Friday, February 4, 2011

Russell Hoban: February 4, 1925

My first encounter with Russell Hoban was his post-holocaust novel Riddley Walker, a novel like no other I had read. After finishing this book, I had to see what else he had written. So far, I've read most of his adult novels and consider him one of my favorite writers.

Riddley Walker is also a quest novel and the quest is driven by a riddle, the riddle that Walker alludes to at the beginning of the second chapter: "Walker is my name and I am the same. Riddley Walker. Walking my riddels where ever theyve took me and walking them now on this paper the same."

He is a walker and he walks his riddles; this is the basic plot of the book. He walks the riddle and attempts to make sense of the world about him.

The Riddle

"Horny Boy rung Widders Bel
Stoal his Fathers Ham as wel
Bernt his Arse and Forkt a Stoan
Done It Over broak a boan
Out of Good Shoar vackt his wayt
Scratcht Sams Itch for No. 8
Gone to senter nex to see
Cambry coming 3 times 3
Sharna pax and get the poal
When the Ardship of Cambry comes out of the hoal."

Does it make sense? No, but after reading the novel, it does. This is a series of locations that Riddley Walker visits on his quest. Try reading it out loud; it makes a little more sense.

Reading Riddley Walker is a mind stretcher, and it makes one see the English language in a new way.


  1. It's a wonderful book. I was going to work it into a post next week, but now I'll just link back to you.

  2. I hope you do post something about RW as I would like to read what you have to say about this extraordinary novel.

  3. I unfortunately do not have a copy and can't say anything too serious right now. I'm reading one of Riddley Walker's ancestors, Richard Jeffries Wild England (1885), and I occasionally get these little flashes of Hoban.

  4. There's a new edition out now, published by Indiana University Press. It's _Riddley Walker: Expanded Edition_ which includes an afterword, notes, and a glossary by Hoban. This edition was published in 1998.