Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #33: Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams by Nick Webb
Wish You Were Here is Nick Webb’s exhaustive (and somewhat exhausting) biography of his good friend Douglas Adams. The first half (or so) of the book was fascinating, reigniting my interest in all things Adams and sending me back to my old copies of the Hitchhiker’s series for reference. The organization of the book was awkward, though, and by the end, I was ready to be done despite my love of the subject.
Instead of proceeding through Douglas’ life chronologically, Webb breaks the biography up into chunks. It begins with his childhood and works forward for a while, and then Webb begins organizing the book by topics. It leads to a lot of asides and circling back later. Most of the book is fascinating, though, and offers a humorous, touching look at a brilliant but deeply strange man. Adams was a giant physically with, according to Webb, a big heart to match. The inside look into Adams’ writing process (and writer’s block) was especially interesting and includes a famous-in-the-publishing-world anecdote about the time an editor had to lock himself and Adams into a hotel room for several days to keep Adams away from distractions long enough for him to finish one of the books. Adams’ private life was fun to read about, too; he apparently threw some monumental parties with very famous musicians just rocking out in the living room. Again, though, the layout was a bit confusing because Webb would talk about, say, Adams’ parties in one section and then his personal life in another section, which led to a lot of “more about that later” asides and, for me, a lot a flipping back to double-check dates in one section with dates in another.
I feel like I’m being a bit too hard on Webb because the book really is interesting. I just wish he’d organized the biography differently so that it wasn’t quite so long and repetitive. Douglas Adams’ life is definitely worth reading about, and Webb’s own love for Adams permeates the book with a sweet nostalgia for the man who, at times almost against his will, gave us some of the most charming and amusing science fiction novels of all time.