SA4QE 2018 - Thoughtcat - London, United Kingdom

I knew my quotation this year had to come from The Medusa Frequency for personal reasons, as it's probably Russell Hoban's most profound book about a relationship, plus it was the very first of his books that I read, and is still my favourite. I wasn't sure which quote to choose though. When I went to my original copy, a battered Picador paperback, I found one page had been dog-eared long ago, and another was marked with a train ticket and a sheet of yellow paper from a previous SA4QE outing. I tried flicking through the book but it kept wanting to open at these two pages, so I stopped trying to fight it and read through them. The pages had been bookmarked for other quotes in years past but looking around the paragraphs, there were more appropriate lines to my personal situation these days. The quote I chose is spoken by the Head of Orpheus from a conversation he relates between him (when he was the full-bodied Orpheus) and Eurydice, to the book's narrator Herman Orff. It's not without irony that I realise I am now nearly the same age as Herman is when he narrates the book; this is especially unnerving when I think that I first read the book at the age of 17.

I posted the quote on the parapet of Richmond Lock, not far from where I live; Hoban quotes, certainly from Medusa, seem to me to require a river setting. It was mid-afternoon but very grey, bitterly cold and near to snow, and the lights on the west side of the lock were lit up, in the exact same "hibiscus pink-orange" colour that Hoban says elsewhere "always tugs at my heart".

‘“Orpheus,” she said to me softly, “now the story has found us, now we have become story and I must leave you.”

   ‘“Why?” I said. “Why must you leave me?”

   ‘“Because Eurydice is the one who cannot stay,” she said. “Eurydice is the one who is lost to you, the one you will seek for ever and never find again. Eurydice is the one of whom you will say ‘If only I had known what she was to me!’”

   ‘“If only I had known what you were to me!” I said.

   ‘“You did know,” she said. “Orpheus always knows and he always does what he does and Eurydice becomes lost to him.”

My face was numb from the cold. I walked into the town centre and eventually found an empty cafe with jazz playing softly in the background, where I had tea and cake and gazed out of the window onto the street, and remembered.

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