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Literature: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
aka: The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
"...it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in ... as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul..."
is Douglas Adams
's 1988 sequel to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
. It deals with multiple dimensions, Norse Gods, refrigerators, murder and record company contracts.
It can be seen as a comedy/mystery/science fiction.
It was adapted into a radio serial for BBC 4 in 2008. The radio series takes a few liberties, but stays mainly close to the source material and clears up a few of the more confusing plot points.
Followed by The Salmon of Doubt (unfinished)
- The Alleged Car: Kate's CitroŽn 2CV is the Trope Namer — at one point she's in court for a traffic mishap (her car threw a wheel and nearly caused an accident) and a police officer refers to it as "the alleged car", and the name sticks.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the context of a Listing The Forms Of Degenerates line about King's Cross Station.
[T]hings you could have removed while you waited were your wallet, your stomach lining, your mind and your will to live. The muggers and pushers and pimps and hamburger salesmen, in no particular order, could arrange all these things for you. [...] If you wanted quick sex or a quick fix or, God help you, a hamburger, that was where you went to get it.note
- Baleful Polymorph: Thor does this by accident when he's angry, thus setting off the events of the novel. His many unfortunate victims include a lamp, an airline ticket clerk, and a fighter jet.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Dirk's favorite way of getting places he shouldn't be.
- Big, Badass Bird of Prey: The eagle, a bird of prey which is not what it seems.
- The Chew Toy: Dirk, who gets his nose broken and his body pummeled by an enraged boy, has his broken nose yanked straight by a nurse without anesthesia, is nearly run over by a bus and a cyclist and then actually run over by a motorcycle, rear-ends other vehicles twice after himself being run off the road, bangs his head on the steps, tears his coat jumping out a window, had his hand stabbed and his nose (again) slashed by a huge eagle, was attacked and nearly mauled by a second eagle, and gets whammed at least fifty-seven times by his own conscience. And that's not even mentioning the destruction of his house.
- Chekhov's Armoury: The Dirk Gently books embody this trope really because they are all about the interconnectedness of everything. Chekov's Armoury isn't just a device Adams used, it's what he based the whole book on. Norse Gods and a somewhat popular song are involved in the apparent suicide by beheading of some dude. Also, Dirk's non-working fridge? That has something to do with it as well: By way of providing a very literal Deus ex Machina.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Said to apply to the gods, even as regards their own powers.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: One of the most contrived explanations for a "suicide" that has ever been committed to print. Admittedly this was to satisfy the police, who were pointedly not interested in the idea that the victim had been killed by a goblin as part of a demonic contract. It's a case of Take Our Word for It, as it's never explained in detail to the reader, but it involves a lot of Noodle Implements.
- Deal with the Devil: Long Dark Tea-Time centers around this. The kicker: the devil is trying to help Odin get out of an even nastier advertising deal.
- Deus ex Machina: The ending of the book, while appropriate, neatly finishes all the plot threads in about five pages. Also slightly subverted: In the process of solving all the plot problems, the Deus Ex Machina also puts a massive hole in Dirk's house. In The Salmon of Doubt, it's still a problem.
- Ear Worm: "Hot Potato," an in-universe pop song.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: The Norse Gods have not been doing well since the world decided it didn't need them.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Pugilism and the Third Autistic Cuckoo".
"It can mean whatever you want it to mean."
- Impossibly Mundane Explanation: When Dirk hears about a girl who repeatedly recites the previous day's stock quotes, he rejects the assumption that she's just memorizing them somehow (after all, the information is out there!) in favor of some more mystical explanation, because nobody would ever go to that much trouble. It's a little different since he's arguing on the basis of general human nature, not specific character, but the principle is the same. Dirk sums this up by reversing Sherlock Holmes' usual maxim: Eliminate the improbable, and whatever remains, however impossible, must be the truth.
- It Came from the Fridge: Dirk and his cleaning lady absolutely refuse to open his fridge, and try to trick others into opening it. He eventually has to call a fence to take his fridge away and replace it with a brand new, stolen one, which he vows never to use. The old one has a god of Guilt burst from it to resolve the plot, in a Deus ex Machina.
- It Can Think: Dirk has quite a shock when he peeks through the keyhole at the eagle and sees it looking back at him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Whatever Dirk claims to believe in order to extract cash from gullible people invariably turns out to really be true, but always in such a way that he looks bad, sometimes in such a way that he suffers physical or emotional trauma, and never in such a way that he gets the money.
- Listing The Forms Of Degenerates: See Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking.
- Necktie Leash: Kate uses this one on Dirk, who subverts a repeated use by taking off his tie and handing it to her.
- Never Heard That One Before:
"I'm a private detective."
"Oh?" said Kate in surprise, and then looked puzzled.
"Does that bother you?"
"It's just that I have a friend who plays the double bass."
"I see," said Dirk.
"Whenever people meet him and he's struggling around with it, they all say the same thing, and it drives him crazy. They all say, 'I bet you wished you played the piccolo.' Nobody ever works out that that's what everybody else says. I was just trying to work out if there was something that everybody would always say to a private detective so that I could avoid saying it."
"No. What happens is that everybody looks very shifty for a moment, and you got that very well."
- Also, everyone and their dog keeps asking Dirk if he knows his nose is broken.
- 90% of Your Brain : Kate, shortly before awakening from a coma in a hospital, has a dream in which her mind is represented by an infinite collection of cabin trunks, of which ten percent contain past memories, and the remaining ninety percent contain penguins. She assumes this trope is in effect.
- Norse Mythology: "'An Act of God.' But which god and why?"
- Not-So-Phony Psychic: Dirk's attempt to make some easy money as a gypsy fortune teller (in drag) goes wrong when the random mystical nonsense he spouts turns out to be uncomfortably accurate.
- Occult Detective: Not exclusively, but Gently is definitely this when he has to be.
- Overcomplicated Menu Order: When Kate wants to discharge herself from the hospital and isn't allowed, she convinces the hospital they want her to leave by attempting to get a pizza delivered, something she knows is impossible in London. At one point she tries to get a motorbike courier firm to order and collect "an American Hot with a list of additional peppers and mushrooms and cheeses which the controller of the courier service refused even to attempt to remember".
- Self-Deprecation: A minor character is a writer named Howard Bell. It is stated that his writing is absolutely horrible, but he remains wildly popular and successful for two reasons: he deliberately cultivates an air of freakish mystery, and his name is perfect for a book cover because the first name is long and the last name is short. On his books, his first name is written in a medium-sized blocky font followed by his last name in a larger font, so that his name fills out the cover and upstages the title. Bell is probably a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Stephen King, but still, it's funny to see that character created by someone named Douglas Adams.
- Stalker Without A Crush: Dirk explains that he will pick a random car to follow if he gets lost while he's driving. He finds that while he seldom gets where he intended, he always ends up where he needed to be.
- Sticky Situation: Thor finds himself in a particularly-humiliating one.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The elderly lady who witnesses Thor's battle with the eagle on Primrose Hill simply resumes walking her dog as soon as the combatants move out of the way.