Happy birthday, Russell Hoban

Thanks to Londonist for informing me that today is novelist Russell Hoban’s birthday. If you see a sheet of yellow paper with a message scribbled on it on the tube or a pub table, then you’ll know that a fellow fan is marking the occasion.

I first discovered Russell Hoban when I chanced upon Amaryllis Night and Day on a three-for-two deal in Waterstones. It’s been too long since I read it, and it’s exactly what this grey month calls for – here is an introduction to the novel:

The first time Peter Diggs saw Amaryllis she was at a bus stop where the street sign said Balsamic, although there was nothing vinegary about the place. The bus was unthinkably tall, made of yellow, orange and pink rice paper, lit from within like a Japanese lantern. That was a dream, but where this romance goes as the dream begins to intersect reality is nothing that a reader can be prepared for. ‘Trust me, I’m a weirdo,’ says Amaryllis as she and Peter embark on their nocturnal experimentation, which leaves no one, on quite the same footing with reality.

I loved that book, and I loved him even more when his writer’s room appeared in The Guardian. Was it yet another orderly, antique-cluttered little loft conversion in North London? No. It was a pigsty. He actually commented that sometimes, when he’s looking for a particular book or DVD – which form part of his exobrain of inspiration – it’s often more time-efficient to simply buy a new one than spend time looking for it.

Happy Birthday Russell!

And while I’m here, I’d like to mention the lovely Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green, which has a newly launched blog, and is running all sorts of crafty and poetic events in the evenings, including a Crochet For Beginners Class on February 25 from 6-8pm (£15). Here is its website. And they have vegan Black Forest Cupcakes this month!


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