Russell Hoban quotations used in SA4QE

This is a list of quotations from Russell Hoban's books used in the annual SA4QE fan event. Click on the novel title for details of that book, or on the "read more" link for details of who chose the quotation and where they left it.

“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?”

“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)

I woke up. There you are, I thought; life goes 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.

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.

What passes for reality seems to me mostly a load of old rubbish invented by not very inventive minds.

London City

I have London, London, London –
all the city, small and pretty,
in a dome that’s on my desk, a little dome.
I have Nelson on his column
and Saint Martin-in-the-Fields
and I have the National Gallery
and two trees,
and that’s what London is – the five of these.

I can make it snow in London
when I shake the sky of London;
I can hold the little city small and pretty in my hand;
then the weather’s fair in London,
in Trafalgar Square in London,
when I put my city down and let it stand.

The people who run the world now were children once. What went wrong? Why do perfectly good children become rotten grown-ups?

It was then that I became aware of the wires trailing from the electrodes on my head.

‘You been getting some kind of ECT,’ he said. ‘They done that to me, they said the voices would go away.’

‘Did they?’

‘Yes. Now I’ve got nothing. There’s only a kind of ringing emptiness. I never asked them to take away the voices but there it is, you see: who am I? Nobody. I’m not entitled to hear voices unless it’s somebody asking questions and taking down what I say. You showed them though, you just walked away wires and all. Don’t let them empty you out, they’ve got nothing better to offer.’

Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to mountains or to death: once recognized they fill the heart. In love or in terror or in loathing one responds to them with the true self; fidelity is not an act of the will: the soul is compelled by recognitions. Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being.

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