My 6 months of being haunted by Russell Hoban

My relationship with Russell Hoban began a little like one of his novels might: in a disordered room in Fulham, piled high with boxes and files.

Anyone who has ever seen the inside of Russell’s inner sanctum knows that it’s like stepping into his mind. Suddenly you’re surrounded by all of the motifs that he wove again and again, with a composer’s persistence, into his work: sculptures of lions lounge on every shelf and surface, a cackling Punch puppet sits on the mantelpiece, and an antique poster for the premiere of King Kong lies rolled up on the desk. An enormous map of Kent fills one whole wall, and books are piled in shelves that reach to the ceiling.

I have never been inside a room that so achingly missed its owner.

When I was asked to build an archive of Hoban’s work, I agreed without knowing much about him. I’d read his cult masterpiece Riddley Walker some years before, and a short story of his, Message in a Klein Bottle, that was published by the Guardian shortly after his death in late 2011. That was all, though – and the name hadn’t stuck in my memory…

Read the rest of my experience at


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