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Monday 1 January 2001

About SA4QE

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What is SA4QE? (in a nutshell)

SA4QE is an acronym for Slickman A4 Quotation Event, an annual literary activity established in 2002 in which fans of the novelist Russell Hoban celebrate his birthday on 4 February by placing favourite quotes from his books in public places.

What is SA4QE? (longer answer, forming something of a short history)

February 4th is Russell Hoban’s birthday, and...

Who is Russell Hoban?

Born in Pennsylvania in 1925, Russell Hoban is the author of many extraordinary novels including Riddley Walker, Turtle Diary, The Medusa Frequency, Kleinzeit, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Angelica’s Grotto and most recently Angelica Lost and Found, Linger Awhile and Come Dance With Me. He has also written many classic books for children including Jim’s Lion, The Mouse and His Child and the Frances the Badger series. He lived and worked in London from 1969 until his death, on 13 December 2011, aged 86.

Okay, carry on.

To show their appreciation of a dedicated life and a great (and continuing) body of work, the online Hoban discussion forum and de facto fan-club The Kraken for several years clubbed together to buy Mr Hoban a birthday bottle. In 2002, in addition to the gift, it was felt something a little extra was in order. Various ideas were knocked around, to wit (as Chris Bell summarised in the birthday greeting to Mr Hoban):

- Driving around London reading Kleinzeit through a loudspeaker;

- Tiling Trafalgar Square with sheets of yellow A4 printed with the Hidden Lion pattern;

- A volunteer offered to be buried up to his neck in the mud on the Thames at Putney, pretending to be the Head of Orpheus and telling his story to anyone who happened to pass by;

- In a conflation of Turtle Diary and The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, it was proposed Kraken members might sneak into London Zoo and set free a lion to roam around the Embankment;

- A Krakenite submitted that several of us might busk with glockenspiels at randomly selected underground stations;

- Another suggested buying several hundred reams of yellow A4 and wrapping Fulham Broadway tube station in it, Christo style.

However, it seemed that the better the ideas were, the less feasible it was that someone wasn’t going to get arrested, committed or, frankly, killed trying to carry them out. Hearts sank... and then longtime Krakenite Diana Slickman had a bolt of inspiration and suggested the following to the group:

I propose that we each, on February 4, write our favorite passage, of any length, from any Russell Hoban book, on a piece of yellow paper and drop it somewhere public and then walk away, leaving chance to do the rest. I am a vehement hater of litter, so I would recommend leaving it someplace rather than just dropping it on the ground - a seat on the train, a table in the library, in the elevator at work, along with a tip for your waiter ... The paper should at least include the name of the book and Russell's name ... leaving chance to do the rest ... let the mystery of things take it from there, let the paper find its way (or not) to some receptive (or not) person who would then go seek out the book (or not) and become another fan (or not)...

The Kraken instantly approved Diana’s proposal, Head of Orpheus webmaster Dave Awl dubbed it The Slickman A4 Quotation Event, or SA4QE for short, and the group members set about engaging in one of their favourite occupations – re-reading Mr Hoban’s books – in order to locate and choose their quotes.

The event also spawned its own vocabulary - a 4qation or 4quation (n., pron. 'fork-you-ashun') is a Hoban quote left in a public place; 4qate or 4quate (v., pron. 'fork-you-ate') means to take part in SA4QE; and those who take part are called 4qators, 4qaters or even 4qationists. 4qage or 4quage (n., pron. 'fork-you-ijj') can refer to any SA4QE activity, while in 2009 Ruth Bosch expanded the vocabulary still further by coining 'echoquation', meaning an act of selecting a quote not direct from a Hoban book but from an existing 4qation, of which there are many to choose from on the SA4QE website. Dave Awl's 'shockingly tardy' 2009 report also gave rise to the term '4qlation' to designate a 4qation report (or the 4qation itself) posted later than 4th February (although the extraordinary SA4QE on 5 November 2010 did not count as late). And the least said about '4qrelate' the better.

The SA4QE website, launched in the autumn of 2002, forms an online record of the quotes chosen by participants, together with details of why they were chosen and where in the world they were distributed. The site received an impressive number of hits over the following months, and was referred to in an excellent profile of Mr Hoban by Nicholas Wroe in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on 23 November 2002.

Altogether the event was such a success and proved so popular with Krakenites that the group has made SA4QE an annual event. On all 4th Februaries since 2002 to date, both long-standing and new members of the group left quotes around the world, and on 15 February 2004 the event was the subject of a full-page feature in Talk of the Town, a (sadly now defunct) magazine supplement with the UK's Independent on Sunday national newspaper.

Commenting on SA4QE, Russell Hoban said, 'Words have a life; without response they die.'

SA4QE trivia

Why yellow paper?

The yellow paper to which we refer is not an arbitrary choice. It made its first appearance in Mr Hoban’s work in Kleinzeit (1974) as a particular brand of typing paper with mysterious qualities discovered in the Underground by the eponymous hero. In common with a number of other themes and images throughout Mr Hoban’s oeuvre, the yellow paper has had a number of cameo roles in his books since – for example in The Medusa Frequency (1987), novelist Herman Orff carries a sheet of it around with him to make notes on, and in Amaryllis Night and Day (2001) Peter Diggs makes a Möbius strip out of a sheet of yellow A4. In his 1989 essay Blighter’s Rock (from The Moment under The Moment), Mr Hoban explains:

One of the earliest symptoms [of blighter's rock] is a growing dread of blank paper, and at this stage preventative action may still have some effect... I always use 80-gram yellow A4; it’s the kind of yellow the paper manufacturers call gold, and gold is what one is trying to refine the base metal of one’s thoughts into... I never use white paper – to intensify the blankness of a blank sheet by using white paper is to run to meet trouble considerably more than halfway.

Are there any figures on the number of quotes dropped, most popular quotes etc?

Yes. As at March 2008, over 350 quotes from 31 Russell Hoban books have been dropped by 70 participants in 46 towns and cities around the world. For more fascinating facts, including the record-holders of longest, shortest and highest number of 4qations and the most popular quotes and books, go to the Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About SA4QE (but were afraid to ask) page.

Is there a guestbook I can sign?

No, but you can comment on individual 4qations using the 'comment' links at the bottom of each 'yellow paper post'. Alternatively post your thoughts to The Kraken.

If you're on Facebook you can also post to the official SA4QE Facebook page (Facebook registration required).

Who runs this website and how can I contact them?

The SA4QE website is administered by Gombert H. Yawncher O.B.E. on behalf of Slickman Enterprises Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Slithe & Tovey plc, for Thoughtcat Eccentricities LLC, a division of Cthulhu Squid Inc, 42nd Floor, Gislebertus Tower, 4 Barbara Strozzi Street, London WC2N 5DN. Mail sent here has however been known to take some years to arrive, so for a quicker response please email all enquiries to:

sa4qemail [at] gmail [dot] com

Can I join The Kraken? How do I do it?

The Kraken is a public Yahoo group, so anyone interested in Russell Hoban's work can join. Go to and click on the 'Join this group!' link at the top right.

What does it all mean?
How can there be meaning? said Hospital. Meaning is a limit. There are no limits.

from Kleinzeit




Dave Awl's comprehensive and fully authorised site The Head of Orpheus is your first stop for the latest Hoban news, biographical information, a full list of published works (including some 60 children's books), interviews, essays, and some fascinating links.

Dave's site also includes some excellent summaries of each of Mr Hoban's novels, including a list of known editions. To access these go to and scroll down a bit to 'Novels'.

For even more quotes, have a browse around Dave's Quotable Russell Hoban Page.


Most of Russell Hoban's novels are currently in print in the UK and most are available in the US. If you can't find any on the shelves of your local bookshop, please keep your bookshop going by asking them to order them in for you. However, if you simply can't wait to get your hands on a copy of a Hoban opus, you can order online from Amazon or direct from the Russell Hoban page on Bloomsbury Publishing's bookshop.

The small print

All quotes attributed to a Russell Hoban work are copyright © Russell Hoban.

All such quotes are normally identified in the following format:

This is the quotation
from [book title]

(Sometimes the source appears above the quote, or is mentioned by the contributor in the preceding paragraph.)

SA4QE is a non-profit-making (indeed, non-money-making) fan website and no infringement of Russell Hoban’s copyright is intended or should be inferred. Mr Hoban gave his approval of the use of these quotes on the site.

Copyright © in all other text reverts to the individual contributors identified on their pages.

Although Russell Hoban gave his approval of the reproduction on this site of the quotes distributed by his readers, it should not be implied that Mr Hoban was himself in any way responsible for where, or in what manner, the quotes were distributed. SA4QE is conducted with the best of intentions, both towards Mr Hoban and anybody who may happen upon a quote, as well as towards the environment. In true "message in a bottle" spirit, none of the quotes dropped by participants are aimed at anyone in particular. Please report transgressions of any of these rules to the email address:

sa4qemail [at] gmail [dot] com

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