Whilst going about your business today, you might come across a mysterious single sheet of yellow A4 paper. On that piece of paper there will be written some words.
It might be stuck on to a wall, or left on the table at your local café, or on the seat of your tube or a bus. There’s a possibility that you might wonder why it’s there and what the words mean, and there’s a possibility that you won’t.
Either way, we’re here to explain.
Today is 4 February. It’s a pretty non-descript kind of day as days go; probably a bit grey; a bit miserable, but for a growing number of people (the same people who have left the single piece of yellow A4 paper for you to find), it is a reason to celebrate. You see, today is the birthday of Russell Hoban, and the yellow A4 piece of paper is their way of marking the occasion.
Exactly. You might not know the name but the chances are that as a child you might have come across one of Mr Hoban’s books; perhaps ‘How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen’, ‘La Corona and the Tin Frog’, or the ‘Frances The Badger’ books to name three. Hoban has also written scores of adult books including ‘Riddley Walker’, ‘Amaryllis Night and Day’, ‘Turtle Diary’, ‘Pilgermann’ and ‘Kleinzeit’.
Today is his 85th birthday, and he’s still going.
Born in Pennsylvania, USA in 1925, Hoban moved to London in 1969 and has been here ever since. Many of his books are written with London as their back-drop. On top of that, Hoban has an incredible knack of delivering sentences or sentiments that make you think "That’s exactly how I’d describe it if only I knew how”.
Published by Bloomsbury, he acknowledged his own status to a national newspaper, by saying he was “grateful to Harry Potter, who subsidises me." He may not be in the same league as JK Rowling, and for many that’s a relief, but Russell Hoban does what he does best, and there’s a great many people who appreciate it. Today, those people show their appreciation by leaving quotations from Hoban’s novels on sheets of yellow A4 paper (a Hoban motif) in public places for people to find (in what has been called the Slickman A4 quotation Event).
A few years back on this very day, a Hoban-ite called Richard Cooper managed to visit 29 London locations in one day, leaving 33 quotes. He documented his day here.
If you do chance upon a single sheet of yellow A4 paper today then perhaps you’ll look up Russell Hoban, read one or two of his books and maybe next year, you’ll leave a yellow A4 sheet of paper for someone to find too. You can also share your discovery by uploading a photo of the quote to Flickr, with the tag sa4qe or tweet with hashtag #sa4qe.
By Jonnie Fielding. Photo courtesy of Deena Omar