On the 4th, just as I was preparing to leave home for work, my boss called. He was using the last of the coffee beans at the office and since our office, like many, cannot function without a steady supply of caffeine, he asked me to swing by Metropolis and pick up a couple more pounds. Metropolis is our coffee purveyor of choice and since their cafe http://www.metropoliscoffee.com/cafe/ is not far from my apartment so I am often called upon to perform this critical operational task for the greater good. I am always happy to do this, but today especially so, because I had a quote printed and folded and ready to go and it seemed almost providential that I should be sent out of my way to a place where people are sitting around reading and drinking coffee and eating sticky buns and tapping away on their computers and thinking deep thoughts. No better place to leave a Hoban quote.
SA4QE - The Slickman A4 Quotation Event
The Slickman A4 Quotation Event ("SA4QE") began in 2002 as a unique way of spreading the words of Russell Hoban. Every 4th February (Russell's birthday), fans 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 most recent posts to this site are displayed below in descending order.
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“I’m always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,” said Muskrat. “That is why I speak as I do. You’ve heard of Muskrat’s Much-in-Little, of course?”
“No,” said the child. “What is it?”
Muskrat stopped, cleared his throat, ruffled his fur, drew himself up, and said in ringing tones, “Why times How equals What.” He paused to let the words take effect.
“That’s Muskrat’s Much-in-Little,” he said. He ruffled his fur again and slapped the ice with his tail. “Why times How equals What,” he repeated. “Strikes you all of a heap the first time you hear it, doesn’t it? Pretty well covers everything! I’m a little surprised that you haven’t heard of it before, I must say. It caused a good deal of comment both over and under the pond, and almost everyone agreed that the ripples from it were ever-widening.”
February 4 is Russell Hoban’s birthday. This yellow paper was placed here as part of an annual world-wide celebration of Hoban and his work. Your finding it and reading it makes you part of the celebration, too.
I walked in to the cafe and picked up a bag of Falstaff Winter Blend and one of Mocha-Java. I left the quote tucked in between a the rows of bags of beans. I ordered a latte and while waiting for it to be carefully hand crafted for me, I overheard two baristas who were tasting something, a beverage of some kind, and one of them said "I'm always a little leery of the interplay of flavors between coffee and tea. Apples and oranges, you know?" It wasn't quite Muskrat quality, but I thought if I hung around long enough, I might hear the coffee version of the Much-in-Little. Alas, I couldn't wait that long. People were depending on me! I picked up my drink and left the cafe with the beans and a feeling of accomplishment. A great way to start the day.
Thanks to all who 4Qate, in all forms, in many places. It's always a delight to read your thoughts, your choices, the lengths you go to, to make this idea real every year.
Happy Hoban Day!
My chosen quotation for this year's sA4qe is from the Hoban novel which I had surely already distributed most widely during 2015: 'Riddley Walker' ... I had circulated a couple of spare copies amongst friends on various occasions this year (some of the older picador editions I'd accrued from charity shops over the years) - I'd also recommended the novel to several more friends and colleagues in recent months. (It was nice to see some high-profile erudite endorsement from Salman Rushdie in the weeks preceding Russell's birthday, too: he listed RW as one of his favourite novels!) Novel chosen, the method for choosing my quotation was borrowed from fellow 4qator, former English teacher, and 'nonsense aficionado' Roland Clare ... I picked a page at random and, naturally, found the great passage which follows pictured here, in situ.
And this year's sa4qation location? Especially erudite and historical; the riddles are walking in Oxford ...
"What ben makes tracks for what wil be. Words in the air pirnt foot steps on the groun for us to put our feet in to. May be a nother 100 years and kids wil sing a rime of Riddley Walker and Abel Goodparley with ther circel game."
Fewer photos than usual - apologies; this was due to phone storage issues (I hear you making some pun along the lines of: What's been, making way for what will be!) ... but readers will have to take my word that this year's sheets of yellow A4 trailed into the deepest and most intimate academic sanctums of the University where - it is hoped - the words will go on to penetrate the consciousness of some intellectual or scholar who will, in turn, write a thesis on the novel and publish it on Russellhoban.org for all to enjoy.
"If you cud even jus see 1 thing clear the woal of whats in it you cud see every thing clear. But you never wil get to see the woal of any thing youre all ways in the middl of it living it or moving thru it."
… I got myself an Americano and found an empty table by the window where I could start 'Hope of a Tree' while drinking my coffee. The day was sunny and the Fulham Road was thronged with people doing their Saturday things. With my book and my coffee I felt as if I was in a little island of no hurry and no bother where I could let my mind be quiet for a while.
I opened the book […] and there’s Cynthia on Clifton Bridge thinking about jumping and here comes Sam to talk her out of it. OK, I thought, you can get a good love story out of a beginning like that. Then I noticed a woman who’d just sat down at the next table watching me. She was about my age, not bad looking, maybe a little too much jaw, dark brown hair in a Louise Brooks cut. Black polo neck, little pink leather jacket, black trousers and Birkenstocks. Very sleek, very cool and sure of herself.
She gave me a sort of knowing leer and said, ‘Enjoying it?’
‘Just started it,’ I said. ‘Have you read it?’
‘Had to,’ she said. ‘I was married to the author.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘Do you know him?’ she said.
‘Sort of,’ I said. ‘I’m his girlfriend.’
I was surprised to hear myself say that but I tend to take against sleek women on sight.
‘Really!’ she said. ‘He usually goes for the intellectual type. Which you don’t, at first glance, appear to be.’
‘It could be that he’s looking to change his luck,’ I said.
‘Which way?’ she said. I stood up and took half a step towards her. She suddenly looked less sure of herself.
‘Maybe,’ I said. ‘You’d like to continue this discussion outside?’
‘Oh dear,’ she said. ‘Phil has come a long way down the female evolutionary ladder. This conversation would seem to be at an end. I suggest that you go back to your book and I to my cappuccino.’
‘While you still have your teeth,’ I said. She stayed quiet then, and when she picked up her cup it rattled in the saucer. I was amazed at my behaviour and quite pleased with it. Ms Ex-Wife finished her cappuccino quickly and left, avoiding eye contact the whole time […].
Sam talks Cynthia down off the bridge and they go to the camera obscura. ‘It’s a dark chamber,’ says Sam, ‘but you get a clear bright view of things from here.’
I imagined him saying that in the kind of film where you can see what’s coming long before it arrives. Sam – he’s American – would be played by Jim Carrey without his usual gurning and pretty soon we’d find out in a flashback that he’d been contemplating suicide after being dumped by Jennifer, played by Emily Watson. Cynthia would be Kate Winslet. An American film shot on location here.
‘Another dark chamber?’ says Cynthia as they start taking their clothes off at Sam’s place on page 17. They get through the sex pretty quickly because that part is only foreplay for a whole lot of talk about books and music and painting and movies. With quotes from here and there in italics. Italics always tire me out. I had a second Americano because I was getting sleepy. Then I got up and walked down to the New King’s Road and over to the river. I found myself a bench in Bishop’s Park and sat there in the sunshine watching a crew rowing down the
river with the cox yelling at them. For a while I just sat there trying to let my mind go blank but the book was in my hands and I kept thinking, Am I this guy’s girlfriend? It’s always a bad sign when you start thinking in italics. I read a little more but by then I knew I wasn’t sure I could finish the book, it was too boring ...
Chosen partly because it's very funny and partly because of its reference to Bristol UK, where I did my SA4Qation.