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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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If you've landed here you are either a reader of my blog, one of my twitter followers or, and this is probably the most exciting case, you scanned one of the QR codes that I left, printed on yellow paper, in various locations on Friday the 4th of February 2011.

What's it all about?

SA4QE is an acronym for Slickman A4 Quotation Event, an annual literary activity established in 2002 in which fans of the novelist Russell Hoban celebrate his birthday on 4th February by placing favourite quotes from his books in public places. Diana Slickman was the founder of this event, hence the name.

Russell Hoban is a novelist of strange dimensions, but one who is not frequently publicised. For this reason, the SA4QE aims to spread awareness. This year is Russ' 86th birthday.

It is also important because today (tomorrow, actually, I'm posting this a little early so I can ensure that all the tech works) is CILIP's Save Libraries day. If you love literature, this campaign deserves your support as local libraries are under heavy threat of closure from cuts. Why not pop down your local library and borrow a Russell Hoban book?

John Mullan and Russell Hoban

John Mullan and Russell Hoban at the Guardian Book Club in December 2010. Image credit: Copyright Richard Cooper, used with permission.

Mr. Rinyo-Clacton's Offer

My quotation this year is taken from the beginning of Hoban's 1998 novel Mr. Rinyo-Clacton's Offer, definitely not one for the kids, but which I hope proves intriguing. So, without further ado:

He winced. "Please -- the idea of Pelléas in English is abhorrent. Must go now. See you later. Or not, whichever." In the fresh breeze he made as he passed me I smelled money and something else, medicinal and disciplinary, that I thought of as bitter aloes. As far as I know I've never smelled bitter aloes but the name suggest the smell I have in mind. The card said, in an elegant little typeface:

T. Rinyo-Clacton

What I did this year

Although Russell Hoban was born in a different era, as were we all to some extent, the world does not stand still. This year instead of printing my quotations directly onto yellow paper, I printed the following QR code, which when scanned on an Android, Blackberry or iPhone device redirects to this very post (producing a pleasing cyclical reference in the picture below).

Why yellow paper? You'd have to read Kleinzeit to get it. Even then, you might not.

I hope this inspires you to check out Russell's work; available in all good, and even some not so good, bookshops.