Lion carving

Hoban News Archive

Items through July 19, 2001
For current items, see the main News page

Posted July 19, 2001:

Angelica Lands: In the most definitive proof yet that Russ's American publishing drought is a thing of the past,
Angelica's Grotto was released in the US earlier this month and has been spotted on the shelves at various superstores and discerning indies alike. Note that the $25 Carroll & Graf edition is the first hardcover version of Grotto, since Bloomsbury's original was a trade paperback. The cover (shown here) is a tad less Rabelaisian than Bloomsbury's, but striking nonetheless.

The US reviews of Grotto have been appropriately appreciative: Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, calling it "brilliantly funny," "wonderfully imagined," and said "the story is furthermore studded (as it were) with wry observations that season the erotic detail with rich insight...superb fiction, and a powerful argument for making the complete oeuvre of this remarkable expatriate available in this country." Kirkus Reviews is starting to sound like The Head of Orpheus.

Meanwhile, Publisher's Weekly said Grotto is "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."

Amaryllis Gets Optioned: Not to be outdone by her sister Angelica, Amaryllis is setting her sights on the silver screen. Russ tells me that Amaryllis Night And Day has been optioned by Doppelganger Films. (Not to be confused with the New York company of the same name). We'd love to see this project make it to the big screen—just about everything Russ writes has cinematic qualities, but this book in particular seems to have the right combination of inventive imagery, suspense and erotic intrigue to make a really exciting and striking film. Here's hoping the right funders see it that way too.

In the Pipeline: Russ's latest children's book, Jim's Lion, is slated for UK release in October and US release in November, and judging by the sample pages shown below, it looks to be quiet beautiful and haunting. Meanwhile, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press are issuing a lavish new hardcover edition of The Mouse and His Child in the US, with all-new illustrations by 2000 Caldecott winner David Small. Look for it to be in stores by Mid-August. Finally, Bloomsbury Publishing will be releasing Pilgermann in the UK, as well as the mass-market version of Amaryllis Night and Day.

Jim's Lion pages

Webtime for Frances: In April published a three-page essay celebrating the Frances books, entitled Ode to Frances. It even included a low-key link to The Head of Orpheus, albeit buried on the third page and didn't mention us by name. That's okay, we're not proud or anything. There's also an interesting letter in response from Russ's daughter Phoebe. Salon has a history of doing well by Mr. Hoban—New York editor Laura Miller has previously written an eloquent tribute to The Medusa Frequency. And for that matter, there's an interview with Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my very favorite books as a child) in which Juster plugs The Mouse and His Child, calling it "terrific." (Tip of the keyboard to Chris Bell.)

Deadtime Stories Revived: That Brighton-based font of information Tim Haillay has written to tip us off that Deadsy and Door, the animated films by David Anderson for which Russ supplied text and voiceover, are available on a videotape of Anderson's works available through the Movie Mall site. (Search under David Anderson works on film). The PAL format tape (US residents will need to convert) sells for a quite reasonable £12.99 + postage, and also includes the documentary on the making of the two films, Deadtime Stories for Big Folk. Tim also notes that the animated earth from Door has been used to sell Heineken beer...

Riddley Revived Too: In May, another Kraken member posted a story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting that a production of the Riddley Walker stage play was slated for May 17-June 9 by the Pittsburgh Playhouse Repertory Company. If anyone out there saw this production of can tell us more about it, please do!

Posted January 17, 2001:

Amaryllis Arrives: It's been a while since I've done a news update here, so there's quite a bit of news to report. First and foremost on the minds of Hoban fans is the release of Mr. H's new novel, Amaryllis Night and Day. The official release date from Bloomsbury Publishing is January 18, but some Head of Orpheus readers have already received their copies (through Amazon UK I believe). As I've mentioned over on The Kraken, I think Amaryllis is Russ's best book since Fremder. It's a graceful return to the magical realism that characterized books like The Medusa Frequency and The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, full of inventive imagery and slippery wordplay. You can scroll down to the news item dated July 27 for a look at the cover and the jacket copy. Although the book isn't being released in the US, stateside fans can Web-order it direct from Bloomsbury's site or Amazon UK. There's an excellent, very on-target review in The Guardian online, too.

Angelica Abroad: Speaking of books that are being released in the US, here's some excellent news for statesiders: Angelica's Grotto will be published in the US in June by Carroll & Graf, in US$25 hardcover edition. Definitely a good sign.

Russ at the Lectern: Stop-the-presses info direct from Russ: he's going to be doing some public appearances in the UK in upcoming weeks! Here are the dates:

  • On Wednesday evening, January 24, he'll be reading from Amaryllis at Waterstone's in Piccadilly, London
  • On Wednesday evening, February 21, at 18:30 he'll be at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, reading extracts from his novels in which paintings from the National Gallery collection appear, and talking about the pictures.
  • On Saturday, March 3, he'll be doing an afternoon Amaryllis reading at the Bath Festival at 14:30.

Orpheus on the Swim: There are a few other Hoban-related releases to talk about, but before I get to that I'd like to note that this Web site is going to be packing up and moving in the very near future. I haven't set a date for the move yet because it's going to depend on when I can find the time (uh-oh). Nevertheless, at a certain point between now and say, April, The Head of Orpheus will be swimming downstream to its new home at Ocelot Factory (my portal site). I'm not sure how long I'll have referring links up at the old location after the move (a month or two I hope), so please make a note of the new location and check it if you can't find The Head of Orpheus where you'd normally expect to see it. (Did that make sense?) The new URL for The Head of Orpheus will be:

Simple enough, eh?

Lions and Turtles and Critics, Oh My: Back to talking about books. In September, Bloomsbury blessed Hoban fans with handsome re-releases of Turtle Diary and The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (the covers of which are shown at right). Meanwhile, on the critical front, Garland Press has released the long-awaited collection of essays on Mr. Hoban's children's books, Russell Hoban/Forty Years: Essays on His Writings for Children. The book was edited by Alida Allison of San Diego State University (well-known to members of The Kraken) and is clearly a labor of love. While the book is not cheap at US$70, it's a beautifully-published edition and a wonderful addition to any collector's library. You'll find it available at

Forty Years is part of Garland's Children's Literature and Culture series, the first of their books dedicated to a single author. It includes a 20 pp. Introduction, an interview, and an annotated bibliography. The distinguished list of contributors includes, among others:

  • Alida Allison, SDSU, USA
  • Margaret Bruzelius, Harvard, USA
  • Dennis Butts, Reading Un., U.K.
  • Winfred Kaminski, U of Dusseldorf, Germany
  • Maria Nikolajeva, Stockholm Un., Sweden
  • Carole Scott, San Diego State Univ., USA
  • John Stephens, Macquarie Univ. Aus.
  • Martin Teitel, independent scholar, USA
  • Christine Wilkie-Stibbs, Warwick U, U.K.

Bun in the Oven: Meanwhile, Mr. Hoban is already deeply entangled in his next book, working title Sarah Varley and Roswell Clark. He describes this one as "more labor-intensive then they usually are" and hopes to finish a first draft by summer, with a slow final draft to follow. He tells me he visited a cathedral in the town of Autun in Burgundy on behalf of one of the book's characters.

Edinburgh P.S.: On a personal note, thanks to all the Hobanites who dropped by while I was performing with The Neo-Futurists at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last August. I'm told there were some Head of Orpheus Readers who came to the show but didn't have a chance to make themselves known to me. If that's the case, sorry I missed you but thanks for coming anyway. And please feel free to drop me a line letting me know what you thought of the show.

Posted July 27, 2000:

Cover Story: Just because The Head of Orpheus loves you (in its way), we've got two exciting perks to share with you regarding Mr. Hoban's latest novel, the forthcoming Amaryllis Night and Day. (That title is now confirmed, by the way.) First, you get an advance look at the cover, as unveiled at right. And second, we've finally got some info on the book's subject matter, as revealed in the book-jacket blurb below:

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 and bamboo, lit from within like a Japanese lantern. That was a dream, but where this romance goes as the dream begins to intersect reality (not unlike a Mobius strip) is nothing that a reader can quite prepare for.

"Trust me, I'm a weirdo," says Amaryllis as she and Peter embark on their nocturnal experimentation which will leave none of us—Amaryllis, Peter, or reader—on quite the same footing with reality.

Russell Hoban's compellingly lucid yet disorienting narrative is set in a solidly detailed London. Entering one of his fictional worlds is always an eye-opening, mind-expanding proposition and here the enchantment brings love itself into the spotlight.

Nocturnal experimentation? Japanese lanterns? Dreams and Mobius strips? Needless to say, these are a few of our personal favorite things, and our literary appetite has been soundly whetted by these glimpses. How long do we have to wait again? Well, latest word is that Amaryllis Night and Day is slated for release on January 15, 2001. (Perhaps the book will simply appear on the moon, towering over us like a sleek black monolith? Or maybe I need to cut out the Kubrick before bedtime.) Let the anticipation begin.

At any rate, just in case you doubted it: yup, Russ is already hard at work on the early stages of Amaryllis's successor. He tells me he's up to page 50, though as we know he never rules out the option of going back to page 1 and starting over.

Please Release Me: September 4 is shaping up to be some kinda red-letter day for Hoban fans—at least those with bookshelf spaces to fill. That's the day that Angelica's Grotto comes out in regular paperback (the smaller format, as opposed to the first-release format, which Bloomsbury calls "paperback original."). But wait, there's more: on the same date, Bloomsbury will be reissuing both Turtle Diary and The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, the first in a series of planned Hoban reissues.

Sign of a Great Mind: the ever-stalwart Olaf Schneider tipped off members of The Kraken mailing list to a feature that appeared on a Web site called Work Unlimited (apparently affiliated with The Guardian and The Observer), in which "desk therapist" Donna Dawson examines Mr. Hoban's desktop for tell-tale glimpses into his psyche. Well, at any rate it sounds a lot more pleasant than trying to read the entrails of a chicken, not that I've tried either one. You can check out the feature here.

Finally, on a personal note, I have an invitation to extend. The experimental theater company I belong to, The Neo-Futurists, is heading for Scotland in August. We'll be performing our show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, from August 8-26. I'd like to invite any and all Hoban fans who might be in the vicinity of the festival to look me (Dave Awl) up and say hi, or maybe NNVSNU TSRUNGH. (Which I'm certain would sound especially fascinating with a Scottish accent.) You can find complete info on where and when my cohorts and I will be performing at:

Posted March 10, 2000:

Glimpsing Amaryllis: For those of you who've finished Angelica's Grotto and are already pining for more, you won't have long to wait this time around. Get this: Mr. Hoban has not only started work on his next novel, he's already finished it. Even better news, the novel has already been accepted for publication by the good folks at Bloomsbury Publishing (who must be awfully pleased with the rave reviews Grotto has been racking up).

Currently titled Amaryllis Nights and Days (though there's still time for that to change before publication), the book weighs in at 178 pages, and Bloomsbury has it scheduled for publication in the spring of 2001. What's it about? So far all Mr. H. has said on the subject is that it's "a love story with an unusual twist." (Of course, as my good pal Diana Slickman has pointed out, that description could be applied to most if not all of Mr. Hoban's books.)

And what about that title? Amaryllis, says Mr. H., is the female lead in the story. But interestingly enough, Amaryllis Nights and Days is the book's second working title: it was originally to be called Glims. (The new title came about after talks with the folks at Bloomsbury, who thought Glims might not be inviting enough.) So even though Glims is no longer the book's title, it may still provide us with a glimpse into the book's likely themes.

Before the switch happened, there was time for some head-scratching among us Hobanites as to what the word might mean. I figured "glims" sounded like UK slang of some kind (you know how those Brits are with the snappy vernacular), so I asked the folks on The Kraken if they knew what it meant. Got a few interesting responses: the ever-helpful Tim Haillay says "glim" is "Scottish slang for a glimpse, a scrap or a light, from German Glimm, same root for 'glimmer' I suppose." Meanwhile Duane Spurlock, on my own side of the Atlantic, wrote to say that "The first thing that comes to mind for 'glims' is 'eyes.' Usually heard in hard-boiled crime movies or pulp crime fiction from the 1930s or early '40s, which were usually filled with tough-guy underworld slang to sound authentic, to follow the model of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. Example: 'Cast your glims over there.' Closely related to 'glom,' which means 'To steal' or 'To see or take a look.' Mr. Hoban certainly has a way with words, but I'll truly be surprised if his Glims has a close relation to this crime-story slang."

Finally, I managed to pry the following out of the man himself: "Your informants have informed you correctly as to the word 'glims.' Scottish origin, can mean a glimpse, a lamp, or an eye depending on time, place, and context."

All of which leaves us Hobanites in a pleasant state of anticipation, and Mr. Hoban himself back in his "in between" phase, waiting for the next bolt of inspiration to strike.

Still more action in Bloomsbury's ongoing campaign to raise the general quality of life on earth: Bloomsbury is also going to be bringing out some, if not all, of Mr. H's back catalog, taking it over from Picador. Lion and Turtle Diary will come out under the Bloomsbury imprint in September of this year, others will probably follow in good time. I think this is a wonderful thing because new editions could breathe new life into sales...the only potential downside is that since Picador will reportedly be phasing out everything, if Bloomsbury doesn't pick up all the books something might slip through the cracks. But there's no need to borrow trouble, and I prefer to have faith at this point that Bloomsbury will want to publish the whole line. I mean, why on earth wouldn't they?

For those of you wondering about Mr. Hoban's new children's book, Jim's Lion, which has been previously mentioned in this space, never fear: it's still in the pipeline. It's been held up due to a change of illustrator, but should be padding our way soon—most likely sometime in 2001.

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