80 at 80: 80 reasons why we’re celebrating Russell Hoban’s 80th birthday

Richard Cooper

The Some-Poasyum co-organiser and now russellhoban.org webmaster kicks off a list of 80 reasons why fans love Russell Hoban, who turned 80 shortly before the 2005 convention.

1. He has made big personal sacrifices for his art.

2. He wrote the "Kill Comes Again" parody film poster for Kleinzeit, which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

3. Writing Angelica’s Grotto was very brave.

4. He writes about the things that disturb him as much as the things he loves.

5. When I first wrote to him in 1999 he wrote back within two days with a very encouraging letter. I still have it framed in my flat.

6. He loves London, my home city.

7. He’s not only able to listen to music while he writes, he chooses the records deliberately beforehand to set the scene for what he’s writing.

8. His musical tastes and references range from Mozart to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to Tom Waits to Chopin.

9. He has the brain and personality of a much younger man.

10. He has a beautiful wife and lots of children.

11. He keeps up to date with modern technology — he’s the ultimate silver-surfer.

12. He likes young people and encourages them.

13. The Medusa Frequency came out when I was 16 and was one of the first books I chose to read as a ‘grown up’. It seemed everything else I’d read until then was ‘in black and white’, whereas this was ‘in colour’. It made me want more than ever to be a writer.

14. He never plots his novels in advance.

15. He researches his novels down to the last detail but he also uses his imagination.

16. He has a fantastic imagination.

17. He was a pretty damn good illustrator before he became an even better writer.

18. I spent one of the most memorable afternoons of my life sharing a bottle of wine with him in his work room. By coincidence, it was also my birthday, and it was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had.

19. Some people just don’t ‘get’ his books at all, which is fair enough, but if you do get them, you love them and go back to them time and again.

20. Despite not having much spare time, he still makes time for people.

21. He lives to write. He once said, “When I’m not writing, I simply feel ill.”

22. He rarely wastes his time on politics but he did once describe George W. Bush as: “A man with a windup brain and the clear untroubled conscience of a psychopath.”

23. The Medusa Frequency is one of the few books that both my dad and I have read — we’ve used it as a means of communication on more than one occasion.

24. He fought the Nazis in World War II and lived to tell the tale (RH, not my dad).

25. He has never in his life sent a text message. 

The remaining 55 reasons from various contributors are distributed throughout the booklet/web feature.

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