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.

The road took me to the Zoo entrance […]

When I took some grapes out of a bag one of the ravens opened its wings and the whole outspread blackness of the bird suddenly appeared in front of me. Standing on well-worn and polished black feet, it folded its wings and stuck its bill through the chain-link mesh of the cage. It was a large black bill of clerical aspect, the upper mandible hooked over the lower with a long curving point that was like a fingernail that needed trimming. A little yellow sign on the cage showed the silhouette of a hand with a large piece bitten out, so I sidled away from the raven and dropped a grape through the wire mesh […]

How’s it going? I said to it, not speaking aloud but with my mind. 

Well, you know, said the raven, also not speaking aloud, there’s not a lot happening here. […]  

How can you live without flying? I said to the raven. How do you get through the days? How do you not go crazy? 

The raven looked at me for a while, the little round eye-mirror blinked like a camera shutter. Lots of people live without flying, it said. 

But you used to have the whole sky to move around in. 

Wait a minute, said the raven. 


How do I know I’m not talking to myself? Maybe I’m just imagining this conversation. 

I’ve been thinking that very same thought, I said. Tell me what to do to show that I’m receiving you. 

Hold out your arms and flap them up and down. 

I held out my arms and flapped them up and down. 

‘What’s that man doing?’ said a passing child to its mother. 

‘Perhaps he’s trying to get above himself,’ she said. 

I’ve given you a sign, I said to the raven. How about you? Walk in a circle round your bath if it’s really you speaking to me. 

With its old-man walk the raven slowly walked around the bath. Then it came back to where I stood. You were saying, it said. Its voice in my mind had changed: it was all around me in vast and reverberant diapason, as if rebounding from the face of a black escarpment that ringed the horizon under a grey and primordial sky. 

It was a giant voice of supernatural power, and a thrill of fear went through me as the raven grew before my eyes. The cage and the zoo seemed to have faded away; the raven loomed over me […] 

How could I ever have been such a fool as to speak to it as if I were its equal?

Well, said Tom's father, sometimes a problem is like a shovel, and only has one handle.

I think of the turtles swimming steadily against the current all the way to Ascension. I think of them swimming through all that golden-green water over the dark, over the chill of the deeps and the jaws of the dark. And I think of the sun over the water, the sun through the water, the eye holding the sun, being held by it with no thought and only the rhythm of the going, the steady wing-strokes of the flippers in the water.

If reality had a stage door I’d hang around there and see what came out after the show.

"Every night the departure softly closes the door of the house behind it and puts its foot to the dark road; there is a continual walking into the the dark on the road away. Other nights I have lain in my bed; tonight I hear my footsteps on the road, tonight I put my feet into my footsteps and I go."

Jachin-Boaz's footsteps had an early-morning sound. His footsteps, thought Jachin-Boaz, were abroad at all hours. Sometimes he joined them, sometimes not.


How do you find? said the dusk.

Guilty, I said.

     Page one?  I didn't think so.  Suddenly the idea of turning one's experience into a story seemed not only bizarre but perverted; the idea of such a thing as page one seemed at the very least a monstrous vanity.  Where was the beginning of anything, how could I draw a line through endless cause and effrect and say, 'Here is page one' ?  Well of course one was either a storyteller or one wasn't, and it looked as if I wasn't  - all I could do was describe phenomena as I experienced them. 

When one is a child, when one is young, when one has not yet reached the age of recognition, one thinks that the world is strong, that the strength of God is endless and unchanging. But after the thing has happened--whatever that thing might be--that brings recognition, then one knows irrevocably how very fragile is the world, how very, very fragile; it is like one of those ideas that one has in dreams: so clear and so self-explaining are they that we make no special effort to remember. Then of course they vanish as we wake and there is nothing there but the awareness that something very clear has altogether vanished. 

Time's arrow, we are told, is a one-way thing... Memory's arrow, like the needle of a compass too close to a lodestone, spins in all directions.


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