Oh, how I miss him. I left this one. Chapter One of Pilgermann is the most beautiful pice of prose writing in the world. Happy Birthday, Russell.
SA4QE - The Slickman A4 Quotation Event
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I don't know what I am now. A whispering out of the dust. Dried blood on a sword and the sword has crumbled into rust and the wind has blown the rust away but still I am, still I am of the world, still I have something to say, how could it be otherwise, nothing comes to an end, the action never stops, it only changes, the ringing of the steel is sung in the stillness of the stone.
I posted my contribution in the form of a Facebook status with accompanying cover photo. This is what I wrote:
Today, on 4th February 2017, would have been the American writer Russell Hoban's 92nd birthday hadn't he passed in 2011. To celebrate the day, I have chosen a quotation to post on my Facebook page, as many other Hoban fans will do too. We've been doing this since 2002 - it's an event we call the SA4QE, the Slickman A4 Quotation Event. As always, my quotation reflects what seems to be "in the air", a sentiment or mood transmitted on a special frequency.
So, what's in the air, you might ask. Well, to me, our present time resembles the early 1980s, when we seemed to be living on a ticking bomb and it wasn't certain if there would be a future. In 1980, Russell Hoban published Riddley Walker, a post-apocalyptic novel about a boy who must get his bearings in a world built on the rubble of our own civilization. 1983 saw the publication of Pilgermann, a novel about a Jewish pilgrim who meets his death in 11th century Antioch. By 1985-6, Hoban still hadn't been able to let go of images of doom while he was already searching for a story about women and men. In fact, he did find one eventually. It was published as The Medusa Frequency exactly 30 years ago, in 1987.
However, I haven't chosen a quotation from The Medusa Frequency. There would no doubt have been excellent ones from this novel, e.g. "'Fidelity is a matter of perception.... Nobody is unfaithful to the sea or the mountains or to death: once recognized they fill the heart." But I've used it before, and there was another one which urgently asked to be spread when I was leafing through my Hoban books. It is from one of the story fragments written in 1985-6, between Pilgermann and The Medusa Frequency. Titled "Untitled", it was first published in the collection The Moment Under the Moment in 1992.
Suddenly the air was ripped apart by a whistling shriek and a big bomb hit the water amongst them with a tremendous splash. There it was, unexploded.
'O my God,' said Flesmok. 'This is it, this is the end, we're finished.'
'No, we're not,' said Nuz. 'It didn't blow up, it's a dud bomb.'
'NO, I'M NOT,' said the bomb with impeccable BBC diction. 'I'M ONE OF THOSE VERY ADVANCED THINKING BOMBS WITH A VERY COMPLEX PROGRAMME. I WAS DEVISED BY A RACE OF SUPERIOR INTELLECTS LONG GONE AND LAUNCHED BY AN AUTOMATIC SYSTEM AND I'M GOING TO BLOW YOU ALL TO HELL IF YOU DON'T DO THE RIGHT THING IN THE ALLOTTED TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS.'
'What do you want us to do?' said Flesmok.
'TELL ME A STORY, YOU FUCKING SONS OF BITCHES,' said the bomb.
'What's a story?' said Mummel.
'A story is what happened,' said Nuz. 'Like when the radio says, "There were heavy losses in scattered sectors yesterday."'
'THAT'S NOT A STORY, CREEP,' said the bomb. 'THAT'S NOT EVEN NEWS.'
'Well, what is a story then?' said Nuz.
'Listen,' said Flesmok: '"The sea is full of marvels but there are no answers in it." How about that?'
'GO ON,' said the bomb, 'TELL ME MORE.'
Let's hope that someone will find the right thing to say or do in our times too, the thing that will persuade the ticking bomb not to blow us all to hell.
In this spirit, happy Russmas Day to everyone!
As in previous years, I chose three short quotes. My first comes from The Moment Under The Moment and was tacked onto the little jetty on my local river. This passage leaped off the page at me, as if it’d always been waiting for me to find it. I wanted to put it out in the world, so others could find it too - a shot of Hoban as they ambled onto the jetty. I also placed tiny versions of this quote in the local shop, mostly hidden behind packets of food so people would find them as they shopped; one ended up perched on top of a bumper packet of Wagonwheels (see photo).
But the reality of it is that all of us are more than a little crazy and there is a craziness in the human situation. The ancient Greeks put a name to that craziness, they called it Dionysus, and having given it a name they could take it into account….What I’m saying is that it’s a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness
Always in November there comes such a night, blue-black and shining and wild with rain and wind and brown leaves blowing. In the morning suddenly the plane trees on the far side of the common are bare winter trees.
My second quote, sellotaped to a bench overlooking the river, relates to a Hoban moment I had with my boyfriend Rik, a fellow fan. One wet November evening we went to a park near his flat. It was a blustery night, the beeches, oaks and horse chestnuts were being battered by wind and rain. The next morning, when we returned, the trees were suddenly all bare. We realised this was a moment straight out of The Medusa Frequency.
Ah! said the walls, listening to the footfalls, it’s the silence that we like, the lovely shape of the silence between the shape of the footfalls.
The third quote was chosen at random from Kleinzeit. I put it on the village’s notice board under Rik's chosen quote - we did the event together again, which was nice. It is a quiet spot, the only disturbance being the occasional passing car, so Hoban's words seemed apt.
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.
“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!