Riddley Walker

Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker. New York: Summit books, 1980.

Reason read: Hoban’s birth month is in February. Read in his honor.

I wanted to like Riddley Walker. I really, really did. The problem is that I am not a science fiction consumer by any means. This book will demand your entire attention and hijack your time, thanks to a language that at first blush just looks like horribly spelled English. It’s trickier than that and way more brilliant. I didn’t have the time or inclination to get into it beyond fifty pages. The story opens with Riddley becoming a man at twelve years old. In post-apocalyptical English Kent, civilization is starting over from tribal scratch. Men carry spears and need to relearn skills like rediscovering fire in order to survive. Once man’s best friend, dogs are now killing machines that roam the streets in packs. Riddley finds symbolism in everything.
As an aside, the salvaging of iron reminded me of the opening scene of the movie “The Full Monty.” Aha! A movie I have seen! 😉

Lines I managed to like, “I don’t think it makes no differents where you start the telling of a thing” (p 8). Too true.

Author fact: Hoban was inspired to write Riddley Walker after seeing medieval wall art in a cathedral.

Book trivia: Riddley Walker won a few sci-fi awards and was nominated for a Nebula in 1981. It was also the inspiration for many plays. The movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” used themes from Riddley Walker.

Nancy said: Pearl had a lot to say about Riddley Walker. She starts by calling it one of the best of the postapocalyptic genre of novels. She then goes on to say she “doesn’t know of another novel that could arguably be called science fiction which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Nebula Award” (More Book Lust p 115). She finishes her praise by offering a suggestion for understanding the language: read it out loud, as her mother did.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Russell Hoban: Too Good To Miss” (p 114). This book finishes the chapter for me.


Her Name Was Lola

Hoban, Russell. Her Name Was Lola. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003.

The first thing one needs to know about Her Name Was Lola is that it’s a short book with even shorter chapters. It’s a quick read – maybe even a lazy Sunday-in-one-sitting kind of read.

November, 2001. Max has writer’s block. As described in the first chapter, “Max writes novels that don’t sell, children’s picture books that do.” Only, the picture books aren’t getting written either. Instead, he is wandering around London, talking to himself and dealing with a dwarf demon called Apasmara on his back. Apasmara out of Hindu mythology and symbolizes Forgetfulness, Heedlessness, Selfishness, Ignorance, and Materialism. He was sent to make Max forget about Lola Bessington.
Flashback to December 1996. Max meets Lola and falls in love. She falls back. A few months later Max meets Lula and falls in love. She too falls back. Two women with similar names. One man with “blighter’s rock.” One big problem. Hoban always announces the date at the beginning of each chapter. To orientate the reader or mark the passage of time, I don’t know. It’s not a spoiler to say Max loses both women, but I think it is a spoiler when I say his fictional character is the one who gets it right. Leave to Max to create a character who is more virtuous than himself.

Reason read: Hoban’s birth month is February. Read Her Name Was Lola in his honor.

the line I liked the best, “People are composed of memories, losses, longings and regrets” (p 28).

Confessional: reading the lyrics to Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana (At the Copa)” took me right back to the late 70s when I was all of 9-10 years old. A girlfriend and I we loved the song to much we wanted to act out the lyrics – especially the “who shot who?” and the “yellow feathers in her hair” parts.

Author fact: Many people think Her Name Was Lola is autobiographical. If Hoban knows an imaginary dwarf named Apasmara then okay. That is awesome.

Book trivia: This is so short it can be read in one day.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Russell Hoban: Too Good To Miss” (p). This is the penultimate Hoban book on my list. One more and I will be done with the chapter.