For better or worse, the title of Khloé Kardashian’s reality show: Revenge Body (which I’m seeing advertised on the sides of transit buses) makes me think of slobbering, batlike creatures bent on killing tea-drinking Brits, rather than either curvaceous Kardashians or empowering makeovers.
Like so much of my sense of the absurd, I can thank the late author Douglas Adams for this.
That’s because my first (and apparently indelible) exposure to the term “revenge body” came in the early 1980s, in a hilariously biting scene in one of Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels.
Vanity Fair in 2017—usually so deft where the handling of celebrity culture is concerned—credits the origins of the term to the tabloid press, circa 2010, reporting on the breakup of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.
After the divorce of Hollywood’s former first couple, it was said that Aniston had a “revenge body”—fit to make her ex-husband jealous.
But way back in 1982—decades before Jennifer and Brad had even set eyes on each other—British author Douglas Adam memorably used the term in his satirical science fiction novel Life, the Universe and Everything—book three of famously-five-volume Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (1979-1992), variously adapted for radio, television, film, and the Commodore 64 computer.
Whether Adams invented, or lifted the term from the British tabloid press of the late 1970s, I cannot say; either way he certainly helped launch it into global usage.
Agrajag’s last body could be described as a “makeover”
Agrajag was tormented both by an awareness of the many times he had been reincarnated and a certainty that each and every time, he had been done in by the same individual: Arthur Dent, a mild-mannered fellow, entirely unaware of his alleged existential murder spree.
When both the reader and Arthur Dent first meet him, Agrajag explains that he has returned to this mortal coil one last time and in one last “revenge body”, to confront and do away with the agent of his many demises—one of which he recounts to an incredulous Dent:
“I was at a cricket match,” he rasped.
This seemed on the face of it such a preposterous notion that Arthur practically choked.
“Not in this body,” screeched the creature, “not in this body! This is my last body. My last life. This is my revenge body. My kill-Aurthur-Dent body. My last chance. I had to fight to get it, too.”
“I was at,” roared Agrajag, “a cricket match! I had a weak heart condition, but what, I said to my wife, can happen to me at a cricket match? As I’m watching, what happens?
“Two people quite maliciously appear out of thin air just in front of me. The last thing I can’t help but notice before my poor heart gives out in shock is that one of them is Arthur Dent wearing a rabbit bone in his beard.”
The rabbit bone had belonged to a rabbit on prehistoric Earth that Arthur had brained to make a pouch (to hold interesting stones, we are told).
Naturally the rabbit had been Agrajag in a previous life.
So had an oyster and a somewhat luckless bowl of petunias that had crossed Dent’s path.
Agrajag’s plight was so enormously pathetic (and yet, really funny) that readers could only sympathize with him (and laugh) and perhaps hope that he finally caught a break and lucked into some lives worth living, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
As for Khloé Kardashian, who knows if she thinks she is the reincarnation of anyone.