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 knew that my time was coming soon, I knew that I must be alert to recognize the time and place so that my death might be the best possible. But even as that thought moved through my mind it was hurried on its way by another thought coming behind it. This second thought asked whether it might not be only vanity and a striving after wind to want so much for one’s death; whether it might not be better to require nothing whatever of it or for it but simply to welcome it whenever and however it might come, to welcome it as one welcomes the stranger to whom one must always show hospitality.

With that feeling came an understanding that from then on every moment would be – indeed always had been – as the last moment. This wants to be made perfectly clear, it may be the only thing I have to say that matters; this idea has for me both the brilliance of the heart of the diamond of the universe and the inverse brilliance of the heart of the blackness in which that diamond lives: this moment that is every moment is always the last moment and it came into being with the first moment; it is that moment of creation in which there comes into being the possibility of all things and the end of all things; it is the blossoming jewel at the heart of the explosion, the calm quiet dawn at the centre of the bursting.

It was an earthy dance, nothing of it moved up into the air, it was as if earth had formed itself into a man and the man was dancing himself slowly back into the earth. Bembel Rudzuk danced more and more slowly and more and more deeply until the body I saw before me stood motionless like the nymphal shell left behind by a dragonfly. But Bembel Rudzuk, unlike the dragonfly, seemed not to have flown away into the air but to have danced himself out of his body into the earth.
The shell of Bembel Rudzuk opened its eyes and Bembel Rudzuk looked out of them.
“Was this your dream?” I said. “Were you dancing your dream?”
“Earth,” he said. “I was dancing earth.”
“Are you awake?” I said.
“Which is the dream?” he said.

‘“Orpheus,” she said to me softly, “now the story has found us, now we have become story and I must leave you.”

   ‘“Why?” I said. “Why must you leave me?”

   ‘“Because Eurydice is the one who cannot stay,” she said. “Eurydice is the one who is lost to you, the one you will seek for ever and never find again. Eurydice is the one of whom you will say ‘If only I had known what she was to me!’”

   ‘“If only I had known what you were to me!” I said.

   ‘“You did know,” she said. “Orpheus always knows and he always does what he does and Eurydice becomes lost to him.”

One assumes that the world simply is and is and is but it isn't, it is like music that we hear a moment at a time and put together in our heads. But this music, unlike other music, cannot be performed again.

At South Kensington I rose from the depths, escalated to the upper world, passed through the arcade and the queue at the 14 bus stop, crossed between the cars and walked up Exhibition Road where soft ice-cream and hot dogs sweltered and coachloads of emptiness waited for their children to return. The sunlight, crazed with detail, explored every wrinkle, whisker, pore and pimple of tourists consuming Coca- Cola, mineral water, coffee, tea, hot dogs, soft ice-cream, exhaust fumes, and culture.

The sunlight explored me as well as my footsteps joined those of generations of children, mums, dads, teachers and others all the way back to the heavy tread of Roman legions marching with their standards and centurions up Exhibition Road to the Victoria and Albert, the Natural History, and the Science Museum thirsting for dinosaurs, volcanoes, Indian bronzes, William Morris, and steam locomotives. Not only was I prepared to have empty spaces in me filled with wonders, I was vaguely excited and expectant, as if the sluggish air were alive with possibilities.

“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?”

‘.... “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.” ’

“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.

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