Today, 4 February, is Hoban's 84th birthday. He is still writing and his books for children, teenagers and adults, are still published, read and enjoyed.
Here's my 4qation, left in the State Library's La Trobe Reading Room. I chose this piece because of the way it plays with ideas about language, creativity and time.
“Burning to say something! shouted the night watchman. “It is in me, something to say!”
“You simply don’t know how it is with literary people like me,” the crocodile went on. “The waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect time!”
The night watchman had burned more incense than usual that evening. He was giddy with the fragrance and the heat of it, words danced in his head. In all the words of his own language he found nothing to say, but as the hours passed his mind became full of the sounds of the language the crocodile spoke so flowingly. Unknown words danced in his head. Eleven o’clock came, half-past eleven. Then it was midnight, and there was that tiny buzzing pause while his clock gathered itself to strike twelve times.
“NOW IS THE ONLY TIME THERE IS!” shouted the night watchman. He shouted in the crocodile’s language, in words he did not know the meaning of.
“What’s that?” said the startled crocodile as the clock finished its twelve strokes.
From La Corona and the Tin Frog by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Nicola Bayley