Happy Birthday, Mr Hoban!

Mark Marcus

You take a figger out of the bag nor it aint nothing only some colorut clof with a paintit wood head and hans. Then you put it on. You put your head finger in the head you put your arm finger in the arms then that figger looks roun and takes noatis it has things to say. Which they wont all ways be things youwd think of saying.
- Riddley Walker

I was introduced to Russell Hoban’s book Riddley Walker in London by a friend of mine, Chris Bell, now himself a writer. We sat discussing philosophy for many hours drinking cheap wine and wreathed in clouds of marijuana smoke with a careless disregard for time that now seems to have been lost from the world.

I generally dread being introduced to books by friends who claim to have gained almost religious relevance or divine insight from them. I struggle through the first few chapters and leave the book to gather dust under the bed until I return it with feelings of relief to its owner. Well, I borrowed Chris’s copy of Riddley Walker with the same feeling of polite scepticism born from a long history of literary disappointment. This book was my road to Damascus.

Since then, I have lent various copies to people and, of course, hardly ever get the books back from the bastards, except from those people unable to bring their brains to bear on what is still a strange, confronting and almost alien world.

I re-visit Riddley Walker every couple of years but I have since read with awe and admiration all of Mr Hoban’s novels. I have a copy of Angelica’s Grotto on the go at the moment that is really doing my head in.

I feel some small affinity with Mr Hoban; the tremendous cultural and magical influences of England (where I was born) and the huge weight of history that all the children of Abraham carry with them:

“I don’t know what I am now. A whispering out of the dust. Dried blood on a sword and the sword has crumbled into rust and the wind has blown the rust away but still I am, still I am of the world, still I have something to say, how could it be otherwise, nothing comes to an end, the action never stops, it only changes, the ringing of the steel is sung in the stillness of the stone.”
- Pilgermann

Mark Marcus (“Don’t ask about the name because I have no idea”) was born in London to a male descendant of Russian/Polish Jews and an Irish Catholic from Belfast. He has worked as pool attendant in Glasgow; artificially inseminated turkeys in Israel; and was a rostrum cameraman in London and Sydney. He is now exiled in Australia where, for many years, he was a commercial photographer. His life-long ambition is to photograph a lingerie catalogue. He is presently studying naturopathy in Perth, Western Australia.

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