Hoban, Russell 1925–
Hoban, Russell 1925–
PERSONAL: Born February 4, 1925, in Lansdale, PA; son of Abram T. (an advertising manager for the Jewish Daily Forward) and Jeanette (Dimmerman) Hoban; married Lillian Aberman (an illustrator), January 31, 1944 (divorced, 1975); married Gundula Ahl (a bookseller), 1975; children: (first marriage) Phoebe, Abrom, Esme, Julia; (second marriage) Jachin Boaz, Wieland, Benjamin. Education: Attended Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, 1941–43. Hobbies and other interests: Stones, short-wave listening.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—Fulham, London, England. Agent—David Higham Associates Ltd., 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Sq., London WlR 4HA, England.
CAREER: Artist and illustrator for magazine and advertising studios, New York, NY, 1945–51; Fletcher Smith Film Studio, New York, NY, story board artist and character designer, 1951; Batten, Barton, Durstine & Os-born, Inc., New York, NY, television art director, 1952–57; J. Walter Thompson Co., New York, NY, television art director, 1956; freelance illustrator for advertising agencies and magazines, including Time, Life, Fortune, Saturday Evening Post, and True, 1957–65; Doyle, Dane, Bembach, New York, NY, copywriter, 1965–67; novelist and author of children's books, beginning 1967. Art instructor at the Famous Artists Schools, Westport, CT, and School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. Military service: U.S. Army, Infantry, 1943–45; served in Italian campaign; earned the Bronze Star.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Society of Authors, PEN.
AWARDS, HONORS: American Library Association nomination for notable books, for The Sorely Trying Day, The Mouse and His Child, How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, and Dinner at Alberta's ; Library of Congress Children's Book selection, 1964, for Bread and Jam for Frances; Boys' Club Junior Book Award, 1968, for Charlie the Tramp; School Library Journal's Best Books, 1971, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and Christopher Award, both 1972, all for Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas; Whitbread Literary Award, 1974, and International Board on Books for Young People Honor List, 1976, both for How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen; John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year, Science Fiction Research Association, 1981, National Book Critics Circle nomination and Nebula Award nomination, 1982, all for Riddley Walker; Recognition of Merit, George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, 1982, for contributions to books for younger children.
(Self-illustrated) What Does It Do and How Does It Work?: Power Shovel, Dump Truck, and Other Heavy Machines, Harper (New York, NY), 1959.
(Self-illustrated) The Atomic Submarine: A Practice Combat Patrol under the Sea, Harper (New York, NY), 1960.
Bedtime for Frances, illustrated by Garth Williams, Harper (New York, NY), 1960, new edition, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 1995.
Herman the Loser, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1961.
The Song in My Drum, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1961.
London Men and English Men, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1962.
(With Lillian Hoban) Some Snow Said Hello, Harper (New York, NY), 1963.
The Sorely Trying Day, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1964.
A Baby Sister for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1964, new edition, Harp-erTrophy (New York, NY), 1993.
Nothing to Do, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1964.
Bread and Jam for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1964, revised edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Tom and the Two Handles, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
The Story of Hester Mouse Who Became a Writer and Saved Most of Her Sisters and Brothers and Some of Her Aunts and Uncles from the Owl, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Norton (New York, NY), 1965.
What Happened When Jack and Daisy Tried to Fool the Tooth Fairies, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1965.
Henry and the Monstrous Din, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
The Little Brute Family, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1966, reprinted, Far-rar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Lillian Hoban) Save My Place, Norton (New York, NY), 1967.
Charlie the Tramp, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1967, book and record, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1970.
The Mouse and His Child, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1967, new edition illustrated by David Small, 2001.
A Birthday for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1968, reprinted, Harper-Trophy (New York, NY), 1994.
The Stone Doll of Sister Brute, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.
Harvey's Hideout, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Best Friends for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1969, new illustrated edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Ugly Bird, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
The Mole Family's Christmas, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1969.
A Bargain for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1970, reprinted, Harper-Festival (New York, NY), 1999.
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1971.
The Sea-Thing Child, illustrated by son, Abrom Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1972, new edition illustrated by Patrick Benson, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
Letitia Rabbit's String Song (Junior Literary Guild selection), illustrated by Mary Chalmers, Coward (New York, NY), 1973.
La Corona and the Tin Frog (originally published in Puffin Annual, 1974), illustrated by Nicola Bayley, J. Cape (London, England), 1978, Merrimack Book Service, 1981.
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1974.
Ten What?: A Mystery Counting Book, illustrated by Sylvie Selig, J. Cape (London, England), 1974, Scribner (New York, NY), 1975.
Crocodile and Pierrot: A See the Story Book, illustrated by Sylvie Selig, J. Cape (London, England), 1975, Scribner (New York, NY), 1977.
Dinner at Alberta's, illustrated by James Marshall, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975.
A Near Thing for Captain Najork, illustrated by Quen-tin Blake, J. Cape (London, England), 1975, Ath-eneum (New York, NY), 1976.
Arthur's New Power, illustrated by Byron Barton, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978.
The Twenty-Elephant Restaurant, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1978, illustrated by Quentin Blake, J. Cape (London, England), 1980.
The Dancing Tigers, illustrated by David Gentlemen, J. Cape (London, England), 1979, Merrimack Book Service, 1981.
Flat Cat, illustrated by Clive Scruton, Philomel (New York, NY), 1980.
Ace Dragon Ltd., illustrated by Quentin Blake, J. Cape (London, England), 1980, Merrimack Book Service, 1981.
They Came from Aargh!, illustrated by Colin McNaughton, Philomel (New York, NY), 1981.
The Serpent Tower, illustrated by David Scott, Methuen/ Walker (London, England), 1981.
The Great Fruit Gum Robbery, illustrated by Colin McNaughton, Methuen (London, England), 1981, published as The Great Gum Drop Robbery, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982.
The Battle of Zormla, illustrated by Colin McNaughton, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982.
The Flight of Bembel Rudzuk, illustrated by Colin McNaughton, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982.
Big John Turkle, illustrated by Martin Baynton, Walker, 1983, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Jim Frog, illustrated by Martin Baynton, Walker, 1983, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Lavinia Bat, illustrated by Martin Baynton, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Charlie Meadows, illustrated by Martin Baynton, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
The Rain Door, illustrated by Quentin Blake, J. Cape (London, England), 1986, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1987.
The Marzipan Pig, illustrated by Quentin Blake, J. Cape (London, England), 1986.
Ponders, illustrated by Martin Baynton, Walker (London, England), 1988.
Monsters, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.
Jim Hedgehog and the Lonesome Tower, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Jim Hedgehog's Supernatural Christmas, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1992.
M.O.L.E.: Much Overworked Little Earthmover, J. Cape (London, England), 1993.
The Court of the Winged Serpent, illustrated by Patrick Benson, Trafalgar Square (New York, NY), 1995.
Trokeville Way, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.
Trouble on Thunder Mountain, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Jim's Lion, illustrated by Ian Andrew, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Goodnight, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Norton (New York, NY), 1966.
The Pedaling Man, and Other Poems, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Norton (New York, NY), 1968.
Egg Thoughts, and Other Frances Songs, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.
The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1973.
Kleinzeit, Viking (New York, New York), 1974.
Turtle Diary, J. Cape (London, England), 1975, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
Riddley Walker, J. Cape (London, England), 1980, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1981, expanded edition with new foreword, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1998.
Pilgermann, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Medusa Frequency, edited by Gary Fisketjohn, Atlantic Monthly (New York, NY), 1987.
Fremder, J. Cape (London, England), 1996.
Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer, J. Cape (London, England), 1998.
Amaryllis Night and Day, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2001.
Angelica's Grotto, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2001.
Her Name Was Lola, Arcade (New York, NY), 2003.
Come Dance with Me, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2005.
Linger Awhile, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2006.
(Illustrator) W.R. Burnett, The Roar of the Crowd: Conversations with an Ex-Big-Leaguer, C.N. Potter, 1964.
The Carrier Frequency (play), first produced in London, England, 1984.
Riddley Walker (stage adaptation of his novel), first produced in Manchester, England, 1986.
(Author of introduction) Wilhelm K. Grimm, Household Tales, illustrated by Mervyn Peake, Schocken, 1987.
A Russell Hoban Omnibus, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1999.
Also author of Come and Find Me (television play), 1980. Contributor of articles to Granta, Fiction Magazine, and Holiday. Hoban's papers are included in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.
ADAPTATIONS: The Mouse and His Child was made into a feature-length animated film by Fario-Lockhart-Sanrio Productions, 1977, and featured the voices of Cloris Leachman, Andy Devine, and Peter Ustinov (who also read an abridged version of the novel for a Caedmon recording in 1977); Glynis Johns recorded selections from Bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, and A Birthday for Frances in a sound recording entitled "Frances," as well as selections from A Bargain for Frances, Best Friends for Frances, and Egg Thoughts, and Other Frances Songs in a sound recording entitled "A Bargain for Frances and Other Stories," both by Caedmon in 1977; Turtle Diary was adapted for the screen by United British Artists/Brittanic in 1986, featuring a screenplay by Harold Pinter and starring Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley; Riddley Walker was staged by the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre Company, 1986.
SIDELIGHTS: "Russell Hoban is a writer whose genius is expressed with equal brilliance in books both for children and for adults," wrote Alida Allison in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Largely self-educated, Hoban has moved masterfully from being an artist and illustrator to writing children's fables and adult allegorical fiction. Praising his "unerring ear for dialogue," his "memorable depiction of scenes," and his "wise and warm stories notable for delightful plots and originality of language," Allison considered Hoban to be "much more than just a clever and observant writer. His works are permeated with an honest, often painful, and always uncompromising urge toward self-identity." Noting that "this theme of identity becomes more apparent, more complex as Hoban's works have become longer and more penetrating," Allison stated, "Indeed, Hoban's writing has leaped and bounded—paralleling upheavals in his own life."
In an interview with Rhonda M. Bunbury in Children's Literature in Education, Hoban indicated that as a child he was "good with words and good with drawing. It just happened my parents more or less seized on the drawing and thought that I'd probably end up being a great painter. I did become an illustrator, but I think that the drawing formula was always a little bit poisoned by the expectations that were laid on me, while the writing was allowed to be my own thing." He wrote poetry and short stories in school, and won several prizes. Having attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, Hoban worked as a freelance illustrator before he began writing children's stories. He would drive throughout Connecticut, occasionally stopping at construction sites and sketching the machinery being used. A friend saw his work and suggested that it might make a good children's book; Hoban's first published work was about construction equipment—What Does It Do and How Does It Work?: Power Shovel, Dump Truck, and Other Heavy Machines.
Although Hoban has since originated several well-known characters in children's literature, including Charlie the Tramp, Emmet Otter, The Mouse and his Child, and Manny Rat, he is especially recognized for a series of bedtime books about an anthropomorphic badger named Frances. Reviewers generally concurred that these stories depict ordinary family life with much humor, wit, and style. Benjamin DeMott suggested in the Atlantic Monthly that "these books are unique, first, because the adults in their pages are usually humorous, precise of speech, and understandingly conversant with general life, and second, because the author confronts—not unfancifully but without kinky secret garden stuff—problems with which ordinary parents and children have to cope." Bedtime for Frances, for instance, concerns nighttime fears and is regarded by many as a classic in children's literature; and according to a Saturday Review contributor, "The exasperated humor of this book could only derive from actual parental experience, and no doubt parents will enjoy it."
"Hoban has established himself as a writer with a rare understanding of childhood (and parental) psychology, sensitively and humorously portrayed in familiar family situations," noted Allison. He and his first wife, Lillian, also an illustrator and author of books for children, collaborated on many successful works, including several in the Frances series. Allison added that although their work together was usually well-received, "there were pans as well as paeans." While some books have been faulted for "excessive coziness, for sentimentality, and for stereotyped male-female roles," Allison said that a more general criticism of their work together is that "it tends toward repetition." However, commenting in Children and Books, May Hill Arbuthnot and Zena Sutherland found that all of Hoban's stories about Frances show "affection for and understanding of children" as well as "contribute to a small child's understanding of himself, his relationships with other people, and the fulfillment of his emotional needs." Further, they said, "These characters are indeed ourselves in fur." Yet as a Times Literary Supplement contributor observed, "Excellent as [the Frances books] are, they give no hint that the author had in him such a blockbuster of a book as The Mouse and His Child."
Revered in England as a modern children's classic, The Mouse and His Child was described in the New York Times Book Review by Barbara Wersba as a story about two wind-up toy mice who are discarded from a toyshop and are then "buffeted from place to place as they seek the lost paradise of their first home—a doll house—and their first 'family,' a toy elephant and seal." Ill-equipped for the baffling, threatening world into which they are tossed, the mouse and his child innocently confront the unknown and its inherent treachery and violence, as well as their own fears. The book explores not only the transience and inconstancy of life but also the struggle to persevere. "Helpless when they are not wound up, unable to stop when they are, [the mice] are fated like all mechanical things to breakage, rust and disintegration as humans are to death," writes Margaret Blount in her Animal Land: The Creatures of Children's Fiction. "As an adult," said Blount, "it is impossible to read [the book] unmoved." Distressed, however, by the "continuing images of cruelty and decay," Penelope Farmer remarked in Children's Literature in Education that The Mouse and His Child is "like Beckett for children." But assessing whatever cruelty and decay there is in the novel as the "artful rendering of the facts of life," Allison affirmed, "If there is betrayal, there is also self-sacrifice. If there is loss, there is also love. If there is homelessness, there is also destination. The mouse child gets his family in the end; children's literature gets a masterpiece."
"Like the best of books, [The Mouse and His Child] is a book from which one can peel layer after layer of meaning," said the Times Literary Supplement contributor. Some critics, however, questioned the book's suitability for children. Hoban responded to these critics in an essay for Books for Your Children: "When I wrote [The Mouse and His Child] I didn't think it was [a children's book]. I was writing as much book as I was capable of at the time. No concessions were made in style or content. It was my first novel and … it was the fullest response I could make to being alive and in the world." Hoban indicated to Bunbury that the book has become his favorite book for children, the one that has given him the most satisfaction, "Though it may not be the best of my novels, it is the closest to my heart because of that." Believing the book reveals "an absolute respect for its subject—which means its readers as well," Isabel Quigley added in the Spectator, "I'm still not sure just who is going to read it but that hardly seems to matter…. It will last." Hoban felt that within its limitations, the book is suitable for children, though. "Its heroes and heroines found out what they were and it wasn't enough, so they found out how to be more," he says in his essay. "That's not a bad thought to be going with."
Nominated as the most distinguished book of fiction by the National Book Critics Circle and for the Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America, Riddley Walker imagines a world and civilization decades after a nuclear holocaust; the story of what remains is narrated in a fragmented, phonetical English by a twelve-year-old boy struggling to comprehend the past so that its magnificence might be recaptured. "Set in a remote future and composed in an English nobody ever spoke or wrote," wrote Benjamin DeMott in the New York Times, "this short, swiftly paced tale juxtaposes preliterate fable and Beckettian wit, Boschian mon-strosities and a hero with Huck Finn's heart and charm, lighting by El Greco and jokes by Punch and Judy. It is a wrenchingly vivid report on the texture of life after Doomsday."
Detecting similarities in Riddley Walker to other contemporary works such as Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, John Gardner's Grendel, and the complete works of William Golding, DeMott believed that "in vision and execution, this is an exceptionally original work, and Russell Hoban is actually his own best source." Riddley Walker "is not 'like' anything," noted Victoria Glendinning in the Listener. As A. Alvarez observed in the New York Review of Books, Hoban has "transformed what might have been just another fantasy of the future into a novel of exceptional depth and originality."
Critically lauded and especially popular in England, Riddley Walker has been particularly commended for its inventive language, which Alvarez thought "reflects with extraordinary precision both the narrator's understanding and the desolate landscape he moves through." Reviewing the book in the Washington Post Book World, Michael Dirda commented that "what is marvelous in all this is the way Hoban makes us experience the uncanny familiarity of this world, while also making it a strange and animistic place, where words almost have a life of their own." "What Hoban has done," suggested Barbara A. Bannon in a Publishers Weekly interview with Hoban, "is to invent a world and a language to go with it, and in doing both he remains a storyteller, which is the most significant achievement of 'Riddley Walker.'"
Alvarez called Riddley Walker an "artistic tour de force in every possible way," but Natalie Maynor and Richard F. Patteson suggested in Critique that even more than that, it is "perhaps the most sophisticated work of fiction ever to speculate about man's future on earth and the implications for a potentially destructive technology." Eliot Fremont-Smith maintained in the Village Voice that "the reality of the human situation now is so horrendous and bizarre that to get a hold on it requires all our faculties, including the imaginative. We can't do it through plain fact and arms controllers' reasoning alone … [r]ead Riddley, too." Although Kelly Cherry referred to the novel in the Chicago Tribune Book World as a "philosophical essay in fictional drag," DeMott thought that Hoban's focus on what has been lost in civilization "summons the reader to dwell anew on that within civilization which is separate from, opposite to, power and its appurtenances, ravages, triumphs." Rid-dley Walker, said DeMott, is "haunting and fiercely imagined and—this matters most—intensely ponderable."
An American by birth but an Englishman at heart, Hoban has made his home in London for much of his adult life. In a 1998 Pure Fiction Reviews online interview with the author, John Forsyth declared that Hoban's enthusiasm for his adopted city "remains undi-minished, decades after moving here … and that this affection places him in a whole tradition of English writing." As Hoban told Forsyth, "I came here because I was a great admirer of British ghost stories and supernatural stories…. I've been at great pains to have [my narrators] speak in an English manner, and to make their background a credible English background."
During the same interview Hoban revealed one more attraction of London—its subway system, the Underground. "I hate buses, you know; they never turn up, people rush ahead of you and all that," he elaborated. "At most Tube stations it tells you how long it's going to be till the next Wimbledon train or whatever. And then there's the perpetual nocturnal mood of the Underground; it never seems like daytime down there, it always seems like night. I'm a nocturnal kind of person, and I like to work at night."
The Underground plays a role in Hoban's 1998 adult novel, Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer. The story follows one Jonathan Fitch as he is approached in the Piccadilly Circus subway station by the title character, an eccentric aristocrat. The offer of the title is of the Faustian variety: Rinyo-Clacton offers Fitch a million pounds in exchange for his life in one year. "What kind of weirdo are you?," asks Fitch. "The kind with lots of money," is the reply. The book then goes on to examine the tragic circumstances that impel Fitch to consider the fateful deal.
For all their suspense, though, "in my books there aren't characters who are simply bad or simply good," Hoban told Fred Hauptfuhrer in People. "Nothing in life is that simple." Writing for adults has added both breadth and depth to Hoban's work; and as his work has grown in complexity, he has commented upon the process by which an idea evolves into a book. As he explained to Bannon: "There always seems to be something in my mind waiting to put something together with some primary thought I will encounter. It's like looking out of the window and listening to the radio at the same time. I am committed to what comes to me, however it links up."
Hoban's mind turned to questions about how humans perceive the world, time, and the reality of dreams with his next adult book. Writing in the Economist about Hoban's 2001 novel, Amaryllis Night and Day, a reviewer commented, "Readers without training in higher mathematics will need all the mental agility they can muster to follow him into the realm of pure geometry, which has inspired his … novel." The narrator is painter Peter Diggs, who meets a woman in his dreams named Amaryllis. Diggs eventually encounters the real-life Amaryllis, and the couple finds out that they share not only a dream life but also common real experiences and guilt. In addition to his strange relationship with Amaryllis, the narrator ponders the nature of labyrinths and Klein bottles (a type of glass that is twisted in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish the inside from the outside), which leads, as noted by James Hopkin in the New Statesman, "to meditations on the nature of time and perception." The Economist contributor found the novel's "characters stilted and the story contrived." Hopkin noted that Hoban's flaws in the novel were making the female characters too talented, beautiful, and irresistibly drawn to the narrator and said that "the mock-Hollywood happy ending is annoying, regardless of any ironic intent." Nevertheless, he also noted, "Yet Hoban has a gift for being almost inadvertently contemporary. He follows his own obsessions, but cannot help revealing aspects of a society that refuses to 'achieve grown-upness.'"
Hoban's next novel, Angelica's Grotto, is a dark, comic look at art connoisseur Harold Klein who wanders onto a pornographic Web site and ultimately an erotic odyssey. As noted by Christopher L. Reese in World Literature Today, the novel "explores a wide variety of issues and ideas, from dealing with old age to the relationships between art and pornography and between individuals and society." In his seventies, Klein has a strange problem in that the loss of his "inner voice" causes him to be totally uninhibited in all his utterances. When Klein meets the much younger Melissa Bottomley, the sex researcher who runs the Web porn site, they begin to act out their sexual fantasies. Reese found that the novel did not offer answers to the many questions it raises concerning "the individual concept of self and how it is created, and what we expect from art/pornography." Reese went on to note, "Overall, what Hoban has produced here is a comic piece of writing that considers several serious issues in a humorous light." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented, "Hoban … has fashioned an intensely conceived coda to the verities of desire and fulfillment—not to mention trust, honesty and pornography—and Klein is a sharp, funny and intelligent protagonist whom readers will find it hard not to like." Carrie Bissey, writing in Booklist, noted that "those willing to follow his [Hoban's] meandering thoughts will be rewarded by an intelligently bizarre novel."
Although focusing more on adult literature, Hoban has not forsaken his children's writings, such as his oversized picture book for older children called Jim's Lion, published in 2001. A story about an extremely sick boy who is worried about being anesthetized for an operation, the book describes Jim's relationship with South African nurse Bami and how she helps him face his fears. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that the story was perhaps too frightening for children and commented that with "its complicated plot and its convoluted theme, this tale may perplex rather than soothe its intended audience." Cynthia Turnquest, writing in Booklist, called the book a "complex, touching story that will make a good springboard for discussing difficult questions about hospitalization and mortality." Faith Brautigan noted in School Library Journal, "Critically ill children, a population largely absent from the picture-book world, will now have a hero in Jim."
Hoban's adult novel Her Name Was Lola appeared on bookshelves in 2003. Once again, Hoban reveals his penchant for black comedy in a story about a struggling London writer named Max Lesser who has a series of successful children's books but is facing writer's block with his adult novel. Max soon meets two women and conducts a simultaneous affair with them. Lola, who Max declares to be his destined love, finds out about the other woman, Lula Mae, and leaves him. Lula Mae, a transplanted Texan who works in technology, eventually decides that Max is not the right man for her, even though she is carrying his child, and moves back to Texas. The story is told primarily in flashbacks as Max goes about trying to overcome his desolation at losing both women and being unable to finish his novel. Despite the fact that he felt that "Lola and Lula Mae aren't quite flesh and blood," Hugo Barnacle, writing in the New Statesman, noted, "Hoban apparently wants to see how much outrageous artifice and willful exposure of literary technique he can get away with while still working his magic on the reader. The answer is plenty. Far from being an arid exercise, the novel has great charm and grace." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the story a "quirky, tender tale" but noted that "some readers will enjoy the journey, while others will find that Hoban's form trumps his content." In a review in Booklist, Jennifer Baker stated that the novel was a "wonderfully funny, refreshing, and compelling love story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Allison, Alida, editor, Russell Hoban/Forty Years: Essays on His Writings for Children, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 2000.
Arbuthnot, May Hill, and Zena Sutherland, Children and Books, 4th edition, Scott, Foresman (Chicago, IL), 1972.
Blount, Margaret, Animal Land: The Creatures of Children's Fiction, Morrow (New York, NY), 1974.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 3, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1978.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 7, 1977, Volume 25, 1983.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986, pp. 192-202.
Hoban, Russell, The Thorny Paradise: Writers on Writing for Children, edited by Edward Blishen, Kestrel (Harmondsworth, England), 1975.
Hoban, Russell, Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer, J. Cape (London, England), 1998.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Wilkie, Christine, Through the Narrow Gate: The Mythological Consciousness of Russell Hoban, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ), 1989.
American Artist, October, 1961.
Antioch Review, summer, 1982.
Atlantic Monthly, August, 1976, pp. 83-84; December, 1983.
Booklist, May 15, 2001, Carrie Bissey, review of Angelica's Grotto, p. 1731; January 1, 2002, Cynthia Turnquest, review of Jim's Lion, p. 865; June 1, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of Her Name Was Lola, p. 1700.
Books for Your Children, winter, 1976, p. 3.
Chicago Tribune Book World, July 12, 1981, Kelly Cherry, review of Riddley Walker.
Children's Literature in Education, March, 1972; spring, 1976; fall, 1986, pp. 139-149.
Critique, fall, 1984.
Economist, January 27, 2001, review of Amaryllis Night and Day, p. 4.
Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science, June, 1982.
Encounter, June, 1981.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 29, 1986.
Harper's, April, 1983.
Junior Bookshelf, July, 1963.
Library Journal, July, 2004, Robin Nesbitt, review of Her Name Was Lola, p. 70.
Listener, October 30, 1980, Victoria Glendinning, review of Riddley Walker, p. 589.
Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1986.
New Statesman, May 25, 1973; April 11, 1975; January 29, 2001, James Hopkin, review of Amaryllis Night and Day, p. 54; November 3, 2003, Hugo Barnacle, review of Her Name Was Lola, p. 55.
Newsweek, March 1, 1976; June 29, 1981; December 7, 1981; May 30, 1983; February 17, 1986.
New Yorker, March 22, 1976; July 20, 1981; August 8, 1983.
New York Review of Books, November 19, 1981, pp. 16-18.
New York Times, November 1, 1981; June 20, 1983; February 14, 1986.
New York Times Book Review, February 4, 1968; March 21, 1976; June 6, 1982; May 29, 1983; November 27, 1983.
Observer (London, England), March 13, 1983.
People, August 10, 1981.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 1981, Barbara A. Bannon, interview with author; June 4, 2001, review of Angelica's Grotto, p. 57; November 12, 2001, review of Jim's Lion, p. 59; May 24, 2004, review of Her Name Was Lola, p. 42.
Saturday Review, May 7, 1960; May 1, 1976; December, 1981.
School Library Journal, January, 2002, Faith Brauti-gam, review of Jim's Lion, p. 101.
Spectator, May 16, 1969, pp. 654-655; April 5, 1975; March 12, 1983.
Time, February 16, 1976; June 22, 1981; May 16, 1983.
Times (London, England), January 7, 1982; March 24, 1983.
Times Literary Supplement, April 3, 1969, p. 357; March 16, 1973; March 29, 1974; October 31, 1980; March 7, 1986; April 3, 1987; September 4, 1987.
Village Voice, June 15, 1982, Eliot Fremont-Smith, review of Riddley Walker.
Washington Post, February 28, 1986.
Washington Post Book World, June 7, 1981, pp. 1, 14; June 27, 1982; May 29, 1983; July 12, 1987; October 14, 1990.
Wilton Bulletin, September 26, 1962.
World Literature Today, autumn, 2001, review of Angelica's Grotto, p. 162.
Pure Fiction Reviews, http://www.purefiction.com/ (October 2, 2001), interview with Russell Hoban.