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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Steve Long 2009

This year I chose a quotation from Pilgermann, the first paragraph of chapter 11. I copied it onto yellow paper and added some expanatory text at the end.

One wakes up every morning and puts on oneself. Everyone has experienced this: the self must be put on before any garment, and there is inevitably a pause as it were a caesura in the going forward of things before the self is put on. Why is this? It is because our mortal identity is not the primary one, not the profound, not the deep one. No, what wakes up from sleep is not Tiglath Pileser or Peter Schlemiel or Pilgermann; it is simply raw undifferentiated being, brute being with nothing driving it but the forward motion imparted to it by the original explosion into the being of the universe. For a fraction of a moment it is itself only; then it must with joy or terror put on that identity taken on with mortal birth, that identity that each morning is the cumulative total of its mortal days and nights, that self old or young, sick or well, brave or cowardly, beautiful or ugly, whole or mutilated, that is one's lot.

This quotation was left on 4th February 2009 to celebrate the anniversary of Russell Hoban's birth. Hoban is a writer of extraordinary novels and childrens' books.

Around the world others are leaving sheets of yellow paper carrying quotations by Hoban. Congratulations on finding and reading this one. To find out more visit

I went out at lunchtime with five copies. I wanted to leave them in places where the finders might be interested in the content, but I didn't have a definite plan. The first I left in Watford Borders, on a low table in the bay where the Hoban books are. The second I left in Waterstones, folded up and placed inside a copy of Riddley Walker. Despite the best efforts of the interior designers of those shops I was feeling I wanted to leave the next somewhere with a little more soul, so went to the Watford New Hope Trust charity shop in Queen Street. This is a large charity shop with diverse stock and clientele, and an interesting place to browse. I left a folded copy in the H section of second hand books. My fourth copy was done somewhat on a whim and went a bit wrong. I was walking back down the High Street and met the local Big Issue seller - I bought a copy and asked her if she would mind putting one of my yellow papers in the next BI she sold. It quickly became clear that her English was good enough to sell the Big Issue but she didn't have much idea what I was talking about. I felt the situation was transforming from collusion to exploitation, but I couldn't just take it back and walk off, and I was failing to explain what I meant. It seemed she thought I was giving the yellow paper to her, and she seemed very happy to receive it, so I thought it best to leave it there, I was very happy for her to accept it as a gift. If she finds her way to the sa4qe blog - I'm sorry about the confusion caused, and I hope I didn't lose you any sales. My intentions were entirely innocent, perhaps a little too innocent! My fifth yellow paper had to wait until I was back in my home town of Tring - there is a nice little secondhand book shop run by the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, and I left the yellow paper folded up inside a copy of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity.

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