Since work obliged me to be in South Kensington on Russmass, I used a South Ken snippet from Amaryllis Night and Day; the plan had been to affix copies close to Hobanoid exhibits in three museums, but I was frustrated by huge crowds (V&A closed to walk-up customers) and by the fact that the Klein Bottles are no longer on display in the Science Museum's Mathematics Gallery. So it was a bit of a fizzle ... but still very enjoyable, as always, seeing the public peering at the yellow A4 sheets and ... let us hope ... deciding there and then to become lifelong Russ readers.
SA4QE - The Slickman A4 Quotation Event
This fan event began in 2002 as a unique way of spreading the words of Russell Hoban. Every 4th February (Russell's birthday), readers around the world write their favourite quotations from his books on sheets of yellow A4 paper (the sort he used) and leave them in public places, and/or share them via this site or on social media with the hashtag #sa4qe Read more.
The latest posts to this site are displayed below in descending order.
At South Kensington I rose from the depths, escalated to the upper world, passed through the arcade and the queue at the 14 bus stop, crossed between the cars and walked up Exhibition Road where soft ice-cream and hot dogs sweltered and coachloads of emptiness waited for their children to return. The sunlight, crazed with detail, explored every wrinkle, whisker, pore and pimple of tourists consuming Coca- Cola, mineral water, coffee, tea, hot dogs, soft ice-cream, exhaust fumes, and culture.
The sunlight explored me as well as my footsteps joined those of generations of children, mums, dads, teachers and others all the way back to the heavy tread of Roman legions marching with their standards and centurions up Exhibition Road to the Victoria and Albert, the Natural History, and the Science Museum thirsting for dinosaurs, volcanoes, Indian bronzes, William Morris, and steam locomotives. Not only was I prepared to have empty spaces in me filled with wonders, I was vaguely excited and expectant, as if the sluggish air were alive with possibilities.
Quotes on yellow gold A4 paper, I placed in local Waterstones bookshop, between the books in Fiction where RH should be, but isn’t, and also in the teens and younger readers’ shelves. Footnote included a thinly veiled hint to the management regarding the absence of the author’s titles, considering this worldwide, SA4QE effect.
Soon, I will call in to see whether the yellow papers are still there.
‘.... “It’s one of those crazy things, like when you read in the paper that the big brains figure the world’s going to end in 150 billion years and you think, well, we’ve got a little time yet. But a week later the big brains change their estimate to 50 billion years and you pull the covers over your head and have a nervous breakdown. Imagine! No more world and nobody to remember there was ever a world.” ’
I chose this and these other two quotes, for their appeal to children as well as adults, because they can be interpreted at any level, and especially as Soonchild is a bit of an in-between-er.
As well as being about the fears we have at any age, there are parallels with current events and fears for the future of our world, and what qualities human beings need to deal with them.
All expressed in this deceptively simple style.
“Tell me about the strangeness.”
“I don’t know if I have any words for it. Underneath every thing there is strangeness, there is silence. You are that strangeness and silence in the shape of a bird.”
“Yes,” said Ulpika. “That is what I am. But does anybody want strangeness and silence any more?”
“I don’t think I can handle anything big,” said John. “I’m not the shaman I used to be.”
“Used to be won’t cut it,” said Deepguy. “This is a whole new ballgame.”
“Why me?” said John. Tears were running down his face and he had to blow his nose.
“It has to be you because you’re the only one there is.”
“But the world is full of other people,” whimpered John.
“And every one of them is the only one there is. How does that grab you?”
“Hard,” said John. “Only I don’t know what you mean.”
“The world is a very slippery thing,” said Deepguy, “and if all of you only ones don’t hold tight it could slip out of your hands like an eel. Got it?”
Footnote at end of the same page as quotations:
These quotations are from ‘Soonchild’ a novel by Russell Hoban.
This yellow paper has been left here as part of the annual celebration known as SA4QE, by the author’s fans around the world, on his birthday, 4th February.
To discover more, go to the SA4QE website, or www.russellhoban.org - or better still, read one of his many unusual novels and children’s books.
Ask at the counter for an amazing list!
I haven't 4Qated anything from Soonchild before, so it seemed to good year to change that. I chose the first good, 'complete' quote I could find by riffling through the pages of my copy, which seemed as good a method as any. I like this one and hope you do, too - if you haven't read Soonchild yet, perhaps this quotation will persuade you that 2017 is the year to do it.
“What are World Songs?”
“My father, Go Anywhere, told me about them,” said John, “the same as his father, Whatever Works, told him. The world is made up of ideas that live in the Mind of Things but before the idea comes the song. In these songs are such things as the taste of starlight on the tongue, the colors of the running of the wolf, the sound of the raven’s blackness, the voices of blue shadows on the snow, the never-stopping stillness of sea-smoothed stones, and the memory of ancient rains that filled the oceans. Without those songs there would be no world.”
“I’ve never heard those songs,” said No Problem.
“You’ve heard them but you don’t remember them. These songs are heard only by children in the belly — that’s why they come out into the world — the songs are so powerful and enticing. Once the children have the actual world in front of them they forget the songs, it would be too sad to remember them — the children would die of sadness because the world has so many bad things in it that aren’t in the songs, only soonchildren hear these songs, no one else.”
Russell Hoban, Soonchild, WHAT SOONCHILD TOLD JOHN, page 23-23, Candlewick Press (2012)
Happy Hoban Day to all!
My usual 4QAtion practice is to select quotes more or less at random. This year being how this year is, I had a couple of quotes in mind that I specifically wanted to drop and in the course of looking those up, a quote that wanted to be part of the event made itself known to me, so I took it along.
I woke up. There you are, I thought; life goes on.
Left at The Book Cellar in Chicago's Lincoln Square, taped up among the posters for plays, yoga classes, cleaning services, and other events that prove that life does in fact go on.
The people who run the world now were children once. What went wrong? What is it that with such dismal regularity goes wrong? Why do perfectly good children become rotten grown ups? If I say there's a language failure somewhere does that make sense? Keep in mind my claim that everything is language. Am I saying then that there's an everything failure? Yes, because nothing has a chance of working right when people won't listen to what it says and with the proper action say the right things back.
This quote, from the essay Pan Lives, is one I've 4QAted before, but it seemed a question worth asking again. Also left this one at the Book Cellar, in the fiction section in the M's, at random.
One speaks of the American Dream and the meaning various with the speaker but always what is meant is a montage of heart-pictures, desire-pictures, richly coloured wishes and memories and expectations of what people variously want from America or associate with America. This montage may have in it the Declaration of Independence, John D. Rockefeller, the Ku Klux Klan, Daniel Boone and Joseph MCarthy, Shirley Temple and the mountain men and Charlie Parker; it may have Abe Lincoln and Billy the Kid and the Statue of Liberty lifting her lamp beside the golden door of the Land of Opportunity where the plough breaks the plains, the West is won, the Yanks are coming, the Wright brothers and the astronauts go up and the economy comes down, Henry David Thoreau plants beans at Walden Pond, the Okies roll out of the dustbowl in battered Fords and talking blues by Woody Guthrie, Frank Sinatra sings at Las Vegas, Thomas Wolfe burns in the night and Jack Dempsey, Marilyn Monroe, Diamond Jim Brady, P.T. Barnum and the Enola Gay gleam high in the sunlight over Hiroshima while Bartolomeo Vanzetti writes a letter to his son and survivalists in Texas stockpile provisions and machine guns. The American Dream is pretty much whatever montage of heart-pictures you like to look at.
I am not sure if Russ meant this to be comforting or alarming or just a slice of the reality he saw, but I thought it relevant to the situation we find ourselves in, here in America. It's from the essay "I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping...". I left this one on top of a stack of newspapers in a corner newspaper box.
Thanks to Richard for continuing to maintain this record of our efforts on Hoban Day, and to all who participate, in any medium. It warms the cold cockles of my worried heart.