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

The most recent posts to this site are displayed below in descending order. See also the latest SA4QE tweets.

SA4QE 2017 - Emmae - Oban, United Kingdom

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!

Filed under Oban United Kingdom Soonchild

SA4QE 2017 - Chris Bell - Twitter/Facebook, New Zealand

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)

Filed under Twitter/Facebook New Zealand Soonchild

SA4QE 2017 - Diana Slickman - Chicago Illinois, United States

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.

Filed under Chicago Illinois United States The Moment under The Moment Turtle Diary

SA4QE 2017 - Thoughtcat - Rugby, United Kingdom

This year I drew my quotes mostly from The Medusa Frequency, the first Russell Hoban book I read. It also has a personal significance for me since one of the most important relationships of my life arose four years ago from a conversation on Twitter about the book, trading favourite quotations back and forth. I also chose a quote from The Moment under The Moment in response to the current political climate, and finally a poem from The Pedalling Man about my home city of London. 

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.

This is one of my favourite quotations from all of Russell Hoban's books and a fine example of his lyricism. I was trying to find a romantic quote but although there are many romantic relationships in Russ's books, he wasn't a romantic writer in the traditional sense, as his stories are about sad romances and situations that don't work out, or the loss of love. I was trying not to contemplate the loss of love on this occasion and this paragraph is I think his most profound and positive comment on love. I pinned it to a boarded-up window in an alleyway in the unsuspecting hamlet of Bilton, near Rugby in Warwickshire, the site of some gentle artistic pranks my girlfriend and I had perpetrated in the past. As I finished posting it someone approached from the other end of the alleyway and I made my escape. Looking back discreetly down the alley I saw the man reading the quote for quite a few moments.

The lamps on Putney Bridge were still lit, the bridge stood in simple astonishment over the water, a stoneline creature of overness, of parapets and ghostly pale cool tones of blue, of grey, of dim whiteness in the foredawn with its lamps lit against a sky growing light. Far below lay the river; slack-water it was, turn of the tide, the low-tide river narrow between expanses of mud, the moored boats rocking in the stillness... There seemed to be a question in the air.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I will.’

I chose this quotation for two reasons: the first was that it brings me back to my home city of London, which I've been separated from for nearly ten years and miss enormously. The second was the "question in the air" which I've always found mysterious and enticing. In the book the implication is that the narrator Herman Orff is being called upon by the spirit of Orpheus to tell Herman his story, and Herman invokes the story by saying "I will". For me personally, at a turning point in my relationship I can go one of two ways, and I wanted my answer to the relationship's "question in the air" to be positive.

I posted this quote on a fence in a neighbouring alleyway to the first one. The photo of the actual Putney Bridge was one I took in 2003 when I undertook a mad excursion around the city for SA4QE, obsessively placing my quotations in the locations they referred to. 

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

Apart from being short, punchy and accessible, this quotation was significant for me becaue it was the first one that my girlfriend mentioned during our first conversation on Twitter, and she's used it in SA4QE herself a number of times. I pinned it to a bench in a little park in Bilton near where I live. It was a beautiful sunny day, the moon at a diagonal half slant clear in the afternoon sky. I had a game of football with my children a few feet away and it was lovely to watch other park visitors stop by the bench and look at the quote. At one point a man stood there with his wife and two children and they all looked at it for several moments, and the man took a photo of it, which I took as a pretty high honour.

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.

I believe this poem was written by Russ prior to his relocation from Connecticut to London in the late 1960s. It seems clear he long harboured a love for my home city before he actually managed to move there. I don't personally think poetry was one of Hoban's strengths but I like the simplicity of this poem and the idea that he bought the paperweight to put on his desk as a way to keep the dream of living there alive in an immediate and real way. Maybe I should get one myself.

I was heading out to Northampton on the evening of SA4QE day and left the quote on the train, which ultimately terminated in London.

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

This quote was actually the first that came into my mind when I was thinking of which ones to use this year. The new US presidency is a shocking development and the UK's latest prime minister is as depressing a leader as I've ever known. These leaders could have been inclusive and unifying - they could have played to the hopes of people, but instead have played entirely to their fears. Although I was bullied at school, even the bullies, the "worst" children I knew (and even then I hesitate to use the word "worst") were never as cynical as these so-called leaders.

I went out in the evening to see the excellent Jonathan Pie at the Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Pie is a fictional smalltime TV news presenter forced to politely deliver inane and inoffensive scripts to camera, but we see his real opinions between shots, in which he magnificently eviscerates the dire political figures of our time. I thought he would probably agree with this quotation and left it in among some leaflets near the bar at the theatre.

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.’

This is a comparatively light-hearted quote from The Medusa Frequency. I haven't used it in SA4QE before but it stood out from the page when I was looking through the book for other quotes. The conversation takes place between the narrator Herman and an unnamed man he bumps into on the London tube. Herman has just undergone an experimental ECG technique for curing writer's block and comes round on the tube with electrodes still stuck to his head. The quote has some interesting things to say about mental health and its treatment, I think.

I left this in the waiting room on Northampton station on the way home.

Filed under Rugby United Kingdom The Medusa Frequency The Moment under The Moment The Pedalling Man

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