This is the old SA4QE website. See the most recent posts at

Monday, 14 February 2011

SA4QE special: Hoban for Valentine's Day?

Orphée et Eurydice by Federico Cervelli
Most of Russell Hoban's novels are love stories of city-dwellers. Is that too sweeping a statement? In an email to Head of Orpheus webmaster Dave Awl back in 2002, he described his then-impending novel The Bat Tattoo as "my usual thing of two people meeting in an odd way in London and a quietly offbeat relationship developing." Readers of his early novel Turtle Diary would recognise this theme and structure; indeed that and The Bat Tattoo share the form of the male and female protagonists taking turns to narrate the story. The outcomes are different however; in Turtle Diary Naeara and William bond over a plan to set sea-turtles free from London Zoo, but whether they are actually suited to each other romantically remains to be seen. In The Bat Tattoo though, there seems no doubt that Roswell and Sarah are falling in love.

Kleinzeit, published the year before Turtle Diary, is a manic linguistic romp in which the eponymous hero no sooner gets admitted to hospital than he falls in love with the ward sister. Hoban's most recent novel, Angelica Lost and Found, sees the lovesick hypogriff from Girolamo da Carpi's painting Ruggiero Saving Angelica break free to search for Angelica in modern-day San Francisco. In between, Herman Orff in The Medusa Frequency laments a lost lover through the eternal story of loss, Orpheus and Eurydice, while in Angelica's Grotto a septuagenarian art historian seeks love of a darker sort through a pornographic website. Maybe the only novels not principally "love stories" are The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz and Riddley Walker, both of which, while seeing the protagonists involved with other characters in a sexual or romantic way, are principally quests for something more complex. It isn't, perhaps, therefore an overstatement to say that Hoban's abiding theme is love and relationships, even if he tackles the subject in a satisfyingly different way from most writers.

Over the years SA4QE has seen hundreds of quotes chosen from Russell Hoban books. Here is a selection of quotes that may be appropriate for today:

"We smiled at each other over our glasses, time seemed full and easy, available in unlimited amounts. George seemed to carry a clear space about him that made all things plain and simple where he was."
- from Turtle Diary
(chosen by Lindsay Edmunds)

It is not love that moves the world from night to morning, it is not love that makes the new day dawn. It is the longing for what cannot be. The world needs the power of your yearning, the world needs the power of your love that cannot be fulfilled.
- from The Second Mrs Kong
(chosen by Dave Awl / Richard Cooper)

Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to mountains or to death: once recognized they fill the heart.
- from The Medusa Frequency
(chosen by Eli Bishop)

"He loved her simply because she was. What a thing, thought Jachin-Boaz. Love without purpose."
- from The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz
(chosen by Emmae Gibson)

Emmae comments: "A Hoban novel for a Valentine's Day gift would probably have to be Amaryllis Night And Day. Not only is it love and romance, sensitive and complex, hobanesque fantasy-reality with soft colours and crazy glass, but also, (more important, you might say, on such a day,) it has a happy ending."

What are your favourite Russell Hoban quotes on love? Would you give a Hoban novel as a Valentine's Day gift? Please comment below.

1 comment:

  1. This blogger says The Marzipan Pig is "the saddest Valentine's Day book":


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.