“A few years ago, charged with writing a new introduction to a 25th-anniversary edition of Riddley Walker, I called the author, Russell Hoban, at his behest. A frail-sounding voice answered the phone, and when I explained who I was, Hoban fluted: ‘Would you mind calling back in half an hour or so? My wife and I are about to watch Sex and the City.’ I put the receiver down chastened: here was a man in his 80s who had more joie de vivre than I could muster in hale middle age.
“Born in 1925 in Pennsylvania to Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, Hoban was the rarest kind of writer: his works displayed complete diversity of subject matter, allied to a compelling unity of voice. Best known for Riddley Walker, perhaps the post-nuclear-apocalypse novel sans pareil, he wrote 15 other adult novels and many more for children. In the 1970s when I was first beginning to buy books for myself, Hoban was a member of a distinguished list at Picador, whose larger format paperbacks with full-bleed graphic covers were the hip thing to have on your bricks-and-boards bookcase.”