80! - The Booklet of the Russell Hoban Some-Poasyum

How SA4QE started

In January 2002 we were thinking of new ways to celebrate Russ’s birthday. A bottle of Scotch was gathering itself together, readying itself to be sent to Russ, but it wanted company. In thinking of something special for 4 February, I wanted a small action, a hopeful gesture, a collective yet personal good wish. This is the light I cast it in now. At the time I was probably floundering in the dark, as I usually do before the birthday of a loved one, feeling about for the right gift. And then Kleinzeit came to my rescue. Yellow paper. Barrow full of rocks. Redbeard says he drops the yellow paper to “see if I could put it on to someone else”. What if we did that?

Here’s what I wrote: “I propose we each, on 4 February, write our favourite passage, of any length, from any RH book on a piece of yellow paper, or cigarette paper, or whatever haunts you personally, and drop it somewhere public and then walk away, leaving chance to do the rest. I am a vehement hater of litter, so I would recommend leaving it someplace rather than just dropping it on the ground — a seat on the train, a table in the library, in the elevator at work, along with a tip for your waiter, or any of a hundred thousand other places... The paper should at least include the name of the book and Russell’s name. Part of me thinks it would be wonderful to leave it at that, and let the mystery of things take it from there, let the paper find its way (or not) to some receptive (or not) person who would then go seek out the book (or not) and become another fan (or not). Part of me thinks it would be fine to include on the paper your email or the Kraken Website address, or your home phone, or a note from you personally about why you chose it and the occasion on which it was dropped. The more I think about this the more excited I am about it. I like it because it is secret, and personal, and random, and small... Did I say it should be hand-written? I think it should be.”

I let that fall to the floor of our email group. I walked casually away, humming a little tune to myself. The Kraken members picked it up, turned it over a couple of times, read it and ran with it.

Happy 80th, Russ!

Diana Slickman is the ‘S’ in SA4QE (The Slickman A4 Quotation Event)

Further reading:

From the House of Commons

November 30th [2004]

Dear Mr Bell,

My introduction to Russell Hoban’s work was The Mouse and His Child, a book I regularly re-read and recommend to everyone.

Then, having devoured all his extant work, I was sent the script of Turtle Diary and immediately said ‘yes’. People still write to me, saying how much they value the film and that is due, in no small part, to the Hoban vision.

Best wishes for the convention and my thanks to the man himself.


Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson first appeared on stage in 1957 and had a lengthy and successful career as an actress before becoming an MP in 1992. She played Naeara in the 1985 film adaptation of Russell Hoban's novel Turtle Diary. She served as MP for Hampstead & Highgate and then Hampstead & Kilburn from 1992 until her retirement in 2015.

Ashurmouserpal illustration by Ruthie Bosch


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