SA4QE - The Slickman A4 Quotation Event 2015

SA4QE 2015 - Yvonne Studer - Zürich, Switzerland

SA4AE 2015
This year I felt a bit nostalgic and sad on Russ's birthday. So, rather than to venture out into the cold, I decided to stay at home and share my quotation only on Facebook (and here). In a note, I added the story of how I visited Russ for the very first time. After printing out the quotation on yellow paper and taking a photo of it placed next to one of the beautiful illustrations in a new edition of the book it came from I made it my Facebook cover photo.

"The real thing is always more than you're ready for."

When I visited Russell Hoban for the very first time in about 1990, I was frightened and full of doubt about what I was doing. I had written an M.A. thesis about his novels for adults and sent it to him. He read it, sent back a detailed response in which he had even timed his commentaries, and finally invited me to come to his house and talk to him.

It took a while before I dared to accept the invitation. It also took some time and a lot of scrimping and saving before I could afford to buy a ticket from Zurich to London. But as I wanted to turn my M.A. thesis into a doctoral dissertation, I knew I couldn’t let that opportunity go. So I pulled myself together and wrote another letter to accept the invitation.

After thinking of a set of questions I was going to ask him and buying a small tape recorder so as not to miss anything I flew to London. I was 26 years old then and felt like a fairy-tale character embarking on a dangerous quest. I arrived a bit late, having got lost in Fulham, but Russell Hoban was kind. He offered me wine and readily took part in my Q&A game. However, somehow I felt disappointed because he didn't answer those questions I was most interested in but only those he had answered in almost the same words in interviews I had read. Now that I am older I understand him very well. At the time, though, it didn’t occur to me that a famous person could feel just as scared to talk about private subjects as I was scared to talk to him. When I left, I knew that I had missed the chance to really get to know my favourite writer, for his invitation to talk to him hadn’t been an invitation to conduct an interview.

It grew even worse, though, for when I sent him the interview, which I had typed up naïvely, unaware that one should transcribe them exactly as they were given and without rearranging questions or editing answers, he wrote back a harsh note to tell me I wasn’t allowed to publish the interview in my dissertation. I felt crushed, especially since I wasn’t aware of what I had done to deserve this rejection.

Anyhow, I didn’t run away but carried on working on my doctoral thesis, striving to improve my skills and my understanding until I was able to submit and then publish it. Since I wanted to show Russell Hoban that I hadn’t used the interview, I sent him a copy of my book without expecting to hear from him. I got a job where I learned how to use the internet and one of the first things I googled for was “Russell Hoban”, and that’s when things began to change.

Why? Because I discovered Dave Awl’s fabulous Head of Orpheus website, the first "official website", became a member of its e-mail discussion group The Kraken, and nearly fainted when Russell Hoban suddenly got in touch with me again in 2002, after reading my doctoral thesis and my contributions to The Kraken. But I was ready then, no longer scared, and I owe him and all my other friends from The Kraken some of the best experiences of my life.

Russ passed in December 2011, I miss him and feel sad that there won’t be any more e-mails from and books by him, but at the same time I am happy that the real thing first showed itself to me through him and that his work continues to touch people all over the world.

Happy Russ’s Birthday, everyone!

Filed under Zürich Switzerland Jim's Lion

SA4QE 2015 - Robert V - Portland, United States

As we ate and drank it seemed to both of us that the evening was shaping nicely. I couldn’t remember a time when I had drawn so well or felt so good; I wondered if I’d ever draw that well and feel that good again. Happiness can be unsettling, like catching a baby that someone has thrown out of a window.

I left this in a Car2Go at the end of an errand. I parked behind another Car2Go. The recursiveness seemed appropriate somehow.

I exist, said the mirror.
What about me? said Kleinzeit.
Not my problem, said the mirror.

A perennial favorite. I didn't notice until later that the first name of the author of the book I stuck the quote into was "Russ."

Filed under Portland United States Amaryllis Night and Day Kleinzeit

SA4QE 2015 - Thoughtcat - Colchester, United Kingdom

I've been taking part in this curious and lovely annual celebration since it started in 2002, and today was the first time I celebrated in tandem. I met my girlfriend Katy on Twitter after we got into a conversation about Russell Hoban, specifically The Medusa Frequency. Two years later we're still crazy about each other, in the full Hobanic sense of the word, although for logistical reasons we're not always able to be in the same city at the same time. This year though we made sure the two of us and SA4QE coincided near her home in a quiet hamlet a few miles downriver from Colchester, "the UK's oldest town".

I was wearing a special SA4QE t-shirt I'd had made years ago with a quotation from The Moment under The Moment on it:

It was a stunning bright winter day - not the sort that Russ himself liked (he was what Bob Dylan might have dubbed a rainy-day man) - on the river Colne. It was very quiet and the river was very high. Katy (her report is here) first posted a quotation from The Moment under The Moment on a lifebuoy stand, and then we walked up a little way to a jetty which had two yellow instructional signs on either side, each with a handy space for our quotations to be taped adjacent. We affixed our respective quotes at the same time. Mine was from The Medusa Frequency, not just our favourite of Hoban's books and the one that brought us together, but the first of his I read, back in the late 1980s. Who would've guessed what that would lead to.

Pressure of work and, ironically, co-curating the Hoban website and Twitter accounts meant I left it late in the day to actually choose my quote. How to pick the perfect passage for this doubly-special occasion from the most romantic (as well as beautiful and lyrical) of novels? I gave myself up to chance, albeit probably by now somewhat de-chanced by my deep personal relationship with the book, and my eyes lighted on this paragraph. I trusted in the idea of it and went with it.

'The world-child has been told that this is a world,' said the head [of Orpheus], 'and it believes it; it is the energy of this belief that binds the world together. The world-child holds in its mind the idea of every single thing: root and stone, tree and mountain, river and ocean and every living thing. The world-child holds in its mind the idea of woman and man, the idea of love.'

It was only when I came to write this later that I realised the quote was perfect for the occasion.

Katy then posted a third quotation, one from Fremder with a personal resonance, on the village notice-board. As we were walking away we noticed a man who had been working on the boat in the background of the photo above reading our quotes by the jetty; he walked away in our direction, smiling, but didn't say anything to us. We then descended on the local Co-op where, under cover of me buying a bag of sugar, Katy secreted strips of yellow paper with a quotation about the meaninglessness of reality amid a variety of groceries. All the while I was singing to myself an adaptation of The Smiths' classic, "Shop-situationists of the world unite..."

Then we went home and tweeted about our yellow-paper excursion.

Later we went back out briefly to see if the lifebuoy quote was still there. When we got there we were struck by the moon - a full moon, low in the sky, smeared with a yellow wash, reflecting over the low-tide mud. It was very cold but we warmed each other up with a hug. In the distance, on the other side of the river, the local commuter train slid home almost silently through the woods, seemingly endless, its yellow windows flickering through the bare trees. The lifebuoy quote was still in place; it was good to think that some great words might be thrown out to save someone having a bad day in the same way you'd throw the lifebuoy out to someone struggling in the river.

We didn't check the other quotes as it was so cold. When we came back we found a local Colchester Twitter account had replied to us about the quotes. This was the first time in my 13 years' experience of SA4QE of anybody finding and commenting on a quotation - the tweet helped, of course, but the tweeter did actually see it in situ, not just online.

Happy birthday, Russ, and thank you again for introducing me to Katy. I owe you one.

Filed under Colchester United Kingdom The Medusa Frequency


SA4QE 2015 on Twitter

The tweets below, all celebrating SA4QE, were archived from 4 February 2015 by Thoughtcat. Some tweets are from the official russellhobanorg account but most are from other users who took part in SA4QE via Twitter. Scroll down within the box to see older tweets. Larger versions of some of these tweets can be seen on this page. Together with the posts on this website, these form a comprehensive record of Russell Hoban quotations shared during SA4QE 2015.