Happy birthday, Russell Hoban

I am part of a group called The Kraken, who are fans of novelist Russell Hoban (1925-2011). Every year on his birthday, February 4, the Kraken a great thing:

Each of us writes a Hoban quotation on yellow paper (yellow A4 paper figures in his books). Then we leave the paper in a public place—a bar, a bookstore, anywhere—and take a picture of it. The photos and quotations get posted to blogs, websites, and social media outlets.

As far as I know we are the only fans in the world who honor a writer this way.

This  is my 2014 quotation:

Dr Jim Long was born in Pennsylvania, and sometimes when his mind is pedalling in busy circles he recalls a thing from his youth. He recalls a drink of water from a mountain spring in the Appalachians. He was hot and sweaty and tired when he came upon a stone trough with water flowing into it from an iron pipe. Cold sparkling mountain water filling the trough from an iron pipe that was beaded with droplets of condensation. There were leaves and sand and tiny crayfish in the bottom of the trough. He plunged his face into the water and drank the best drink he would ever have in his life. The leaves of the trees were stirring in the summer breeze. Everything was more than itself.

—Russell Hoban, Angelica Lost and Found, 2010

To find out more about this celebration and the man who is the reason for it, go to www.russellhoban.org

Russell Hoban, a memory

Yesterday, February 4, 2013, was Russell Hoban’s birthday; he would have been 88.  He began as a successful children’s author in his native USA, then moved to London and reinvented himself as a novelist for adults. His books have lingering effects.

This is what he has to say about his own work:

The real reality, the flickering of seen and unseen actualities, the moment under the moment, can’t be put into words; the most that a writer can do—and this is only rarely achieved—is to write in such a way that the reader finds himself in a place where the unwordable happens off the page.

In January 2011, I published my first Huffington Post piece, titled “Russell Hoban: A Great American Writer.”  That was an audition blog—the one that determined whether I would get blogging privileges.

About two months later he contacted me via a Yahoo newsgroup I belong to called the Kraken, who are fans of Hoban’s work. His daughter in Connecticut had read the Huff Post piece. He wanted to talk to me, he said. Would I call him at his London home?

I thought it would be a short conversation, but it was a long one. We talked about writing and books; he gave me title after title, and author after author. I scrawled the names on scrap paper, which I still have.

He was 86 and had a number of health problems (he would die in December of that year). On the phone, however, he sounded  like a man of thirty—both in his tone of voice and in his enthusiasm. That is how I will remember him.

In the words of blogger Christine Bissonnette: “Screw time and all its rules.”

Since 2002, fans around the world have celebrated Russell Hoban’s birthday by writing lines from his novels on yellow paper and leaving the paper in various places to be found by strangers. (Yellow writing paper figures in his first novel Kleinzeit.)

Coming upon a Hoban line unexpectedly is in my opinion the best way to discover him. You can see some striking examples here.