80 at 80: 80 reasons why we’re celebrating Russell Hoban’s 80th birthday

Brom Hoban

64. An extremely bright student, he graduated high school at the age of 16, and not long after enlisted in the army to serve his country.

65. At only 18, he headed off to war, and believing he might never return, got rid of all of his childhood books, such as first editions of Robin Hood, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (one of his favourite artists).

66. He was a radio messenger in World War Two and saw action in the Philippines and Italy.

67. He was an accomplished illustrator, and painted a number of covers for Time magazine in the 1950s and 1960s.

68. He honed his writing chops as a copywriter for some of the world’s major advertising agencies in New York and London. This humorous, satirical style can still be seen in his tongue-in-cheek dialogue and prose. I remember one bit from an ad for a Sony stereo he wrote: “With this sound system, the Rolling Stones won’t sound like falling rocks.”

69. His very first book published, What Does It Do And How Does It Work, was a beautifully illustrated (by him) children’s book about heavy construction machinery.

70. He has always been fascinated by the mysterious.

71. He loves the cosmos, astronomical physics, black holes, and the endless possibilities of the Universe.

72. An early book, a collection of poems called The Pedalling Man, remains some of his most poignant writing.

73. He used to listen mainly to classical music, but now prefers rock — he likes Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, Ry Cooder and plenty of others.

74. He has read more than anyone I know. 

Brom Hoban, Russell Hoban’s first son, lives in Austin, Texas, where he is a director of communications.

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