back to article Weekend reads: Douglas Adams' bio in The Frood, The Bone Clocks and Harry Partch, Hobo Composer

El Reg bookworm Mark Diston reviews the latest rivetting reads. David Mitchell, no not that one, beguiles with yet another world of magic and mystery, while Jem Roberts tries not to panic as he explores the life and works of Douglas Adams. Ever wondered where the stranger ideas of American music came from? S. Andrew Granade says …

  1. Vociferous


    I'd never heard of Harry Partch, but I followed the Youtube links and... well, I can't say I like art music, but I do hear echoes of Tom Waits in his songs, and I now know where the inspiration for odd atonal music in artsy European 60's movies came from. Interesting, the more you know, etc.

    Douglas Adams: I love HHTTG. It is the only book which has made me unable to resist laughing out loud, which was pretty awkward as I read it on the commuter train home each evening, and was an insecure teen. Sadly I think the movie killed the book for later generations, sucks to be them I guess.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime - The Bone Clocks

    The current BBC Radio 4 "Book at Bedtime" is "The Bone Clocks" - abridged over three weeks. The first week has just finished and is on the Radio iPlayer for four weeks. Geographic restrictions (outside the EU?) probably apply.

    1. Martin
      Thumb Up

      The Bone Clocks and David Mitchell

      The Bone Clocks was long-listed for the Booker Prize - perhaps the fantasy bits were a bit too off-the-wall for the judges, as they didn't short list it, to my disappointment.

      However, Cloud Atlas was short-listed, and I thoroughly recommend it. I think it's better than The Bone Clocks. What is interesting about David Mitchell is the way that hist books intertwine - not just within themselves, but with each other. Just one example - Marinus in The Bone Clocks also turns up in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

      Which is a complicated way of saying - yes - read the rest of his books - they are wonderful !

  3. BryceP

    Judging a book by its excerpts

    So if the Jem Roberts book had been judged by its first 15 pages it would have been insufferable, yet cherry-picked excerpts are trustworthy enough to judge a book by?

    That's sort of like saying the first 20 minutes of 2001 are boring yet the trailer for 2010 is amazing and thus it's a great movie.

  4. Hargrove

    Outstanding choices for reviews. Will have to read them to pass judgment on the reviews themselves.

    Harry Partch is definitely on the Must Read list for any would be singer/songwriter.


    1. Hargrove

      Should have listened to the YouTube video first. Still on the Must Read list, if only to try to learn what would make someone do something like that.

      Obscurity is not always undeserved.

  5. Frankee Llonnygog


    Didn't even know this book existed. It's just shot to the top of my To Read list. For anyone who comes to Partch for the first time - and likes what they hear - see also Moondog. Another true original

    Mr Diston - your page is required weekend reading for me. Many thanks

  6. David Given

    And Another Thing?

    ...has anyone actually read it? What's it like?

    My only encounter with it was three minutes of it being read on Radio 4. It totally failed to grab me and I found myself simply not caring. Given that as a child I more or less read the books weekly and could recite them on demand, I found this a bit sad. Is it worth trying?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And Another Thing...

      It isn't very good. The kindest thing I have heard said about it is that it reads more like fanfiction than an attempt to write Adams. There are a couple of good ideas in it (making the Guide look like it is channeling Wikipedia is one), but not enough to carry the book.

    2. Stuart Moore

      Re: And Another Thing?

      I got to the end, but no real desire to re-read. Meanwwhile i have re read H2G2 many times. I missed the clever wordplay mainly.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank you

    for the unexpected review of a book about Harry Partch. I haven't read this latest book, but it'd have to be really good to be better than Bob Gilmore's Harry Partch - A Biography.

    My favourite quote by Harry Partch is something along the lines of - the experience a classically trained musician has of playing one of my instruments is rather like that of a sailor spending a night in a whorehouse on his way back home to his wife after a long sea voyage.

  8. stuartnz

    Almost, but not quite entirely, unlike

    the reaction of the reviewer I, to borrow Arthur's words, "actually quite liked it." I definitely agree that the author tried a bit too hard to write like Adams in the first few pages of the book, but "after a while the style settles down a bit and it begins to tell you things you really need to know". I wasn't looking for an in depth biography, it was the analysis and background to the work that interested me most.

    I was somewhat horrified to learn for example, that the towel I bought from ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha on signing up as teen in 1983 (and paying a ridiculous amount for after conversion from sterling, and shipping all the way up here to NZ), was one of only a couple of thousand made. Now I sort of wish it didn't look quite so much like a 30 year old towel!

    I think the book achieved what it set out to do, and the author made repeated references to the other biographies available, so that readers looking for a more familiar personal focus could find it elsewhere. I certainly don't regret buying it, and I think most fans would feel the same.

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