Friday, 4 February 2005

Richard Cooper 2005

Yellow Paper Diary - 4th February 2005

07.01 Rise and shine, sort of. Negotiate bed space with wife's bump, due to reveal itself as a baby in a month's time. Get up, shower, shave. Look through t-shirt drawer for slogan-free t-shirt to wear beneath Serious Office Shirt. Don't find one. Only option is t-shirt with slogan rpc@blockedauthor.co.uk turned inside-out. Wonder if, maybe, the act of reversing the shirt will reverse the slogan and unblock me?

07.42 Eat breakfast guiltily in realisation that it's SA4QE day and I still haven't decided on a quote to drop, or where to drop it, as I've been spending all my spare time lately helping to arrange the Russell Hoban Some-Poasyum. Maybe that in itself can be my SA4QE this year? No, no, that's the coward's way out. Take down entire collection of Hoban books from shelves and flick through anxiously. How to choose one quote when every page of each book has something profound on it? I know: on that basis any quote will do, so choose a random book, a random page, a random line and that'll be the one! OK, here goes: Fathers are prone to name first daughters elaborately. I don't mind being named after a nymph but I really don't care to be associated with the pastoral tradition. Hmm: interesting, and appropriate if the baby is a girl, but doesn't really do it for me 4Qationwise. Try again: Lenore liked Messiaen, Ligeti, Boulez, Birtwhistle ('I have no time,' she asserted, 'for composers who try to please, except when I'm in the mood for Antonio Carlos Jobim'). Better, but... damn, have to go. Pile books in rucksack, kiss bumpy wife and go.

8.20 The shop below our flat has been closed for some time. Rather than whitewash the windows, the ex-owners have hung some nifty yellow curtains there instead. Consider as I pass graffiti'ing a Hoban quote across it. If only I could think of one...




The shop below chez Cooper, with its handily yellow windows just crying out for a Hoban quote.

08:51 Squeeze onto train for Victoria at Clapham. 'Sorry, names move around behind the boiler.' 'What boiler is that?' 'The big black lying-down one.' Well, certainly interesting, but a touch on the wilfully obscure side perhaps? Ah, here's Victoria. "Hello," says Victoria. She looked at me as if my head were transparent and every one of my thoughts was visible to her, especially the last one.

09.14 Arrive at work. Check convention emails. Ohmygod, 22 of the little buggers. "My sample booklets arrived this morning and, in my opinion, they look stunning," says Chris. "Just about to do some SA4QE with my Year 10 group," says Roland. Luise had translated that poem for me, I'd recorded her reading it in German and in English and I still remembered lines here and there. Tempting, but must do some work. Resolve to tackle emails and quotes throughout day.

10.52 "Proof-reading standards have indisputably dropped since the introduction of desktop publishing packages such as InDesign and Quark XPress," meditates Chris. "The Troubanotdour sounds like a fine fling of a finale to the convention, Richard!" says Emmae. 'You've got a million pounds in cash back at your flat?' says Jonathan Fitch. 'I always like to have a little cash on hand,' replies Mr Rinyo-Clacton. Good, but is it 4Qational?

12.10 'You think too much, Harold.' 'Like a Jewish horse.' "If a cakewright could be found in Fulham, to make and deliver a cake for Russ, it would be nice, doncha think?" says Roland. "If it were made in the form of a ziggurat it would be possible to arrange 80 candles on it in such a way that all could be lit (not very easy on a flat cake)." Hmm, I'll think on that. I can't be bothered with details, said God. I've told you that before. Kleinzeit didn't hear him.

13.26 "Shirts... a bit urgent," says Roland. 'The fault is mine,' said the father in the same language. 'I do not look. I do not see. I regret.' "The best plan for booklet distribution," I type with one hand while eating sandwich with other, "is for me to leave them all in the office and for Roland to come here with me next Friday, ferry Bloomers' 300 to them in his car and grab a box (or half a box) for the convention." "Happy to do that," replies Roland rapidly, "but will it slow down the glueing?" 'Fister you know they wont do nothing moren dock his fraction for the nex 14nt or so. You jus cant go sticking Mincery peopl in bogs when ever you feal like it.' Head out for a much-needed breath of fresh air. Passing the Nomad Travel Store next to the office, wonder again whether their sign REGISTERED YELLOW FEVER CENTRE could be cunningly adapted for Yellow Paper purposes? Argh, if only I'd decided on a damn quote...


The Nomad Travel Store near Richard's office in Victoria - a Registered Yellow Paper Centre? If Richard had got his act together, maybe.

14.49 "Hello again," says a potential Some-Poasyac, "I'm trying to sign up but I can't work out how to make Paypal charge me less than £55, have you got any idea?" 'This Hidden Lion belongs to no one person more than to any other,' I said. 'It is simply the lion that remains hidden until it reveals itself.'

15.59 Helen went on about Elijah and how Yahweh showed him the stillness and Yahweh spoke the stillness that comes after the earthquake and the wind and the fire, the stillness that follows the release of energy from the potential to the actual. Er, come again? "Does anybody remember certain pictures and artists that show up in Russ's novels?" Olaf asks as he researches his slide-show. Think: what was the one with the bottoms in it? Ah yes, Angelica's Grotto. 'We were talking about Death,' Klein whispered into his hand. Death as a friend, said Oannes. 'Or as an editor,' whispered Klein, 'writing Delete? in the margin.' Good, but possibly negative, and no bottoms. Bum.

16.59 "i'd like to reserve all three t-shirt designs in medium, cheers," says Some-Poasyac Malcolm. We'd neither of us bothered to find out about the tide in advance. Whether it was in or out we'd launch the turtles. My wife rings, "Can you buy some soy milk and a bag of clementines for me on the way home?" she says. He made a fourth drawing: both arrows and one of the spears under the lion's feet. "Bookmarks arrived yesterday, ahead of schedule, and look great!" says Diana, "see you next week!" Mrs Crow, who had been stranded more than once herself, was cordial in her welcome. Argh! It's all going horribly wrong. This random idea isn't working. Reminds me of the so-called "random" orchestral crescendos in the Beatles' A Day in the Life: they listened to truly random versions and they sounded rubbish, so George Martin ended up having to orchestrate the randomness. True randomosity just doesn't have it, in the same way perhaps that creative writing courses say "Write about reality by all means, but don't expect to be able to take a chunk of reality and glue it to a blank sheet of paper and hope it'll become art." It needs a bit of intervention, needs a touch of personal meaning. Double bum! I have to get out of here in precisely 16 minutes and I still haven't worked out which quote to 4Qate, where to put it, how to bake a cake in the shape of a ziggurat, or what a ziggurat is even. What a baby. You and your Ibsen and your Chekhov. Maybe the revolver in the drawer's for another play, you ever think of that? You think your three acts are the only three bloody acts there are? Maybe you're the revolver in somebody else's play, eh? Never thought of that, did you? "Can you order the cake?" says Roland. 'NNNGGHH,' I said. 'ZURFF, KRULJJJ.'

Actually, that's a point...

The Medusa Frequency is a tried and trusted favourite, a Hoban classic, my first experience of Russ, and although I've quoted from it before surely has something for all 4Qeventualities. A favourite passage comes back to me as I flick through. Feel a bit cynical using Russ's texts for political ends, especially when the passage was originally intended to be funny, but it does sum up to me the motivations of the various terrorists of the world, in all their forms. So here it is, at last, the passage I choose for SA4QE 2005:

NNVSNU THE TSRUNGH IS THINKING VIOLENTLY.

Of what?

OF GOING AFTER WHOEVER PULLED THE GREAT SNYUKH.

What was the Great Snyukh?

IT WAS THE BLUG OF NEXO VOLLMA.

The Blug of Nexo Vollma. I like that. I should think it was about forty feet high with a thousand tentacles and it left a slimy track.

NEXO VOLLMA IS THE BLUGHOLE OF THE UNIVERSE.

You mean plughole. Nexo Vollma is the plughole of the universe and the Great Snyukh was the plug. In that case the great Snyukh must have been a good deal bigger than I thought.

IT WAS A WHOLE LOT BIGGER THAN ANY PLUG YOU CAN THINK OF, AND IT GOT PULLED. BUT IN THAT UNIMAGINABLE MOMENT BEFORE THE BIG WHOOSH, SNYUKH! INTO THE BLUGHOLE WENT NNVSNU THE TSRUNGH.

He saved us all.

HE DID WHAT HAD TO BE DONE BUT NOW HE THINKS VIOLENT THOUGHTS. FROM THE BLUGHOLE IN THE BLACKNESS OF THE HURGO MURMUS, FROM THE UTTERMOST DEPTHS OF THE ULTIMATE DEEP HE SENDS HIS MIND AFTER THOSE WHO PULLED THE GREAT SNYUKH, THE BLUG OF NEXO VOLLMA.

Who did it? Who pulled the Great Snyukh?

THE DEEPLY BAD ONES DID IT.

Why did they do it?

THEY WANTED TO HEAR THE BIG WHOOSH.

The bastards.

from The Medusa Frequency


I photocopy the passage onto two sheets of yellow paper, slip one onto an absent office colleague's chair because, being of a similar political and literary persuasion to me I know he'll enjoy it, and, gathering my entire Hoban collection together into one sagging rucksack, leave the office with the other. Outside the building between the pedestrian crossing and the Nomad Travel Store are three or four of those bins dispensing free newspapers for the benefit of the thousands of backpackers who trek around Victoria every day. Secrete the second copy of the quote between the pages of one of the papers, and, with some relief, head for home.

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