Russell Hoban quotations used in SA4QE

This is a list of quotations from Russell Hoban's books used in the annual SA4QE fan event. Click on the novel title for details of that book, or on the "read more" link for details of who chose the quotation and where they left it.

That night the sea-thing child heard the air humming. He looked up at the sky for the star that he always looked at, but it was blotted out. He could not see the star with his eyes, but in the dark of his mind he saw it burning and flickering over the sea. The humming of the air grew louder, and the sea-thing child stepped out of his double circle and faced into the wind. The ocean was high and wild, and the sky and the sea roared together, heaving in the dark.

The sea-thing child spread his wings to keep from falling down, and the wind blew him backwards. He moved forwards against the wind, then he began to run, faster and faster. The beach slipped away under him, he laughed, and flapped his wings and flew up into the storm.

The black man turned and looked at me. "Tortuguero," he said. He said it like a password but made no secret sign. He said it because he needed to say the name aloud just there and then to me. I nodded, felt dizzy.... How did he know that I knew where Tortuguero was? I shall never see the picture.

'For years I have signed and measured and located this point and that point on the face of the earth,' said the surveyor, 'and I have gone back to the same places to find my stakes pulled out as boundaries waver and lose accuracy. I sight and I measure and I plant the stakes again, knowing that they will be pulled out again. It is not only stakes and boundaries that are lost - this is what there is to know about maps, and I tell you what I have paid years to learn: everything that is found is always lost again, and nothing that is found is ever lost again. Can you understand that? You're still a boy, so maybe you can't. Can you understand that?'

Don’t worry about the form, and don’t worry about beginnings, middles and endings, take hold of the thing, wherever you can, whatever of an idea presents itself to you, whether it’s the foot or the elbow, grab it, and work out from there. Don’t expect too much of yourself, but – just as people who are thrifty, and who save money – and don’t wait until they’ve got fifty pounds to put in the bank, but put in a pound, or five pounds, or ten pounds, and it accumulates that way, do something every day. If you can only write a paragraph, do a paragraph. If you can write a page, do a page. A whole story, okay, an idea, okay, notes, whatever – just get into the habit of doing something every day. And, let the ideas develop as they will – don’t require of yourself that you do a whole story or a whole novel, just do whatever you can – every day.

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.

 

London City

I have London, London, London –
all the city, small and pretty,
in a dome that’s on my desk, a little dome.
I have Nelson on his column
and Saint Martin-in-the-Fields
and I have the National Gallery
and two trees,
and that’s what London is – the five of these.

I can make it snow in London
when I shake the sky of London;
I can hold the little city small and pretty in my hand;
then the weather’s fair in London,
in Trafalgar Square in London,
when I put my city down and let it stand.

'That's it,' said Serpentina. 'Nothing is the ultimate truth.'
'Nothing?' said the child.
'Nothing,' repeated Serpentina. ...
'I don't believe it,' said the mouse child. ... 'I wonder what's on the other side of nothing?' he said.
'Tiny upstart!' said Serpentina. 'Who are you to seek the other side of nothing?'
'If I'm big enough to stand in the mud all this time and contemplate infinity,' said the child, 'I'm big enough to look at the other side of nothing.' ...
'Ah,' he said, 'there's nothing on the other side of nothing but us.'

Manny Rat's housewarming was a great success. He had invited the cream of rat society, and all of them attended, twittering and squeaking with high spirits as they climbed the string ladder to the dolls' house. Grizzled old fighters and their plump, respectable wives touched whiskers with gentleman rats grown sleek by cunning and lithe young beauties of vaguely theatrical connection. Debutante rats and dashing young rats-about-town, all the golden youth of the dump, arrived in little laughing groups that achieved the effect of brilliance even in the dark, while doddering dowager rats came escorted by gaunt artistic rats with matted fur, burning eyes, and enormous appetites. Last up the ladder were a scattering of selected social climbers, followed by various hired bravos, obscure ruffians, and cheap hustlers whose good will was worth cultivating.

Ah! said the walls, listening to the footfalls, it’s the silence that we like, the lovely shape of the silence between the shape of the footfalls.

Sometimes in the small hours of the morning, while [X] sleeps peacefully beside me, I sit up in the dark, feeling myself and the world moving from the known to the unknown...

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