This has been a sad week for the writing community. Russell Hoban, author of the beloved Frances books, passed away on Tuesday, December 13. Christopher Hitchens, author of books such as God is not Great, passed away on Thursday, December 15. The two authors wrote for extremely different audiences and this will probably be the last time that they are mentioned in the same space, but both had a great impact on readers.
Christopher Hitchens had a large number of fans, and a large number of detractors. The writer was never afraid to speak his mind, whether it was his views on religion (he was a devout atheist), a popular President (he was not a Ronald Regan fan), or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (he was a staunch supporter of them, surprising many as he was known for his mainly liberal views). He had choice words for a great many people, including Mother Theresa, Prince Charles, and George W. Bush. His books were written on a variety of subjects, and included Arguably, Hitch-22, God is not Great, Thomas Jefferson, author of America, Why Orwell Matters, Letters to a Young Contarian, and The Trial of Henry Kissinger. You can read his obituary or this appreciation from a Houston Chronicle writer.
Russell Hoban was the author of my beloved Frances books. (All, except for the first title, Bedtime for Frances were illustrated by Russell’s wife, Lillian). I loved the way Frances could make up songs at the drop of a hat, whether it was an ode against eggs, a song about making bargains with friends, or playing with others. If you are a budding philosopher, Frances’s views on life are unprecedented. For instance, in A Birthday for Frances, Frances explained to her mother why she was singing “Happy Thursday” to her imaginary friend, Alice, and not “Happy Birthday”. Since no-one could see Alice, she couldn’t very well have a birthday. Frances’s mother does not agree and says that even those who can’t be seen have birthdays. Frances, however, reminds her mother, that Alice is always the girl whose birthday it isn’t. Pretty deep stuff when you think about it!
As for this Frances fan, my favorite title in the series is A Bargain for Frances. I learned all about the dangers of making deals with friends, the consequences of “no backsies” and how cool it was to own a china tea set.
Of course, Mr. Hoban’s repertoire expanded far beyond Frances. He also wrote several adult books, including Turtle Diary, Pilgermann, and Riddley Walker. Read more about the author in his obituary or this appreciation written by a fellow librarian at Arlington’s Robbins Library.
posted by Laura