kate's hoard of herbal bath gunk a valid plot point?

By the way Sempervivum is also called "hens and chicks" and you know Howard Bell had all those chickens delivered to his hotel room to look, like, all sinister and junk. And the musician's kid was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, some of which feature Foghorn Leghorn or Prissy the Hen, and they're chickens!!And after the kid breaks Dirk Gently's nose he goes to the cafe and the waiter mistakenly brings him an herb omelette, thereby linking chickens, herbs, Thor, and my sister's dog who once snarfed down a whole pan of scrambled eggs when she wasn't looking!!!

See how the further you go with it, the sillier it sounds?

I agree with Frank, and to paraphrase the MST3K theme song, "It's just a book. You should really just relax."
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Old 05-05-2011, 12:10 AM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Cause and Effect

Oh wow! I didn't know about your sister's dog and the scrambled eggs! It's all falling into place now! No, it's just something that bothered me the first time I read it, and every few years it pops up again. Don't remember what brought it up this time...maybe the new Thor movie coming out. So I read back over a few relevant passages, do a few web searches...kind of like an old jigsaw puzzle I like the feel of pieces of, so I push 'em around for a while, see what answers time, other reading, web sites coming and going and SEO might have stirred up.

That's where my last post came from...just a combination of search terms that also showed up on a site totally unrelated to the book, that also had some other interesting parallels beyond the words searched for. Playing around with a little Dirk Gently-style detecting to try to knock my thoughts out of the groove, see what it might lead to.

Just seems there was some mysterious stuff going on with the ending, hooked into my "man's search for meaning in the universe". The idea that it's not a puzzle, or maybe a broken puzzle, just another by-product of an imperfect universe is fine too. Just a lens I use to look at the story, I guess.

(ran across a part in Salmon of Doubt mentioning how DA had once made huge point about there being exactly one banana on each plate at the beginning of a story, wouldn't say why, said it would be revealed in the ending. When it wasn't and they asked him about it, not only had he forgotten what the significance was supposed to be, he'd forgotten he'd put it in there.)

How about this, another question about how the book ends: Thor turns the eagle back into a jet, which roars out of Dirk's house and kills the yuppies in their car. Just a total coincidence of timing for them to be exactly in front of his door on a deserted street? Thor seems totally oblivious to it, not connecting the sound and light from the explosion to what he's just done.

Shortly before, Mr. Draycott had offered Dirk anything he wanted to make the problem go away, and Dirk had said he only wanted "just to see you dead." Did Draycott somehow unwittingly grant Dirk his wish? Was it somehow caused by Odin, or the Guilt God? The fundamental interconnectedness of all things? Thrown in as a slightly implausible way for the bad guys to get their comeuppance without any of the good guys getting blood on their hands?

Partly just interested in the writing process too, where the ideas came from. They mentioned that when he was writing the first HHG series, all the jokes were about not having any money, and hanging around in pubs. After that was a success, the 2nd series was jokes about accountants and eating in fancy restaurants. Teatime of the Soul touches on themes of yuppie lawyers and advertising execs screwing people with contracts, homelessness, the role of gods in a world that doesn't believe in them anymore, themes that DA had a lot of interest in.

As far as counting the stones go, in talking about evolution, he said "The connection lies in the counter-intuitive observation that complex results arise form simple causes, iterated many times over." (with a mistake being made being similar to a mutation)

And as for my attitude towards all this, and to some degree why I'm doing it, a couple of other passages I ran across in Salmon of Doubt say it pretty well:

DA Talking about man creating artificial gods, saying even if they don't exist, "when we create one and and then allow ourselves to behave as if there was one, all sorts of things happen that otherwise wouldn't happen." and

"He felt calm, he felt good, he felt able to meet with the wild, thrashing improbabilities that lie an atom's depth beneath the surface of the narrated world, and to speak their language."

I'm just looking for the hidden box of Hamdingers to get me off this ride, and trying to enjoy it in the meantime. Whaddaya think, sirs?
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:10 AM
Azeotrope Azeotrope is offline
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You're a good sport, Whaleo Looking back, that last post of mine comes off a lot more snarly than I intended. It's all good, we all read and think about things in our own way.
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:38 AM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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These have the meat of it:

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Originally Posted by Frank View Post
. . . It's simply a ridiculous punishment. Kate, having been told about it by Thor, is naturally curious as to the answer.
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Originally Posted by Whaleo View Post
SciFiSam, I know the task of counting the stones itself is just an immortals equivalent of writing "I will not ask Odin dumb questions during the Challenging Hour" on the board 500 times. . .
It's also a task that only a god can do. No mortal could do it, so it must be being done in a godly way, not in a mortal, count each stone, way.

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Originally Posted by ugly ripe tomato View Post
. . . If I were Kate, and Thor A) blew up the airport and put me in the hospital, B) scared the hell out of me with the streetlights blowing out, C) pissed off my neighbor and turned the lamp into a cat, D) dragged me off to Asgard and threw a godly hissy fit, and E) left me behind with the crazy old woman, I wouldn't want to help him for free either
Yes. Kate knows something that Thor needs and it forcing him to acknowledge her importance by forcing him to talk about something that is obviously painful to him and forcing him to give her a secret. Of course, when he blows up and admits that his count was off, that counts as an acknowledgement, and a secret, just as well. Actually, since it embarasses him, too, it's better.

And if you want a reference to another book, do you remember the bit where Ford and Arthur are being thrown out a Vogon airlock at the beginning of HHGG? That's a throw-away bit, just there for entertainment, and somebody didn't listen.

"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
[Ford Prefect:] "Why, what did she tell you?"
[Arthur:] "I don't know, I didn't listen."

Notice that at the end of the first line, Ford and the Reader think that Arthur is referring to a specific bit of advice. It's only when Ford asks that we find out that the advice is lost forever.

When Thor first talks about The Count, the line about losing count is a throw away at the end. Like someone driving to a wedding wondering if they really remembered to turn off the stove. The doubt doesn't mean that the stove is still on any more than Thor's comment means that he truly and completely lost count. He just has doubts.

He obviously completed his task to Odin's satisfaction, or he'd still be in Wales, counting. So a count was completed and a count was reported. Thor's doubts may have started years later. It's only when Kate asks that we learn that The Count is lost forever. This follows the form of the airlock bit in HHGG exactly, only this time there's half a book between the first line and the second two.

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Originally Posted by Whaleo View Post
. . . Just a total coincidence of timing for them to be exactly in front of his door on a deserted street? Thor seems totally oblivious to it, not connecting the sound and light from the explosion to what he's just done.

Shortly before, Mr. Draycott had offered Dirk anything he wanted to make the problem go away, and Dirk had said he only wanted "just to see you dead." Did Draycott somehow unwittingly grant Dirk his wish? . . .
There are four forces in operation at the end of Dirk Gently, and the fourth is in operation an ALL Dirk Gently stories.

1) Gods can do things. Thor snaps his fingers and the eagle turns into a jet with a pilot in the middle of ejecting.

2) Things have unintended consequences. And when gods do things, the consequences can be big.

3) Odin has messed with Thor's god-magic, especially with his anger. Thor didn't turn the lamp into a kitten. Thor got angry and Odin's curse turned the lamp into a kitten.

4) Everything that Dirk Gently predicts, no matter how flippantly or inconsequentially predicted, or how impossible the prediction, comes true. Remember when he met the pilot's wife in the fortune telling tent? Every single prediction he made, including that her husband would return, came true by the end of the book.

This force drives Dirk mad. He believes in cause and effect and absolutely hates that this keeps happening to him. It's also gotten him into a lot of trouble and he doesn't trust it at all.

Have you re-read the book yet? If you do, you'll find that most of the ending is foreshadowed well in advance. It happens fast, but the whole novel has set it up. Including the fact that it's the Draycott's fault. That was a definite #4. We're also given enough information to come up with Kate's solution on our own.
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  #21  
Old 05-05-2011, 06:31 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Blind man with a lantern

No worries, U.R.T. Just having you kind folks taking the time to read through all my nonsense and then give a thoughtful response means a lot to me. And even if I don't agree, having to think about why I don't agree helps me sort out my ideas.

Thanks for the response, Yllaria. Lot of good stuff to think about there. Something about the way you phrased it helps me lean toward the idea that she was just sticking to her guns, and saying "whether you think the answers right or not, you have to give it to me", and Thor finally (off screen) giving in and telling her.

Also, I'd always imagined him saying "I wasn't going to count them again! Think!" in a very short, angry, Thor-like way. After your post, thought of him delivering it in a more broad, sit-com kinda style, drawing out the agaaiiinn in a humorous way. And also the somewhat amusing idea of Thor telling someone else to think. Not sure it totally fits his character, but maybe DA had been watching too many sitcoms and decided to give it a whirl.

I see what you're saying about the airlock, and if he hadn't revealed the punch line (that he'd actually lost count) the first time, I don't think I would have thought twice about it. In fact, might have been wondering all the time between the two conversations how it came out, building even more anticipation before the funny let-down. But it seemed more like telling the exact same joke twice with no changes, which is why I thought the point must be something besides just getting a laugh.

I've re-read the parts with Kate and Thor numerous times, and skimmed through the pages between the two mentions of the count. Since I'm determined to try to put the question that's been nagging me to rest once and for all, I actually just started re-reading the whole thing again from page 1 last night.

Think I'd got it into my head that Dirk was just 'sensitive' to psychic impressions, and also willing to let them guide his investigations without being impeded by things like 'logic' and 'common sense'. I'd forgotten the whole fortune telling bit at the beginning. I was amazed at just how much of the story was predicted in what seemed like just those little throw-away bits at the start.

He gives the pilots wife his formal predictions, then when it turns out they're all horribly true in ways he didn't intend them, he seems to get flustered and just babble a bunch of vague reassuring things that are all also exact predictions of the books ending. And even Kate's ranting description of all the seemingly inconsequential, troublesome little details involved in getting ready to go away on a trip have a lot of clues to events and relationships.

Unfortunately, also discovered that the anecdote about the deep significance of there being only one banana in each bowl actually comes from this very book. But since it sounds like even Adams forgot why he put them there, don't think I'm going to lose sleep over that one the same way. Might be fun to make up some reasons, but more in the spirit of the answers to "Why is a raven like a writing desk." (which I just googled to make sure I had the details right, and the first result that came up is below. This site is awesome. Saved me a lot of typing too.)

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...a-writing-desk

One thing that came to mind is that Kate and Thor's fruit bowls each have one lone banana in the public hospital, and then there's a description later of how Odin's fruit bowl is always kept full of fresh fruit and flowers, even though he never eats any. So maybe some kind of point about the difference between public and private care? But again, doesn't seem like enough to get too excited over. (maybe a reference to the Kennedy assassination, the lone banana theory)

Finally, one other little reference from the beginning of the book, that may have influenced my thinking about how a god like Thor would approach a Great Labor, is an off-hand mention of the way Hercules cleaned out the Aegean Stables in a single day by ripping two sides off and diverting a river through them. Kind of thing that makes me wonder if Wales had recently experienced massive flooding around the time the book was written.

Anyway, with these questions now firmly in the front of my mind, hoping one more thorough read-through will reveal any other subtle clues I missed. Thanks again for listening.
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  #22  
Old 05-07-2011, 10:32 AM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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. . . helps me lean toward the idea that she was just sticking to her guns, and saying "whether you think the answers right or not, you have to give it to me", and Thor finally (off screen) giving in and telling her. . .
That's entirely plausible. There obviously had been a count that he gave to Odin. And she is stubborn enough.
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  #23  
Old 09-04-2012, 12:08 PM
scrand scrand is offline
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Confused and hungry for the answer

Hello,

I agree. There must be some hidden answer to the ending of the long dark teatime for the soul. What does Kate tell Thor to solve their predicament and resolve the entire book? I know it is in there somewhere, and may have something to do with all the stone counting. I just am not smart enough to see the clues to what actually happened at the ending. Can anyone please help?
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:30 PM
Seanette Seanette is offline
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I don't remember either book clearly, but I think this one had the stuff about pizza delivery and a wandering vending machine in it.
You're right, this is the one with Kate (transplanted American) having an ongoing problem with lack of pizza delivery in London and the wandering vending machine (with an interesting connection to Dirk).
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:02 AM
Tblue Tblue is offline
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Heh, I've never figured out who Toerag actually is. (I assumed "Loki" at some point but can't see/have missed the link.)

Love the book though.
I too think that there was not much deeper meaning to the stones, other than it being a Herculean (Thorean?) task, with the shameful secret of losing count, never admitted (until he told Kate). A good motive for guilt/annoyance!
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:29 AM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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Hello,

I agree. There must be some hidden answer to the ending of the long dark teatime for the soul. What does Kate tell Thor to solve their predicament and resolve the entire book? I know it is in there somewhere, and may have something to do with all the stone counting. I just am not smart enough to see the clues to what actually happened at the ending. Can anyone please help?
This is not really hidden, (unless 'in plain sight',) and the stone counting is just Kate's price for what she tells Thor:

"Have your father offer his entire estate to the Woods' Head in exchange for a contract of lifetime care."

The idea is that the Woods' Head administrators will be so greedy that they'd jump at this opportunity, sight unseen as to the estate, because Odin was so obviously living in luxury and had no problems making regular payments. However, his source for turning his Godly power into mortal funds (the lawyer and the chick with the glasses,) had backed out, making Odin penniless, and in any event, 'lifetime care' for an immortal god means perpetual care with no payout at the end.
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  #27  
Old 09-09-2012, 01:10 PM
BigT BigT is online now
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This is not really hidden, (unless 'in plain sight',) and the stone counting is just Kate's price for what she tells Thor:

"Have your father offer his entire estate to the Woods' Head in exchange for a contract of lifetime care."

The idea is that the Woods' Head administrators will be so greedy that they'd jump at this opportunity, sight unseen as to the estate, because Odin was so obviously living in luxury and had no problems making regular payments. However, his source for turning his Godly power into mortal funds (the lawyer and the chick with the glasses,) had backed out, making Odin penniless, and in any event, 'lifetime care' for an immortal god means perpetual care with no payout at the end.
But is he still immortal, since he's given up his soul? The way I understand it, he didn't get his soul back. Dirk just predicted that those two would die, and we were shown by the old lady in Norway that gods can die from trauma (else threatening to kill herself with a knife would have no meaning). Is the assumption that their death gives Odin back his soul? He sure doesn't seem like an immortal--he's much more confused than he was before at the end.

Last edited by BigT; 09-09-2012 at 01:11 PM..
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  #28  
Old 09-09-2012, 01:33 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Can anyone tell me the significance of Thor's counting all the stones in Wales?
Counting things as a punishment has folkloric roots. Seeds or grains of rice were scattered around the graves of both Chinese and European vampires, and they were required to count them before heading off to feed on the blood of the living.


From wiki
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Other methods commonly practised in Europe included severing the tendons at the knees or placing poppy seeds, millet, or sand on the ground at the grave site of a presumed vampire; this was intended to keep the vampire occupied all night by counting the fallen grains,[35] indicating an association of vampires with arithmomania. Similar Chinese narratives state that if a vampire-like being came across a sack of rice, it would have to count every grain; this is a theme encountered in myths from the Indian subcontinent, as well as in South American tales of witches and other sorts of evil or mischievous spirits or beings.
Maybe Mr Adams was watching Mr Vampire while writing the book and just incorporated the idea
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Old 09-11-2012, 08:32 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Thor's Guilt

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Heh, I've never figured out who Toerag actually is. (I assumed "Loki" at some point but can't see/have missed the link.)

...with the shameful secret of losing count, never admitted (until he told Kate). A good motive for guilt/annoyance!
While Toerag is a Loki-like minor trickster, I think Thor would still call him Loki, especially when they're alone. I got the impression he was just an opportunistic imp that got his hooks in Odin by figuring out how to give him something he wanted.

Found this definition of toerag on Urban Dictionary - fits with the idea that he could be just some kind of despised Norse hanger-on playing a slippery, dangerous game that gets him in with the gods:

"Obsolete British insult: a toerag is a piece of cloth worn on the foot under the boot to substitute a sock, especially in winter, and by vagrants. Something that is squalid and disgusting; by extension, a bum, vagrant or tramp. "

Also, hadn't really considered Thor's secret of not being sure of his stones answer in relation to the Guilt God angle. Kinda fits with the timing, because I think it's immediately after the curtain comes down on the final Kate/Thor stones confrontation that the "newly spawned guilt god" is discovered (going on memory, think I must have boxed up the books to stop thinking about 'em for a while after I had reached a relative peace on the nagging question).

I'd always assumed the Guilt God was born out of Dirk's festering fridge alone, but perhaps it was the product of an unholy union between the fridge and the doubt and guilt troubling Thor over the stone count coming together. So by "getting it out of" Thor, Kate released his tension, allowed the Guilt God to be born and make an end of Toerag and the Green-Eyed Monster.

Also just thought of a parallel between Thor's dealings with the stones question and the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance). I'm guessing his grief about the gods losing their place and status in the world - or at least his grief at losing his count during the long boring task:
Denial: I'm not telling (implying he does have the answer) Confused and clouded.
Anger: Not going to count them again! Raging to clear his head.
Bargaining: Give up the count/admit it's possibly wrong/work out the bargain with the lawyers somehow to get everything back the way it was
Depression: The "Blast everything" brief low point where there seems no solution.
Acceptance: Odin "surrenders" his estate, Thor and the rest seem to settle into a comfortable relationship with the new way of things (helped by the lawyers and Toerag being eliminated, of course)

Curious to see if any of the text directly contradicts this, but definitely the most interesting idea so far, to me. Makes more sense for the Deus-Ex-Refridgera at the end to be tied into a more over-arcing theme in the story, and not just a random result of Dirk's moldy kitchen appliance. Also raises ideas about the gods - Thor said they were created because people believed in them, and formed to resemble their beliefs. But shouldn't a god have something to do with the birth of another god? Perhaps especially if the gods were in the process of becoming more like man after they were no longer wanted?

Interesting stuff.
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  #30  
Old 09-11-2012, 09:01 PM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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But is he still immortal, since he's given up his soul? The way I understand it, he didn't get his soul back. Dirk just predicted that those two would die, and we were shown by the old lady in Norway that gods can die from trauma (else threatening to kill herself with a knife would have no meaning). Is the assumption that their death gives Odin back his soul? He sure doesn't seem like an immortal--he's much more confused than he was before at the end.
I'm not completely clear on if Odin gave up his soul literally, or if that was a figure of speech that the other gods used to describe the way he sold out on their power. It seems to me that Odin acts as if he expects to live forever after he's at the Woodshead. But if he did literally give up his soul, then I think that the Draycotts gave it back:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Adams
[Mr. Draycott:] "But then it lands in my back garden, and that's a penalty clause job I'm afraid. The Woodshead stuff is a very expensive little number, and I think your clients may have blown it on that particular score. We have the whip hand here. We can just cancel this whole thing. Believe me, I have everything I could possibly want now... So perhaps we can come to any one of a number of possible accommodations. Anything you want, Mr Gently, it can be made to happen."

"Just to see you Dead, Mr. Draycott," said Dirk Gently. "Just to see you dead."

"Well, fuck you, too."

Dirk Gently turned and left the room and went to tell his new client that he thought they might have a problem. (Page 234)
(Page number taken from my Pan Books paperback copy.)

I read that as Mr. Draycott cancelling the arrangement with Odin effective immediately; Odin gets his power back, (and his soul, if that was on the deal,) but he's ineffective at actually using it to get what he wants in the modern world. The Draycotts and their friends keep all the mortal wealth and influence they've been able to accumulate using Odin's power, and they're no longer on the hook for the Woodshead. Of course, they didn't expect to die, and really they were just random bystanders killed as a consequence of Thor restoring the fighter pilot - except that all things are interconnected in Dirk Gently's world.

It wasn't losing his soul that made Odin confused and helpless in the modern world - if anything it was his very godhood and immortality. As Thor said, the gods were as humanity wished them to be, forever, (and possibly by extension, consistent.) Then humanity changed too quickly for the gods to adapt. It's pretty clear from the Mister Draycott's story, the parts I skipped over, that Odin was just as confused when he first met them, before they'd made a deal.

When you said that Dirk predicted that they would die, did you mean that line I quoted, 'Just to see you dead'? Because I didn't interpret that as a prediction so much as a heartfelt wish.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:07 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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But is he still immortal, since he's given up his soul? The way I understand it, he didn't get his soul back. Dirk just predicted that those two would die, and we were shown by the old lady in Norway that gods can die from trauma (else threatening to kill herself with a knife would have no meaning). Is the assumption that their death gives Odin back his soul? He sure doesn't seem like an immortal--he's much more confused than he was before at the end.
Not sure they said he gave up his soul, just his godly power. Thor said gods can die, but "it takes a special effort", implying they have to totally give up the will to live and will themselves to die, and even then it takes a long time.

The old lady (Tsuliwaensis) may be able to kill herself (possibly with the knife), but while she is depressed about the state of the gods and the state of the god's world as it reflects the world of man, to me a lot of that came off as a kind of passive-aggressive bluff (and also a guilt trip, to pick up the guilt theme), where she was saying, "Don't mind me, I'll just throw my self at the wall and die on this knife. Won't be a bother to anyone. No, don't bother coming to see an old woman living all alone, it's fine, I'll just kill myself. Been meaning to anyway, so it's no bother..."

So while it's possible Odin is in the process of dying from the onx, lying down (on crisp fine linen) until a tree grows out of his head and he turns into a water spout, or even that he has somehow signed away his immortality in return for his stay at Woodshead, I think the implication is that he'll live a fairly long time, if not forever, and in any case not be bothered by bills again until he has finally tired of the world forever.

And in a twist of poetic justice, if Woodshead can collect on their contract, the actions of man have made the gods domain such a twisted barren place that they'll be glad to see it go, and all Woodshead will receive is a world-sized toxic superfund site full of Guilt Gods and gnats.
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  #32  
Old 09-11-2012, 09:23 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Tsuli opines that things not taken care of in our world become terrible gods or gnats in her world, and says that there are far more gnats that terrible gods these days. Could be that she's referring to the petty nature of the modern world, or it could be that the truly great "terrible god" problems spring mostly from the interaction of the gods and man on earth, and since the gods are now less active on earth and don't interact much with men, they are now less frequent, until Thor is made to go to Earth and count stones in Wales, and his problems returning home cause him to interact with man?
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  #33  
Old 09-11-2012, 10:05 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Ah, at last. Yes, I think it's all coming together for me. Kate doesn't just get Thor to admit he lost count, (which is nothing new to her) she gets him to admit it in front of his father, Odin, who had given him the task. So it has the combined effect of exposing his guilt so he can get rid of it, and of her getting him back for his rough treatment of her by getting him in trouble with his father.

And I started seeing some interesting parallels between the yuppie/lawyer couple and the Green-eyed Monster and Toerag. I think GEM and Toerag were born into the god's world as a result of Clive and Cynthia Draycott existing in our world. He's the tricky little conniving guy, upwardly mobile, trying to scam his way into the big-time. And she works in advertising, the green-eyed monster, creator of created by envy.

At the end of the book both pairs are travelling in a vehicle, and both are killed by something tied to guilt and Dirk Gently "erupting" (same word used for each, the jet erupting into the street from his apartment, and the Guilt God erupting from his old refrigerator, last seen just outside his apartment on the street)

Sometimes the interconnectedness of all things is just crazy.
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  #34  
Old 09-16-2012, 09:49 PM
BigT BigT is online now
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When you said that Dirk predicted that they would die, did you mean that line I quoted, 'Just to see you dead'? Because I didn't interpret that as a prediction so much as a heartfelt wish.
I did indeed. I'm sure that's what he meant it as, but all of his predictions always seem to come when he's not intending to actually predict something. I think that, if the story went on a bit longer, Dirk would have found out about their death, realized that he predicted it, and be all angsty about it. Well, if he has time to, since he'll also be stressing out about his sudden lack of housing.

It's also a great way to tie everything together, without it just being yet another coincidence. If it weren't for the way they died, I'd assume it was one of the clauses Toe Rag put in, making sure that, as soon as they were mortal, (which is a nice interpretation of what happened) they would die.

If there is a correlation between our world and the world of the gods, I'd expect what happened to the humans to have been reflected in the other world. Both died because of something that had been in Dirk's house.

All of this comes from my interpretation that the "interconnectedness of all things" only happens because Dirk predicts it to happen. It wouldn't work for any other person. Otherwise Dirk wouldn't be the only one this stuff happens to.

Last edited by BigT; 09-16-2012 at 09:51 PM..
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  #35  
Old 12-06-2012, 12:01 PM
EBow70 EBow70 is offline
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I really appreciated Whaleo's thoughts, I actually was trying desperately to find an open discussion on this book, as I have already posthumosly lurked all the alt-fan.douglas.adams group without finding answers to my questions.
I should actually re-read for the fourth time the book in order to remember all the points that I still couldn't grasp, but one in particular strikes so hard me that I eventually found on Facebook the author of a post on the usenet group made like 15 years ago in order to discover if she still remembered (unfortunately she didn't completely) what she meant to say.

The issue is: the boy in the attic.

Many said it is just a humorous non-sequitur, with maybe some social mockery on how television makes people insane. But I strongly believed there was much more and actually in EVERY DNA book I read, NOTHING was present just for humour, especially the Dirk Gently ones. I LOVE how he manages to close all the loops previously opened, although I agree with many of you that he commonly did this too in a hurry - probably because of the deadlines, I also agree.
So, in this usenet post, this clever girl instead of answering to the question: what the heck is this boy, suggested to remember the name of the Anstey group, which is Pugilism and the Third Autistic Cuckoo.
My guess is that the boy could then be the Third (together with Pain and Anstey?)Autistic (routinary, tv-only etc.) Cuckoo (both for mad AND because he lives in the attic?), and the pugilism should justify his ability in breaking Dirk's nose with a very single punch.
But, even if this was correct (which I am not sure of), did this boy appeared as a consequence of a contract? Or is it the corresponding event to something appeared in Asgard (I LOVE Whaleo's assumption of the Draycott being the human corresponding of Toe Rag and the Green Monster, which makes LOTS of sense now for me)?

Do you want to share your thought on this?

Last edited by EBow70; 12-06-2012 at 12:02 PM..
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  #36  
Old 12-06-2012, 12:58 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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I find it interesting that folks are tying the God of Guilt to Thor and his guilt over the stone count. I had always just assumed that events had coalesced to form a new god and that a God of Guilt fit the tenor of our times. Gods are supposed to be created from the minds of humans after all.

I had also taken the boy in the attic in sort of the same way. Here we have a contract with the gods, which in past times would have been used to make marvels, at least according to the old stories. Only now it's used to get:

- a well planned and comfortable life income,
- a best seller or two,
- other entertainment business deals, and finally
- a hit record.

And the people who receive these gifts do not necessarily derive any lasting benefit from them. Anstey in particular, which is fitting since he is the one left holding the hot potato. Dirk describes his house as "Thoul-leth"*

How is that soul-lessness to be shown? We have a physical description of the house, a description of Anstey's record collection, and Dirk's pronouncement. That's not much. Unless we add in the boy, who is extremely disconnected from the world (one kind of souless) and who has been driven out of the main part of the house and is living up in the attic, as far from the center as possible (leaving the center of the home with no living soul in it).

I came away with a sense that there was a modern kind of dysfunction and disconnection that created a void that not even the power of a god could fill.

* soul-less (he's trying to talk around a broken nose)
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  #37  
Old 12-07-2012, 03:30 AM
Seanette Seanette is offline
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I'm starting to feel like I'm back in high school English class, over-analyzing a book to death and sucking all the actual entertainment out of it.
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  #38  
Old 12-07-2012, 03:44 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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Yeah. Sometimes a suffusion of yellow is just a suffusion of yellow.
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  #39  
Old 12-08-2012, 04:40 PM
EBow70 EBow70 is offline
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Wall I'm not English, so i never over-analyzed any book For this one the first reading was pure entertainment (it was also one of the first I've read in English), and then something remained unanswered pushing the second reading etc. Same happened in the Holistic Agency and I was so surprised that almost all the details apparently placed just for fun actually were connected so smartly. I've also bought the Italian edition to see if reading it in my mother tongue could provide details or concepts lost because of my poor English, but it didn't help.
So, glad of you could be of service
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:10 PM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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I'm starting to feel like I'm back in high school English class, over-analyzing a book to death and sucking all the actual entertainment out of it.
With apologies to Isaac Asimov for tweaking the quote:

Dissecting a book is like dissecting a cat. At the end, it's dead, and maybe you've learned something.
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  #41  
Old 12-10-2012, 04:54 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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The Boy in the Attic

Okay, try this one on...going with the theory that there are mortal equivalents to the world of the gods, the boy in the attic is Odin. Odin is introduced in the chapter immediately following the one about the boy (similar to the Draycotts and Toe Rag and the GEM meeting their vehicular fates close together at the end). There are several parallels to their living arrangements - both near a window, sprawled comfortably, only getting up to walk the few steps to the bathroom, fixated on nothing but totally zoning out (sleeping or tv) and having terrible smiting power far greater than their appearance suggests.

Also, as his only son, you would think the boy would have been lavished with gifts and attention and love, but since Antsey was so focused on success and money he had just shuffled him off up to the attic and stopped thinking about him or seeing him, yet still the boy lived on. Similarly, the once worshiped gods were ignored and became torpid. (The boy lives in the small cramped attic even though Dirk sees a perfectly good unused bedroom down at the bottom of the rickety white stairway to the heavens. The description mentions a chest that had been "revived by being plunged into a vat of acid" - maybe some kind of allusion to hippies and LSD based 'spirituality' that supplanted the gods?)

Perhaps "Bob", the burly cop they call in to sort him out when he's striking out at people is Thor, who gets swatted away, and the one who comes in the van with the calming portable TV is Standish from Woodshead, or perhaps Nurse Bailey. (they mention specifically he arrives in a van, and the only other mention of vans I remember in the book is the discreet grey transport van Odin takes when he travels to and from Woodshead.

This sets up an interesting commentary, in that everything about the boy's den of repose is dark, squalid, cheap and soulless, Odin's rest is all perfect cleanliness and light and crisp smooth sheets. Odin has a picturesque fruit bowl he never eats and the boy is constantly shovelling down Pot Noodle. The boy's whole world has become nothing but television and random unfulfilling consumerism (the scattered objects of desire cut from magazines and stuck to the walls).

Glad you got something out of it, Ebow. The Pugilism and the Third Autistic Cuckoo is interesting. I think I can see it both ways. The leader of the group (Pain, which seems like both a likely name for a rock star and a likely piece of some kind of underlying metaphor) says there's an interesting story behind the name (but, Dirk says, it turned out not to be, since the story he gave was "It can mean whatever people want it to mean") I think it might just be another example of how art and music, once inspired by or dedicated to the gods, or composed with some kind of message or emotion in mind, has possibly become just a random, acid-fueled dadaist flailing about, with no real deeper meaning derived or intended, written to sell and make money, and definitely not "divinely" inspired.

The Asimov quote reminded me of a Robert Heinlein quote, that might be just as appropriate here: "Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig."

[One other thing I just noticed - I thought the hospital was just named Woodshead so he could make the "something nasty in the woodshed" joke. But the sickness that kills the gods is the onx, the giving up the will to live and lying down until a tree grows out of their head. And that's basically what Odin is doing...at Woodshead.]
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  #42  
Old 12-20-2012, 05:14 PM
EBow70 EBow70 is offline
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Boy-Odin could be a good one, this would also incorporate the fact that his house is soulless...as Odin is after selling his immortal soul.
Still struggling however to understand the reference (if any,after all) to the name of the band.

Anotherd doubt i have is about the whole hot potato thing: i will try to recap mixing book explicit admissions and my guesses.

The Draycott sign a contract where they have to guarantee to Odin assistance in Woodshead and in change they gain his power (or is soul?) which they decide to divide and resell. Toe Rag, I suppose because is evil, inserts this hot potato clause: after a certain time the owner of the contract will die.
1. Is this correct? What is the whole "SUBTOTAL" thing?

Draycott recognize the clause and quickly pass the contract on to some other guy.
2. So the owner of the contract gains Odin power (thus they all have success) but is in danger of death? This would mean that it was not Draycott choice to split Odin powers but it was forced by the hot potato clause?

Eventually anstey gets the hot potato and, probably, when he receives the coontract he is warned and Pain "overhears" these words and makes a song out of it. He credits Anstey because of the overheard conversation, and it`s at this point that Anstey realize he`s in danger and contacts Dirk.
3. So anstey is not part of the band? He just gets the money out of this song? Does anstey wants dirk to protect him or does he wants to pass the hot potato to Dirk?

Would you please share your thoughts ?
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:22 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Pug Cuckoo

I think the Draycott's kept the contract (or maybe the only copy was the one Odin kept in Norway). The subtotal is not in the contract, but in a bill for his "legal" services that Toe Rag gave to Draycott. Not sure exactly what they mean by a tricky subtotal - maybe something along the lines of several basic financial charges (that Draycott wasn't worried about finding a way to pay) somehow adding up to a human life or soul, to be collected by the Green Eyed Monster. So he had someone he had helped with his Odin-power (or sold the power to after he had what he wanted) take the bill off his hands, and it was passed from next to next down the line.

Anstey, a record executive, overheard a discussion about it, and passed lyrics on to Pugilism and the 3rd Autistic Cuckoo, one of the bands he was working with, and it became a hit, and he got a writing credit for his contribution. Dirk guesses that Anstey sold his soul to the green-eyed monster in exchange for a share of the profits from a hit record. But then, having gotten what he wanted (and perhaps not enjoyed it as much as he thought he would, perhaps because selling his soul led to his wife leaving, an alienated son, and a soul-less house), he didn't arrange to pass it off to someone else before the deadline, and wound up being the one holding the potato when the Big One comes.
Seems pretty much everyone on the list went from being a promising, if poor creative type, to a rich but soulless and sleazy type who was very successful but no longer produced anything good.

I think once Draycott got the power and got the money and security he wanted out of it, since his intention was to never be bothered by the problems of money and power again for his wife's sake, I think he may have "hired" Toe Rag and/or the Green Eyed Monster to sell off the rest and keep a portion of the profits streaming back to him to pay for Odin's linen and things. Those duties (and possibly helping to broker the deal and transfer of power from Odin in the first place) are the services that Toe Rag presents his "bill" for.

The Hot Potato Clause may have been a way Toe Rag was trying to get Odin's soul to revert back to him by killing off the Draycotts. Maybe the Subtotal thing was something along the lines of they sold their souls (and promised to keep Odin in Woodshead) in exchange for Odin's soul. Maybe they thought it was a good deal because they didn't have souls to begin with, but Toe Rag somehow subtotalled it in a way that made the final total both their souls (or perhaps, written "all the souls you possess", which would have included Odin's soul as well. )
Not sure the exact terms and arrangements are important, or if they can be derived from the text. Think it was just the basic Faustian bargain - worldly success for a given term of time, then the monster comes for your soul. Draycott thought he could get out of it by making it into a pyramid scheme, and passing it on until it was the one at the bottom of the pyramid who had to pay his soul for all the others.
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Old 12-21-2012, 12:26 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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That's exactly how I understood it, too.
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  #45  
Old 12-21-2012, 11:07 AM
EBow70 EBow70 is offline
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Thanks Whaleo for your extensive explanations... now it makes much more sense and I should probably re-read the book in Italian in order to catch everything I did not understand that the Draycott contract and the Toe Rag bill were actually two different things. I was probably mislead by the fact that Draycott asserts that the Odin power is subdivided into many people and, at the same time, all the people that get the hot potato become rich and successful. So it turns out that the things are not connected, right? They are not the same people?

Still it seems strange that, after Anstey heard about this thing, he himself gets the hot potato?


PS:As for the boy in the attic, I found a review on Amazon which somehow confirms that it is one of the unresolved puzzles (unless the Boy-Odin equation works):
" The only thing I felt was left unresolved, though Adams's resolutions are typically one to two pages and sometimes leaving you wanting, was what happened to Geoff Anstey's son who was spellbound and remarkably violent in his TV watching. Perhaps it was just meant to be funny, but it seemed like it should have more of a role in the book. Other than that small distraction, the book actually tends to stay mostly on track (other than Kate's trip to the mental hospital and the characters she meets there)."
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  #46  
Old 12-21-2012, 02:32 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Comeuppance

Draycott's language and Dirk's guesses make the exact mechanism a little unclear. Hard to say how much the power is being sold to people just starting out who use it and then make it big, versus how much it's sold to people who are already big (and thus maybe have the money to "buy" it) who then go on to make it mega-big in a soulless way (their soul perhaps being part of the price). But either way, as part of their obligation to the person who sold it to them (or, if Toe Rag was the agent, the people who let them in on the secret), they're obligated to take over responsibility for the Hot Potato bill.

So Anstey either overheard/was told about the hot potato and didn't understand it, or he was distracted or didn't realize the deadline was so soon, or didn't have time to find someone else to buy it off him, or couldn't get anyone to buy it if they knew it was about to run out...OR...maybe the owner of his record label, one of the previous names on the list, had somehow slipped it to him, maybe hidden in the back of that gold record when he presented it to him or something. Maybe Anstey had the power, but didn't know he had, so instead of becoming some kind of world-class rich business magnate or something, he merely unknowingly fulfilled his current, short term goal of having one of the bands he was working with have a hit song and he get some of the money. Then the monster showed up seemingly out of nowhere demanding payment within 24 hours or something and he freaked out and ran to Dirk hoping he could help him understand it and get out of it.

Just guessing, but it's an interesting idea. Could also be that most of the others at least started with some kind of talent and drive and were creative enough to use the power in a way that brought them quick success, but that Anstey was just a record company middleman who didn't "deserve their place on the ladder" as Draycott says, so he held onto it overlong while trying to find a way to achieve the kind of success everybody else had.

I think the boy might be just supposed to be an example of the type of person who was created by growing up in a world dominated by the art, culture and business ethics of all these unwise godlings using their soulless power with no benevolence or care, only after personal gain. A symptom of Anstey's neglect of everything but using the works of a once-noble Muse to get money at any cost.
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  #47  
Old 12-21-2012, 03:05 PM
Whaleo Whaleo is offline
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Visit to the Clinic

The people Kate meets in the clinic are just like the boy - completely overwhelmed and obsessed with the minutiae of stocks and money and celebrity to the exclusion of all their own personality or ability to engage with and contribute to the world. The last woman is actually doing something productive, (science and physics writing) but is supposedly drawing it all from great minds now long dead, in a way that hints at the existence of the supernatural, the afterlife, and things outside of cold science.

And that scene is tied to a chicken and egg problem. Perhaps Douglas Adams was trying to explore the question of whether everyone is addicted to money and entertainment because of the way the world is, or if the world is the way it is because everyone is addicted to money and entertainment. But in all cases it is as if these elements have been forced on people by seemingly super-natural means, maybe a by-product of the ways Odin's power has been used.
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