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Russell Hoban reader survey 2012 - results

In December 2011 SA4QE created a survey in which readers of Russell Hoban were invited to answer questions about their favourite books, quotes, characters and more. Here are the results!

Before we get stuck into the nitty-gritty, here are a few demographics:

Length of time as a reader/fan of Russell Hoban

An equal proportion (29.8%) of respondents said they had been a reader/fan for either 20-29 years or 30-39 years. The next most popular bracket (23.7%) was 1-9 years (great to see such a large proportion of relatively new readers). Following that, 14.5% said they had been a fan for 10-19 years. Only 1.5% of respondents had been reading Russell Hoban for 40-49 years and 0.8% for more than 50 years (he first became a published writer back in 1959 with the children's book What Does It Do and How Does It Work?).

Membership of The Kraken (the Russell Hoban discussion forum on Yahoo Groups)

"Membership" suggests some kind of exclusive club, but in fact The Kraken group, which was established by Head of Orpheus webmaster Dave Awl in 1999, is open to any fan of Russell Hoban. Responses to the question "Are you a member of The Kraken" were split exactly 50/50 between yes and no.

Participation in SA4QE

SA4QE (aka the Slickman A4 Quotation Event) has taken place every 4 February since 2002. Russell Hoban fans write their favourite quotes on sheets of (usually yellow A4) paper and leave them in public places. The responses to the question "How many times have you taken part in SA4QE" were as follows:

1= 1-3 times (35.6%)
1= I have not taken part before but will do in 2012 (35.6%)
2 SA4Qwhat? (10.6%)
3 4-6 times (8.7%)
4 8-10 times (7.7%)
5= 7 times (1.0%)
5= 7.5 times (1.0%)

While it was disappointing not to see more people had taken part 7.5 times (something we concede is tricky), it was especially heartening to see 37 responses to the option "I have not taken part before but will do in 2012" - we hope many of those people will be contributing their favourite quotes to the site this year!

Okay, so here are the answers to the main questions.

The first Russell Hoban book you read

1 Riddley Walker (40.5%)
2 Turtle Diary (10.7%)
3 Kleinzeit (9.9%)
4 The Mouse and His Child (7.6%)
5 The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (6.9%)
6 Bread and Jam for Frances (4.6%)
7 Amaryllis Night and Day (3.8%)
8 The Medusa Frequency (3.1%)
9 A Birthday for Frances (2.3%)
10= Bedtime for Frances (1.5%)
10= How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen (1.5%)
10= My Tango with Barbara Strozzi (1.5%)
13= A Baby Sister for Frances (0.8%)
13= Angelica's Grotto (0.8%)
13= Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (0.8%)
13= Her Name Was Lola (0.8%)
13= Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer (0.8%)
13= Pilgermann (0.8%)
13= The Sea-Thing Child (0.8%)
13= The Trokeville Way (0.8%)

These results were possibly not that surprising given the popularity of Riddley Walker and the general number of years most respondents had been reading Russ's books (seven of the top 10 titles were published in the 1960s and early 1970s). Nonetheless, it was good to see Amaryllis Night and Day (2001) and The Medusa Frequency (1987) also in the top bracket.

It is perhaps interesting that over 79% of the books that introduced respondents to Russell Hoban are adult novels, compared with a figure of around 21% for the children's books.

Favourite adult books

1 Riddley Walker (25.4%)
2 Kleinzeit (14.2%)
3 Turtle Diary (11.3%)
4 The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (8.7%)
5 The Medusa Frequency (8.4%)
6 Pilgermann (7.8%)
7 Fremder (4.6%)
8= Amaryllis Night and Day (4.3%)
8= The Moment under The Moment (4.3%)
10 The Bat Tattoo (3.5%)
11 Angelica's Grotto (2.3%)
12= Angelica Lost and Found (1.4%)
12= Her Name Was Lola (1.4%)
14 My Tango with Barbara Strozzi (0.9%)
15= Linger Awhile (0.6%)
15= Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer (0.6%)
17 Come Dance With Me (0.3%)

Again number one will be no surprise, but it was surely difficult to guess what order the rest of the top 10 (at least) would be! Now we know...

Which of Russell Hoban's adult books have you read *apart from* Riddley Walker?

1= Kleinzeit (7.9%)
1= The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (7.9%)
3 Turtle Diary (7.8%)
4= The Medusa Frequency (7.2%)
4= Pilgermann (7.2%)
6= Amaryllis Night and Day (6.3%)
6= Angelica's Grotto (6.3%)
8 The Moment under The Moment (6.1%)
9= Fremder (5.9%)
9= The Bat Tattoo (5.9%)
11 Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer (5.8%)
12 Her Name Was Lola (5.5%)
13 Come Dance With Me (5.3%)
14 Angelica Lost and Found (5.1%)
15= Linger Awhile (4.8%)
15= My Tango with Barbara Strozzi (4.8%)
17 I haven't read any of his books apart from Riddley Walker (0.2%)

While the ordering of the results is similar to that of the previous question, it was especially good to see respondents were familiar with so many of Russ's other titles. There is a perception that some readers have read Riddley Walker and remained unaware that Russ wrote any other books at all, or at least have not gone on to read any of them, so it's great to see that myth confounded here.

Favourite children's books

The following received at least 2 votes:

1 The Mouse and His Child (20.8%)
2 The Marzipan Pig (8.6%)
3= Bread and Jam for Frances (7.3%)
3= The Trokeville Way (7.3%)
5 How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen (5.8%)
6= Bedtime for Frances (4.8%)
6= The Sea-Thing Child (4.8%)
8 A Birthday for Frances (3.5%)
9 A Bargain for Frances (3.2%)
10 A Baby Sister for Frances (2.9%)
11= A Near Thing for Captain Najork (2.2%)
11= Best Friends for Frances (2.2%)
13= Jim's Lion (1.9%)
13= La Corona and the Tin Frog (1.9%)
13= The Pedalling Man and Other Poems (1.9%)
16= Ponders (1.6%)
16= The Dancing Tigers (1.6%)
16= The Twenty-Elephant Restaurant (1.6%)
19= Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1.3%)
19= Lavinia Bat (1.3%)
19= The Rain Door (1.3%)
22= Monsters (1.0%)
22= The Little Brute Family (1.0%)
22= The Sorely Trying Day (1.0%)
22= The Stone Doll of Sister Brute (1.0%)
26= Dinner at Alberta's (0.6%)
26= M.O.L.E. (Much Overworked Little Earthmover) (0.6%)
26= The Flight of Bembel Rudzuk (0.6%)
26= The Mole Family's Christmas (0.6%)
26= The Serpent Tower (0.6%)
26= The Last of the Wallendas (0.6%)

As with Riddley Walker, we're unsurprised to see Russ's 1967 classic The Mouse and His Child in at number one. Only one respondent said they had never read any of Russ's children's books. The following all received one vote: Ace Dragon Ltd, Arthur's New Power, Charlie Meadows, Charlie the Tramp, Flat Cat, Herman the Loser, Jim Hedgehog and the Lonesome Tower, Jim Hedgehog's Supernatural Christmas, Some Snow Said Hello, They Came from Aargh!, Trouble on Thunder Mountain, and What Does It Do and How Does It Work.

Which Russell Hoban novel would you most like to see made into a film? 

1 Riddley Walker (25.0%)
2 Fremder (10.3%)
3 Kleinzeit (9.8%)
4= Pilgermann (8.8%)
4= The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (8.8%)
6 The Medusa Frequency (8.3%)
7 The Bat Tattoo (5.4%)
8= Amaryllis Night and Day (4.4%)
8= Turtle Diary (remade) (4.4%)
10= Angelica's Grotto (2.9%)
10= Her Name Was Lola (2.9%)
12 Linger Awhile (2.5%)
13 My Tango with Barbara Strozzi (2.0%)
14 Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer (1.5%)
15 Come Dance With Me (1.0%)
16= Angelica Lost and Found (0.5%)
16= Dark Oliver (short story from The Moment under The Moment) (0.5%)

This is always a tricky one - as one respondent said, "I would vote for none of them - they are books, not films." Indeed although it's unsurprising to see Riddley Walker in again at number one, because of its overall popularity and fame, you might argue that a lot of the linguistic subtleties would be lost when spoken rather than read - but the story is of course compelling, and the theatrical and radio versions have been very well received. Maybe the biggest surprise is Fremder in second place, not because it wouldn't make an excellent film but because of its lower ranking in the previous questions. It was disappointing to see so few votes for Linger Awhile, in which an elderly protagonist brings a long-dead black-and-white movie star back to life.

Favourite characters

Three respondents said this question was too difficult to answer, and one respondent said "I love them all!" We sympathise, but the characters who came top (receiving a minimum of 2 votes) were:

1 Riddley Walker (25%)
2 Kleinzeit (13.5%)
3 Frances the badger (6.7%)
4= Fremder Gorn (3.8%)
4= Pilgermann (3.8%)
4= The Head of Orpheus (3.8%)
7= Herman Orff (2.9%)
7= Mr Punch (2.9%)
9= Amaryllis (1.9%)
9= Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong (1.9%)
9= Death (from Kleinzeit) (1.9%)
9= Neaera H. (1.9%)
9= The London Underground (1.9%)
9= William G. (1.9%)

The following characters received one vote each and are listed alphabetically:

Bembel Rudzuk
Christabel Alderton
George Fairbairn
Harold Klein
Jim Hedgehog
Lavinia Bat
Lorna Elsewint
Mr Rinyo-Clacton
Peter Diggs
Russell Hoban(!)
The Black Dog in Riddley Walker
The pig from Pilgermann
The Sea Thing Child
The Tawny Lion
Tom (from How Tom Beat Captain Najork)
William Meager

Also in this list were one vote each for "Mouse and child" and "The two characters in Turtle Diary", which we think should get special mentions for being considered "one character".

Favourite quotes

This question was inevitably going to be difficult, both for respondents to choose their quotes and for us to know how best to represent the choices. A total of 76 quotes were submitted, of which 51 were unique, a testament to the sheer number of great passages Russell Hoban penned over the decades. The remaining 25 quotes were chosen between two and six times. For the purposes of this survey we wanted to identify the common ones, so only those which were chosen at least twice are "ranked" below. All the other quotes chosen in this survey will be reproduced elsewhere on this site at some point.

1. From Riddley Walker (6 votes)
Its some kynd of thing it aint us but yet its in us. Its looking out thru our eye hoals. May be you dont take no noatis of it only some times. Say you get woak up suddn in the middl of the nite. 1 minim youre a sleap and the nex youre on your feet with a spear in your han. Wel it wernt you put that spear in your han it wer that other thing whats looking out thru your eye hoals. It aint you nor it dont even know your name. Its in us lorn and loan and sheltering how it can.

2=. From The Medusa Frequency (4 votes)
Alone and blind and endlessly voyaging I think constantly of fidelity. Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to mountains or to death: once recognised they fill the heart. In love or terror or in loathing one responds to them with the true self; fidelity is not an act of the will: the soul is compelled by recognitions. Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being.

2=. From Kleinzeit (4 votes)
I exist, said the mirror.
What about me? said Kleinzeit.
Not my problem, said the mirror.

3. From Riddley Walker (3 votes)
Your tern now my tern later.

4=. From The Medusa Frequency (2 votes)
The world vibrates like a crystal in the mind; there is a frequency at which terror and ecstasy are the same and any road might be taken.

4=. From Turtle Diary (2 votes)
After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?

4=. From Riddley Walker (2 votes)
Trubba not.

4=. From The Medusa Frequency or Fremder* (2 votes)
Being is not a steady state but an occulting one: we are all of us a succession of stillnesses blurring into motion with the revolving of the wheel of action, and it is in those spaces of black between the pictures that we experience the heart of the mystery in which we are never allowed to rest.

*This passage appeared in both of these books. There was one vote for the one in Fremder and one for that in The Medusa Frequency.

1 comment:

  1. That was not just entertainingly presented, but it was good to see the choices and preferences listed in this way.

    One thought: it would nice to know the sample-size for each question, since, say, 2.9% of a hundred respondents choosing Hermann Orff as their favourite character means something rather different thn if it were 2.9% of fifty...