Why we love Russ

Linda Whitebread, Olaf Schneider, Alida Allison, Theo Malekin and p.a. morbid

Linda Whitebread:

1. Because “he dint do nothing randem he had tack ticks” (and because actually that’s not always true; what happens, delightfully, happens).

2. For his refreshingly subversive children’s stories.

3. Because the meaty main dish is always accompanied by a rich and piquant melange of references to art, music, literature, theology, history, science, London... Intoxicating, stimulating and decidedly moreish.

4. Because he’s so damned funny. 

Olaf Schneider:

1. To see the wheel of action in motion.

2. To see what’s beyond the wheel-biting. 

Alida Allison: 

1. Russ inspired me to go back to graduate school in my mid-thirties and get a PhD so I could teach children’s literature. Upon reading Chapter One of The Mouse and His Child in an undergraduate course, the cranial light bulb went on for me while simultaneously my jaw dropped: “This is children’s literature? This is stunning writing the likes of which I’ve never read before. A working life spent discussing books like this with students would be very satisfying.” And it has been, so thank you, Russ.

2. The Sea-Thing Child, La Corona and the Tin Frog, The Marzipan Pig, M.O.L.E., The Little Brute Family, How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, The Rain Door, Monsters, The Mouse and His Child, The Trokeville Way, Jim’s Lion… thank you for all these, and for character names like “Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong”.

3. Thank you, Russ, for the interviews you have given me and many others, and thank you, Gundel, for your hospitality.

4. Thank you for your incomparable essays and for ‘The Raven’. The first time I read it was in your living room in 1989. I forgot to turn my tape recorder off while I read, so there were 20 minutes of no sound on the tape and then more no sound as I sat there speechlessly. What can one say of a story so profound? That experience — reading a piece or a chapter of Russ’s writing — often has that effect; one is both deeply moved and also silent. Food for thought, food for feelings, and later, perhaps, food for words.

5. Thank you for coming to California in 1990 for a speaking tour. Come back any time.

Theo Malekin:

There is a strain of deep humanity and even angry compassion that comes out, as much as anything, in the tone of voice. This leapt out at me the other day, from Moment Under The Moment:

It isn’t the world that is hostile... it’s the grey city of the world that threatens, the grey city of the failed children of the world, the dry thinkers, the juiceless minds, the poison skulls that dream in numbers and megadeaths. They run the world, these failed children; they speak in all languages and in all languages their speech is vile... Each one thinks the other is the enemy while the real enemy, the monster they have called up together, sings to itself outside the window.

Hard to think of a more apposite comment on the morons, criminals and fools that govern us. The world is run by failed children, but how could we have failed this badly? Because the monster isn’t out there, the monster is us.

p.a. morbid:

More than any other reason I can think of, and there are a lot of reasons why I love Russell Hoban, is for the depiction of love and loss in The Medusa Frequency — the cold November nights we’ve all experienced — the rush of the season as the wind strips the last of the leaves from the plane trees and the streets rise up full of darkness and cold. I’m a writer myself, but I know I could never put that feeling into words as clearly as Russ did in that book. Which is sad, but at the same time absolutely brilliant because if it proves one thing it’s that no matter how alone we think we are, we’re not.

Notes on contributors

Alida Allison teaches children’s literature at San Diego State University. She is on the Board of Directors of SDSU’s new Center for the Study of Children’s literature. Her academic writing has mostly been about the children’s books of Russell Hoban, I.B. Singer and refugee authors. 

Olaf Schneider studied biology (behavioural ecology) in Bielefeld. Since 2002 he has been CEO of AMMMa, which deals with educational software. You can see some of his Hoban-related audio-visual animation at http://sa4qe.blogspot.co.uk/p/olaf-schneider-sa4qe-animations.html

Theo Malekin lives outside Glasgow, where he is finishing a PhD. He is very lazy.

p.a. morbid is a poet, painter and musician, resident of Middlesbrough in the north of England.

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