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Friday, 28 January 2011

The long-awaited report! Ruth Bosch and Richard Cooper 2010

For the uninitiated: every year The Kraken, the Russell Hoban fan forum (est. 1998) clubs together to buy a birthday gift - usually a bottle of spirits - for "Russ" as he is affectionately known, and a volunteer hand-delivers it to his London home. In 2010 longtime Krakenites Ruth Bosch and Richard Cooper were the volunteers, and composed a report on the day for sharing with Hoban fans that, by all accounts, was simply spellbinding. However, in a bizarre incident involving a Giant Squid, Putney Bridge and a Klein bottle, the report disappeared and was never heard from again. Richard and Ruth found it understandably difficult to get over this tragedy, and struggled to re-compose themselves, as well as the report. However, we here at Slickman Towers are delighted to say that they have now managed to produce the following account. We hope you enjoy it.

Russell Hoban's birthday 2010, the SA4QE, and the Kraken Birthday Bottle Delivery Event were so rich in so many ways that both of the Birthday Bottle delivery persons have bogged down and rebogged several times in their hopes of recording and sharing the full enjoyment of it with everyone involved. As SA4QE 2011 is close upon us we throw caution and detailed Russellogues to the wind and hope that at least our sense of the beauty of the day finds other beholders.

We approached February 4th with a full set of vibrant Hobanian themes in the abstract and witnessed them being fleshed out, lioned out, yellowed out, and mouse-and-owled out by a graphically obliging universe, with emphatic double-deckerings, undergroundings, and apocalypticisms thrown in for ambience.

As if the world weren’t enough as it is.

Here are some photos and recollections of the day, in chronological order, with comments by Richard (RC) and Ruth (RB). Richard started the day at home near London and Ruth, at home in Paris, meeting mid-morning by Fulham Broadway tube station and proceeding Russwards.

Getting there

RC: Early in the morning I opened The Medusa Frequency, the first Hoban book I read and still my favourite, and found my 4-year-old son Joe had been practising his letters on a yellow post-it in an appropriate place. Copying "The Slickman A4 Quotation Event" he only got as far as "The Slick Joe" but that didn't seem an unreasonable statement.

It was between six and seven in the morning. The moon was low in the sky. It was a waxing moon, a gibbous one; it was a particular moon. I raised the window-blind. The pinky-orange hibiscus street lamp outside the window was the same as always. I opened the front door and went out into the foredawn, into the hissing of the silence and the humming of the underground trains standing empty with lighted windows on the far side of the common. Unseen birds twittered but there was no crow to shout and flaunt its blackness.

I heard my footsteps; I saw under the lamps my shadows first before me, then behind. 'Nothing to declare,' I said.

- from The Medusa Frequency

RC: The tawniness of the lion was in him.

RC: I 4Qated myself with this custom t-shirt, featuring the SA4QE logo on the front and a favourite quote about yellow paper on the back.

One of the earliest symptoms 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.
- from Blighter's Rock (The Moment under The Moment)

RC: Another customisation, a sticker on the boot of my car which I drove to the station to hopefully arouse the interest of fellow motorists. Can't think of a suitable motoring Hoban quote though except for the one about Harold Klein getting run over by a London bus.


RB: Papier jaune sur le Paris metro.

RC: checking contributions to the website on the train, armed with coffee and Kleinzeit.
Sister stood holding the helmet, listening to the clink of money falling into it. I don't know if this is right, she said to God.
What's wrong with it? said God.
Is it, I don't know, heathenish? said Sister.
You've got to move with the times, said God.
Are we talking about the same thing? said Sister.
One usually does, said God. I mean how much is there to talk about really. It's pretty much all one thing, isn't it.
- from Kleinzeit

Meeting there

RB: In Fulham Road on the way to Russ's. Richard models HAT inherited from Eli Bishop during the 2007 Riddley Walker adventure in Ireland. Excellent to have a red London bus and a flying lion in there too.

Being there

RC: Arriving at Russell Hoban's house, we were pleasantly surprised to find some yellow paper on the front door. This turned out not to be a 4qation but rather a note from Russ to his postman saying "Please keep knocking and ringing - I am hard of hearing."

RC: Russell Hoban with the 2010 birthday gifts from The Kraken - a bottle of Glenfarclas single malt whisky, a DVD set of the films of Jan Svankmajer, and, courtesy of Ruth, some exclusive chocolates from Paris. The chocolates themselves were in a small bowl itself made of chocolate, complete with a pair of chocolate chopsticks, or "chocsticks" as Russ dubbed them. Ruth apologised that the chocolates were of normal sugar content and thus probably not on doctor's orders, given Russ's condition. "Oh, don't worry," said Russ. "I'm not a career diabetic."

RB: Russ was splendid. One of the best things was having the chance to tell him that if he had only given us his books it would be quite enough, more than, but he has also given us Kraken friends and that is something. 

RB: Russ with Richard. Behind them is the TV on which Russ watches a different movie (or sometimes two) every day.

RC: Not pictured here are all the things we chatted about - far too many to remember, but certainly we talked about Ruth's job as an antique fan-restorer, and the two Americans shared their recollections of home. At one point Ruth said "More importantly..." which inspired Russ to comment that the correct construction was "more important". This point turned up as a niggle of one of the characters in Russ's 2010 novel Angelica Lost and Found. Speaking of which...

RC: Russociate Jake Wilson popped over while we were there. A documentary film-maker in his own right, Jake was later to be found listed among the acknowledgees in Angelica Lost and Found, for reading the manuscript at varying stages of composition. Russ had a proof copy with him during our meeting and Jake commented approvingly on the cover, which featured the Girolamo da Carpi reproduction as found on the version you can now buy. Apparently there was an earlier cover which wasn't as good. The two chatted for a few moments about 3:10 to Yuma, a classic western they'd both recently been investigating.

RC: Russ flicking through Jake's birthday gift, a copy of Tippoo's Tiger from The Victoria and Albert Museum.

RB: The business end of two distinct synchronicities were also delivered by Jake, unbeknownst to him. The subject matter of both had been cleverly and variously introduced by Life in the guise of my friend Jean-Yves during the week or two preceding the trip to London. Synchronicity #1: Jean-Yves asked if I had seen the large musical automaton, Tippoo's Tiger, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, describing it in detail it when I said I hadn’t. It was a bit odd, as I had been to the museum so many times and it’s the kind of thing I love and would tend to remember, but I drew a blank. Jean-Yves’ description stayed vivid in my mind and I hoped to go and see it when in London.

I was sitting across from Russ as he unwrapped Jake's gift, the new book about “Tippoo’s Tiger”. Jake had played the organ inside the tiger for a documentary made by the V&A,

Synchronicity #2: During those same Londonimminent days I was walking alone on the street near my house in an unfocussed sort of way,  hallucinating sideways and without conscious intent into walking in the same place with Jean-Yves. Both of us looked at the sidewalk and saw a trail of coins. The sense of this was so strong that my non-hallucinating self pulled itself together to look down at the sidewalk and lo, a line of coins, 1 Euro and 15 cents, as it turned out.

Jake told us a story about dreaming and childhood and the way he and his brothers discovered they were sharing the same dream, this primarily having to do with the way they told each other about it, knowing it must be so because every one of them had the evidence of his own recent memory. Their shared dream was of looking at the ground and finding a trail of coins. I know this is not an unusual theme, but the story continued for me in a way that made it more remarkable. I later told it to another friend, and she related it to her husband when they were walking in the woods. They stopped walking as she finished telling the story, both of them looked at the ground and saw 14 pennies scattered across their path.

When I first started reading Russ's books I was neverendingly amazed at the way they "happened" to me. They were three-dimensional events, series of events, that coincided precisely with whatever else was happening in my life. They coincided in ways that were exactly like the things that happened in his books and the intersection showed a plane of existence that I knew.

RB: Tulips for Gundula (Mrs Hoban), on the floor of Russ's kitchen along with some pussy-willows (hidden by the red wrapping paper) and a quantity of Gundula's market-stall stock.

RC/RB: We left after a very happy hour, as Russ had to have his lunch, and so did we. 

Lunching there

RC: The window display of the delightful Fulham cafe where Ruth and I had lunch.

RC: Checking Facebook for yellow paper updates.
RB: 4qating our dining table with the words:

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.

- from Pilgermann

4qating there: wandering westwards

RB: Yellow pages, meet yellow paper!

RC: We walked from Embankment tube to Trafalgar Square. Seen here 4qating one of the lions with Ruth's aforementioned Pilgermann quote.
RB: Richard expressed some concern about "4qating by the lion's bum".
RC: I don't remember saying that.
RB: You did. It was delightful.
RC: I'll take your word for it!

RB: Richard at the bottom of Nelson's Column. It was a deceptively long way up onto the plinth. I almost didn't get down again.

RB/RC: We passed through Chinatown...

RB: 4qating in Old Compton Street, Soho:
Loneliness is the essential human condition. Everything else is gravy.

- originally quoted by Emmae Gibson

Tea-and-cakeing there

RB/RC: We stopped into this suitably-coloured cafe, The Profile.

RB: Yellow paper at the Profile.

RC: The decor matched the SA4QE website :-)

RC: Yellow paper and the absence of Ruth. Quoted tabularly:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
- by HP Lovecraft from The Call of Cthulhu
(quoted by RH in The Medusa Frequency)

RB: 4qating the greetings card display in a nearby gift shop with the previously-mentioned Lovecraft/Medusa quote.

Roading there

RC: By now the sun had well and truly set, but our 4qday still had some life in it. We had another place to be, appropriately enough near Russell Square.

RB: We actually got here via Holborn tube. The Pilgermann quote was re4qated, being here the mummy of all Hoban quotes.

RC: Heading for dinner at Hoban favourite Il Fornello we passed 90 High Holborn, offices of the law firm Olswang, which looks like a giant yellow paper drop. (HT to Hugh Bowden.)

RC: The Hotel Russell, Bloomsbury, near Russell Square.

Drinking there

RC: with fellow 4qater Deena Omar.

RC: Saying goodbye to Ruth B.

Homeing there

RC: SA4QE day ends for another year. But stay tuned!

(c) Bosch-Cooper Productions 2010. All wrongs reserved.


  1. Inspiring! Excited to be involved for the first time this year. I have my Mouse and His Child and Bread and Jam for Frances quotes at the ready, as well as a couple from Riddley Walker.


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