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SA4QE - The Slickman A4 Quotation Event
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What is there to tell you? he said to an unknown audience in his mind. What’s the difference who I am or if I am? The audience shifted in their seats, yawned. All right, said Kleinzeit, let me put it this way: you read a book, and in the book there’s this man sitting in his room all alone. Right? The audience nodded. Right, said Kleinzeit. But he isn’t really alone, you see. The writer is there to tell about it, you’re there to read about it. He’s not alone the way I’m alone. You’re not alone when there’s somebody there to see it and tell about it. Me, I’m alone. What else is new? said the audience. Possibility of nothing this evening, clearing towards morning, said a weather report. Let me put it this way, said Kleinzeit. This will bring us down to fundamentals: I have a Gillette Techmatic razor. The blade is a continuous band of steel, and after every five shaves I wind it to the next number. Number one is the last, which is of course significant, yes? Then I stay on number one for ten, fifteen shaves maybe, before I get a new cartridge. I ask myself why. There you have it, eh? The audience had left, the empty seats yawned at him. Kleinzeit got out of the train, poured into the morning rush in the corridor. Among the feet he saw a sheet of yellow paper, A4 size, on the floor, unstepped-on. He picked it up. Clean on both sides. He put it in his attaché case. He rode up on the escalator, looking up the skirt of the girl nine steps above him. Bottom of the morning, he said to himself.
Hoban, Russell (2015-05-12). Kleinzeit (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) (p. 8). Valancourt Books. Kindle Edition.
The Slickman A4 Quotation Event ("SA4QE") began in 2002 as a fun way for Russell Hoban fans to share their favourite quotes with the world. Since then over 400 quotations have been posted in phone boxes, on park benches, on lion monuments, in bookshops and museums, as well as on social media.. Read more about SA4QE: ttp://russellhoban.org/sa4qe
Having taken part in SA4QE since it first started, and used a great number of quotes from Russell Hoban's books, this year I thought I'd share a passage from an interview that Russ gave in 1995 and which has only recently come to light. James Carter interviewed Hoban for his masters dissertation on The Mouse and His Child, and it lay dormant until it was submitted to russellhoban.org last November. It's one of the best Hoban interviews I've read. The passage I quoted today struck home with me in particular because I've recently started writing in earnest again after many years of not-writing. When I first discovered Hoban, via the brilliant 1987 novella The Medusa Frequency, I was a teenage poet with aspirations to a literary life. Now nearly 30 years later, my writing career didn't quite work out as I'd hoped, although inbetween times I variously wrote a couple of unpublished novels, a handful of published poems and met Russell Hoban a number of times. My first encounter with him was at a reading he gave at the Richmond literary festival in 1999 to promote his novel Angelica's Grotto. I wrote to him after that with a poem I'd written and he wrote back almost immediately on his trademark yellow paper. I don't have the letter to hand but he said words to the effect of "I remember you well from the reading - you had the pale, determined face of someone who sticks with things and gets things done". This was very good of him, although I didn't stick with the writing quite tenaciously enough. Having recently rediscovered my love of writing though, I realise it's not going too far to say that this is always what I was meant to be doing, and that I probably needn't have struggled with style and subject so much in those early years since what turns out to interest me most is, unsurprisingly now, "the unwordable that happens off the page" as Russ once put it. That's not to say that it's not possible to write it, but rather to look at the world in a different way and write what you see and what interests you, whatever it is and even if it's not the straight reality that most of our lives inhabit. So at the same time as I was rediscovering my writing mojo, this wonderful interview emerged, with this passage.
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.
This is some of the best creative writing advice I've ever read. I may not, actually, manage to do some writing every day, but it makes writing seem a possible thing to do, which is exactly what you need when you're trying to get your head around a creative project as well as juggle the rest of life's demands.
Read the full interview: http://russellhoban.org/essay/nutrition-for-the-eyes-an-interview-with-r...
As last year I took my yellow paper out to the river with my girlfriend Katy, who also took part, although she outdid me on the quote quantity. I stuck my quotation on the local village notice board underneath a notice advertising a local "pre-Valentine's Day market". On the other side of the notice board were more signs of village activity, including a splendid one advertising "East Anglia Potato Day". I think Russ would have liked something about that.
Russell Hoban called Turtle Diary his “gateway novel.” It was that for me when I found it in a Bethesda, Maryland, used bookstore one day. Since then, it has been joined by many other Hoban books, but it still is my favorite. Every time I reread it, I make new discoveries. With language Russ was an adventurer and a guide, too. He was a pearl-diver.
That trains mostly stay on rails, that the streets are mostly peaceful, that the square continues green and quiet below my window is more than I have any right to expect, and it happens every day.
I printed a dozen copies, leaving one on the southbound tube train that took me to Clapham Common, another on a park bench, and a couple more at a bus stop I walked past. A couple more I tucked into newspapers at cafes near my place of work, and another in a phone box - not that anyone much uses these nowadays, except for non-telephonic purposes. After work I left another on the train that took me back to Elephant and Castle - noting en route that the park bench copy was still there, although thumbed; left in situ I hope in a spirit of generosity rather than indifference. The copy in the phone kiosk was still there two days later, before at last disappearing. It's good to be back.