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Book Quiz

I may do the film quotes quiz meme that's doing the rounds, but I was rather taken with the book quote quiz that steer treated us to yesterday. Given that I won through a mixture of geekery and guesswork, it's probably beholden on me to post another.

The Rules

(shamelessly cribbed from steer)

The point isn't to show off by guessing the titles of ones you've read, but by showing powers of reasoning to get setting and time and "interesting thing". Googling is expressly forbidden, obviously.

All comments are screened and I'll give out marks on Monday.


One point if you can get within twenty five years of when it was written. (Half point for within fifty years).

One point if you can get the genre/setting (so I'm looking for something like "nineteenth century adventure" "near future sci-fi" "contemporary new york" "cod medieval fantasy").

One point for author and/or title or series of books.

If you don't know the actual book/author I will give you a completely unfair discretionary point if you can guess something quite interesting about the book or author just from the text provided (not something obvious like "they start sentences with conjunctions" or "they're inexplicably fond of the Oxford comma". So you can still get full points if you don't know any of the actual books.

Really though, what I'm interested in is why you think what you think about the passages and how you tie them to a place and time. I think for some of them at least, the title should be guessable though. Comments are screened.

The Quotes

Quote 1

To the shepherd, the note of the sheep-bell, like the ticking of the clock to other people, is a chronic sound that only makes itself noticed by ceasing or altering in some unusual manner from the well-known idle tinkle which signifies to the accustomed ear, however distant, that all is well in the fold. In the solemn calm of the awakening morn that note was heard by ****, beating with unusual violence and rapidity. This exceptional ringing may be caused in two ways - by the rapid feeding of the sheep bearing the bell, which gives it an intermittent rapidity, or by the sheep starting off in a run, when the sound has a regular palpitation. The experienced ear of **** knew the sound he now heard to be caused by the running of the flock with great velocity.

Quote 2

And Billy travelled in time to the zoo on ****. He was forty-four years old, on display under a geodesic dome. He was reclining on the lounge chair which had been his cradle during his trip through space. He was naked. The ****ians were interested in his body - all of it. There were thousands of them outside, holding up their little hands so that their eyes could see him. Billy had been on **** for six Earthling months now. He was used to the crowd.

Escape was out of the question. The atmosphere outside the dome was cyanide, and Earth was 446,120,000,000,000,000 miles away.

Quote 3

Now, of course, I do not wish to go to ****'s crap game; and if I do wish to go there I do not wish to go with ####, because a guy is sometimes judged by the company he keeps, especially around crap games, and #### is apt to be considered bad company. Anyway, I do not have any dough to shoot craps with, and if I do have dough to shoot craps with, I will not shoot craps with it at all, but will bet it on Sun Beau, or maybe take it home and pay off some of the overhead around my joint, such as rent.

Quote 4

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitudes towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable....

Quote 5

Society of summer evenings in **** was formal and genteel. We didn't bolt our food and jump up from the table but waited for the slowest eater, me, who hated all vegetables except pickles, and cleared the table, and two of us did dishes, a race between washer and wiper. By then, it was six o'clock. Children of age could go out bike-riding, the younger ones played in the yard. Mother and Dad worked in the yard, except Wednesday, which was prayer meeting, and then sat on the porch, and one by one we joined them.

The porch is about thirty feet long, almost the width of the house, and six feet, eight inches wide. The porch is enclosed with ten-foot-tall screens and we sit in old brown wicker chairs, rocker, couch, except me. I lie on the floor, feet to the house, and measure myself against that wonderful height. A six-eight person can pretty much write his own ticket.

Quote 6

"You have not forgotten my methods since we last met, surely?" says the conceited ass, who I begin to suspect was some kind of maniac. "Very well, apply them. Observe," he went on impatiently, "that the man wears a pea jacket, with brass buttons, which is seldom seen except on sea-faring men. Add to that the patent fact that he is a German, or German-American -"

"I don't see," began the bailiff, only to be swept aside.

"The duelling scars, doctor! Observe them, quite plain, close to the ears on either side." He'd sharp eyes, all right, to spot those; a gift from Otto Bismarck, years ago. "They are the unfailing trade-mark of the German student, and since they have been inexpertly inflicted - you will note that they are too high - it is not too much to assume that he received them not at Heidelberg or Gottingen, but at some less distinguished academy. This suggests a middle-class beginning from which, obviously, he has descended to at least the fringes of crime."

Quote 7

I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs ****. She was worth a stare. She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-longue with her slippers off, so I stared at her legs in the sheerest silk stockings. They seemed to be arranged to stare at. They were visible to the knee and one was well beyond. The knees were dimpled, not bony and sharp. The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem. She was tall and rangy and strong-looking. Her head was against an ivory satin cushion. Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle and she had the hot black eyes of the portrait in the hall. She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full.

Quote 8

In Germany you are not permitted to call an official a 'silly ass', but undoubtedly this particular man was one. What had happened was this: **** in the Stadtgarten, anxious to get out, and seeing a gate open before him, had stepped over a wire into the street. **** maintains he never saw it, but undoubtedly there was hanging to the wire a notice 'Durchegang Verboten!' The man, who was standing near the gate, stopped ****, and pointed out to him this notice. **** thanked him and passed on. The man came after him, and explained that treatment of the matter in such offhand way could not be allowed; what was necessary to put the business right was that **** should step back over the wire into the garden. **** pointed out to the man that the notice said 'going through forbidden', and that, therefore, by re-entering the garden that way he would be infringing the law a second time. The man saw this for himself, and suggested that to get over the difficulty **** should go back into the garden by the proper entrance, which was round the corner, and afterwards immediately come out again by the same gate. Then it was that **** called the man a silly ass. That delayed us a day, and cost **** forty marks.

Quote 9

"Whither goest thou?" echoed **** with his mouth open. We sat and didn't know what to say; there was nothing to talk about any more. The only thing to do was go. **** leaped up and said we were ready to go back to Virginia. He took a shower, I cooked up a big platter of rice with all that was left in the house, Marylou sewed his socks, and we were ready to go. **** and #### and I zoomed into New York. We promised to see #### in thirty hours, in time for New Year's Eve. It was night. We left him at Times Square and went back on through the expensive tunnel and into New Jersey and on the road. Taking turns at the wheel, **** and I made Virginia in ten hours.

Quote 10

I was in the middle of preparing lunch when the phone rang again. I had cut two slices of bread, spread them with butter and mustard, filled them with slices of tomato and cheese, set the whole on the chopping board, and I was just about to cut it in half when the bell started ringing.

I let the phone ring three times and cut the sandwich in half. Then I transferred it to a plate, wiped the knife, and put that in the cutlery drawer, before pouring myself a cup of the coffee that I had warmed up.

Still the phone went on ringing. Maybe fifteen times. I gave up and answered it. I would have preferred not to answer, but it might have been Kumiko.

"Hello," said a woman's voice, one I had never heard before. It belonged neither to Kumiko nor to the strange woman who had called me the other day when I was cooking spaghetti. "I wonder if I might possibly be speaking with Mr Toru Okada?" said the voice, as if its owner were reading a prepared text.

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Quote 2 is from Slaughterhouse-5 (1970) by Kurt Vonnegut, in which Billy Pilgrim is lost in time between 1945 Dresden and the zoo on Tralfamadore at an unspecified point in the future. Poo-te-weet, indeed. The aliens in Life Of Brian had a Tralfamadorian look about them, don't you think?

Edited at 2008-02-22 09:07 pm (UTC)

All I can be sure of is 6, which is quite obviously one of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Number 7 reads like a hard-boiled detective novel, possibly Mickey Spillane, and 4 reads vaguely like Orwell in 1984, but I'm not sure of it. I do know that I have read whatever book number 4 is from.

1) Hmm... the slow philosophical meandering and pastoral setting make me think it's either quite old or a modern fantasy/magic realist novel pretending to be such. "Morn" and the unusual use of "chronic" and "palpitation" make me think it's genuinely old. I guess Anne Radcliffe, one of the pastoral sections from Udolpho which I think was late 18th C. [It could equally well be, say, Lord Dunsany writing in mythic mode but I stick with my first guess because he tended to lob in "thee" and "thou" for period effect.] Bet I look silly when it turns out to be late 20th! :-)

2) This is Kurt Vonnegut. I remember the time-travel and zoo scenes. I think it's Slaughterhouse 5 which was written in the 60s IIRC. I've certainly read this book.

3) American, probably gangsters. Craps makes me think it's not recent. Damon Runyan? It's similar to his writing style. I can't remember when he was writing -- 1930s? Is it On Broadway.

4) This puzzles me since I'd assume it was just an overblown history book without the last sentence. Gyroscope and equilibrium make me think it's mid-late 20th C. Say 1960. It's slightly dogmatic so I will guess an American author again but I don't have a clue. Then, it could be about to descend into something dreadfully Superman like Robert E Howard (but would he use a milquetoast word like "probably"?). OK so perhaps it is going to end up being a barbarian fantasy with someone with mighty thews upsetting the order of society.

5) Religion, porches, tranquility and a first person narrator makes me think it's Garrison Keillor. If it isn't him, he should certainly read the audio tape. Certainly American and I think modern but recalling an older time (although not sure why). It comes from some whistful semi-autobiographical American writing of his childhood anyway. Lake Wobegone days perhaps? You know, I don't know when he started writing mid 1980s? I've almost certainly read this.

6) Bismarck and the "conceited ass" makes me sure it's one of the Flashman novels -- written between IIRC 1970 and last year then. :-) I think it's Royal Flash since it is about Germans. That would make it about 1975 I think. I've certainly read this.

7) Oh that sounds just like Phillip Marlowe sizing up some woman. The whole "she was worth staring at" says pre-war american noir to me. I'm going to guess The Big Sleep. I doubt I've read whatever it is.

8) Germany and the rigorous almost scientific logic and footling details makes me think of Primo Levi. Presumably the setting is WWII and it is written post war. So I guess it was written around about 1960 by Primo Levi. I've read three or four but I don't think this one (assuming it is him).

9) American and not recent (people aren't called MArylou any more are they). I don't know what to make of "Whither goest thou?" though as a start. I guess "On the Road" which was 1930s I think, they're clearly in reduced circumstances (cooking up the rice which is all they have). I don't think it really is though, I never finished it but it usually took him days to get anywhere. But I guess it is 1930s American semi-autobiographical.

10) It's contemporary Japanese with first person narration -- the strange already makes me think of a Murakami but Haruki or Ryu? I've probably read this but I have a dreadful memory for names. There is a knife in there (Ryu) but meticulous attention to detail, obsession with food and slow pacing makes me think Haruki Murakami (people are always snacking in his books). I'm going to say it's Kafka on the Shore from around about 2000 I think. It's within the last 25 years anyway. (I should be cynical and guess 1996 to give myself leeway).

I'm glad you did that. I was interested in knowing how well I'd do and how much I thought I could tell. I have a really terrible memory -- even some of my very favourite books I cannot remember the name of the main character.

No problem - I enjoyed your quiz, possibly because it was more about informed guesswork than the film quizzes.

blue_condition seems to be in the lead so far, but you're not far behind. At least one person has correctly guessed the author of each work, though no-one has got all of them.

Hmm. So, this is where I get to show off my ignorance and the rather random variations in my reading habits, is it? Hmmm.

1. Much as I'm not supposed to show off by just naming the ones I've read, this is clearly Far from the Madding Crowd. Erm. So, Wessex. As for date, ooh 'eck. I've always been useless at history. Erm. 18-something. 1875? I can't even remember if anyone mentions where Sergeant Troy's come back from/is off to, which might have been a clue. Feh. As for genre, it's filed in my mind under "romance".

2. This one I don't know. Science fiction, clearly, and satire to boot. I'd guess American. I feel like I know the style. The content makes it sound a bit like David Wossname... Erm. The fella that did Cloud Atlas. It sounds 1970s. Oh, it's not Philip K DIck, is it? It's definitely Someone Odd.

3. Again, clearly American (who else ever mentions craps?) but one I don't know. Also, pretty clearly 1960s or 70s; "joint", "dough", etc. I have the feeling that this is one I'd be expected to know, though. And with the gambling, erm -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? I've never read it, but I seem to remember it reads like this. So, erm, contemporary Las Vegas, 1970something.

4. Meh. The first thing I thought of was "The Time Machine", but no, I don't remember that being that preachy, and besides, there were only really high and low there, weren't there? And it sounds later. It still sounds quite stilted and formal, almost like it's not a novel at all. It maybe even sounds a bit like Marx. Erm. 1920s or 1930s? It sounds like the introduction to something, but it also sounds like the introduction to something I might put back down if I read it in the bookshop. As for genre, no idea.

5. Pleasant. Idyllic, even. It reminds me vaguely of Hemingway's early Nick Adams, although it's not Hemingway (well, I like to think I'd recognise him, anyway.) Erm. First half of the twentieth century somehwhere, maybe a coming-of-age novel. Sounds American but I suppose it could be British. Genre: Adolescent something-or-other. Or maybe just idyllic-childhood-about-to-be-buggered-up-by-war-or-something-equally-horrid.

6. Oooh. Obviously Sherlock Holmes, but I don't recognise it, and surely Watson would be narrating and therefore know who he was. Unless it's the first one, I suppose. Is this when they meet? Oh, fiddle, this one smells of trickery to me, but I'm not sure why. It doesn't sound like Conan Doyle to me. Erm. But, no idea if it's not. So, 1920s, detective, bugger.

7. Noir, detective, 1930s(?) Chandler, I'd say, and Philip Marlowe. I may well have read this, but a wisecracking-detective-meets-femme-fatale scene hardly narrows it down, does it? None of the English actually made me laugh out loud or wince, so perhaps he's not at the top of his game yet, language-wise. Erm. The Big Sleep?

8. Haven't the foggiest clue. Do let me know what it is, though, I think I'd like to read more of it. Comedy of something-or-other. Apart from that, drawing a complete blank.

9. Scarily enough, I've never read On The Road, although I obviously bloody well should have by now. It's influenced enough things that I have liked that I can recognise it just from the style and the "Marylou" :) Excuse me, I think I'll just go add it to my Audible list, it's the only way I'll get around to it. Oh, hang on, I'd better take a stab at a year first. Erm. 1955? And "beatnik stream-of-consciousness" for genre?

10. And again, I'm clueless. I like the hero(?), I typically like beginnings like this (it is a beginning, yes?) I'm reminded of the first chapter of Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward, where Stark elevates the ignoring of a ringing phone into an art form. And there's a coffee connection there, too. Erm. Contemporary. Japan, by the names. Extending my comparison with Only Forward completely illogically, contemporary action adventure/mystery, with our unwilling hero drawn into a high-stakes game and saving the day through the use of heavy sarcasm. Oh -- year. Erm. 1990, just judging from the style. This feels like the most recent of the excerpts.

OMFG you know
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OMFG you know <ljuser="steer">??

Via a roundabout route, yes. LJ is worth at least three degrees of separation.

Too late to actually look, but while the book geekery occurs, I refer you to http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/at-europe/at-europe-london-closeup-the-amazing-staircase-042543 for your library porn needs.

the hatter

Very nice, but I think that I'd worry about inadvertently scuffing the spines of the books with the toes of my shoes.

If I'm ever in a position to be converting a loft and installing a permanent staircase, I'd still consider something like that.

1 - that pastoral tone and slightly stilted prose reeks of 19th century English, and the rural side of it makes me think Thomas Hardy. Which suggests a shepherd, which suggests Gabriel Oak, which suggests Far from the Madding Crowd - though I admit to not having read it.

2 - Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five - satirical SF - who else ends up as a zoo exhibit that far from Earth? 1970-ish.

3 - Damon Runyon - nobody else writes in the present tense like that about those topics - 1930 - can't place the particular story though as so many start like that.

4 - George Orwell, 1984, dystopia, 1948, engraved in my brain. Actually this is a section from Goldstein's book.

5 - I'm guessing at Garrison Keillor, 1980s, nostalgic comedy.

6 - someone trying to write like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but it's not. So I'll say detective story, but modern - circa 1970.

7 - can't be anyone other than Raymond Chandler writing about legs like that in the toughest of noir. I'm guessing that Mrs is Mrs Rutledge, and it's The Big Sleep, circa 1940.

8 - Jerome K Jermome, Three Men on the Bummel, comedy, circa 1910, and the quote about German silly asses sticks with me because I've worked with the Hun regularly.

9 - Jack Kerouac, On The Road, pseudo-autobiographical ramblings, early fifties - those journey times place it ;)

10 is Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, strange fiction, 1995-ish. Only he can write about a Japanese guy making a sandwich in that much detail.

2 is almost certainly Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, written in the 1970s (or late 60s). In this sf novel, Billy Pilgrim is 'unstuck in time', and moves along his own personal timeline, including his experience of being in Dresden as a PoW when it was bombed (an experience Vonnegut had in real life).

7 can be no-one other than Raymond Chandler. I presume this is a description of Mrs Regan in The Big Sleep (1940), though it could conceivably be the woman from The Long Goodbye, whom Marlowe has married by the beginning of Poodle Springs.

Most of these I can do no better than a completely wild stab in the dark at the bleeding obvious (e.g. #2 is some form of sci-fi). However, the ones actually worth typing in:

4a) 19...gah..50-ish? ISTR that it's post-WW2.
4b) It's a near-future dystopian novel.
4c)It's Nineteen Eighty-Four (specifically, it's Emmanuel Goldstein's book within 1984).
4d) Eric Blair (Orwell) was shot through the throat during the war. He knew that he was going to live because the pain got more intense, rather than numb.

5: OH GOD THE RAMBLING SENTENCES MAKE IT STOP. People who write descriptive paragraphs like object serialisations should be beaten with Pratchett novels until they repent.

6: I would guess that this is a Sherlock Holmes Victorian crime thriller, although it's possible that it's just following the archetypal style.

7: Needs more hard-boiled private detective.

8: Odd. Do not recognize, yet seems familiar. I'd guess at 1950-ish.

10: Hazard a guess at cyberpunk, light on the punk.

Did I miss the answers to this?

No, I've been quite horrifically busy this week. Short lunch breaks and 3-4 hours extra work each evening does not make for a happy nmg.

No hurry. blue_condition had managed to forget. :-)

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