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Book Quiz Answers

Rather later than hoped (v. busy at work), here are the answers to my book quiz:

The Quotes

Quote 1

Rambling sentences and sheep? It could only be Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) by Thomas Hardy, specifically the passage in which Gabriel Oak loses his shepherding livelihood thanks to an overenthusiastic sheepdog and a cliff.

Quote 2

The alien zoo is on the planet Tralfamadore, which makes this Slaughterhouse 5 (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.

Quote 3

Now, I am not wishing to be casting aspersions, but there is only one fellow who is writing about gangsters and other such persons in the continuous present tense, and that fellow is Damon Runyon. The quote is from Guys and Dolls (1932), a book that demands to be read aloud.

Quote 4

A trick question. It's a quote from a political theory text that's a book within a book. Emmanuel Goldstein's The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, which is from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948). Doubleplusgood.

Quote 5

It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon, as usual. Garrison Keillor doing his homely thing in Lake Woebegon Days (1985). If you're not aware, the Lake Woebegon News is available as a podcast - try looking on iTunes.

Quote 6

Another trick question. The conceited ass is clearly Sherlock Holmes, but the narrator isn't Dr Watson. In this case, it's Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman, the bully and notable cad from Tom Brown's Schooldays. The quote is taken from George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman and the Tiger (1999), which also manages to work the Battles at Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana into the story. Highly recommended.

Quote 7

A bit of an easy one. It's a gumshoe evaluating a dame, and with that turn of phrase it could only be Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1939), eyeing up the delicious Mrs Regan.

Quote 8

Obligatory cultural stereotyping in the sequel to Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, the wonderful and little-read Three Men on the Bummel (1900). The unrepentant ignorer of signage is Harris, of course.

Quote 9

The book that launched a thousand stream-of-consciousness travelogues, and which was probably also responsible for the goddamned hippies. Jack Kerouac's semi-autobiographical road novel On the Road (1957). The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the name of the book appears in the quotation.

Quote 10

Modern Westernised Japanese with obsessive descriptions of food, so it has to be Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicles (1997).

The Scores

And so to the scores. In reverse order:

  • nul points, robstras (it's the taking part that counts)
  • 3 points, mcnutcase (who fell straight into the Sherlock Holmes trap)
  • 5 points, burkesworks (spot on the Vonnegut)
  • 8 points, lionsphil (partial credit for some good reasoning)
  • 10 points, swisstone (short and sweet)
  • 17 points, gothick_matt (good across the board knowledge, and some good guesswork)
  • 24 points, steer (glad you enjoyed the quiz)
  • and finally, with an uncanny 38 points, blue_condition

Named Awards

The Golden Banana Skin (for falling for the trick question in 6) goes to mcnutcase.

The Broken Chronoclastic Infundibulator (for the highest aggregate wrong guesses at dates) goes to gothick_matt, with an honourable mention to steer for missing the Jerome by sixty years.

The QI Medal of Honour (for the most interesting fact) goes to lionsphil for his trivia about the throat-shot Orwell.

The Amulet of ESP (for guessing a book you haven't read) goes to blue_condition for identifying the Hardy, including the character.

The original posting is now unscreened - thanks for playing.

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Excellent stuff -- I enjoyed that. I know now why (3) threw me. Actually, the thought that possibly this is going to turn into barbarian fantasy, kind of describes how Goldstein wants to tear down his society. :-)

I should have spotted that it wasn't just a Flashman novel but also a Holmes pastiche and that would have told me exactly which book -- but having got Germans and Bismarck I thought it must be Royal Flash.

Funny how Germans, wire and barked orders made me assume WWII and that the comic tone would turn dark.

Your reasoning for 1984 was brilliant, and completely wrong. It does raise the twin questions of what 1984 would have been like if written by Robert E. Howard (or even worse, John Norman), and of what Conan would have been like if written by Orwell. The former is slightly more imaginable.

I've a bit of a thing for wonky Holmesiana - I rather enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Study in Emerald, which also featured Sebastian Moran.

re: Bummel, it's a fun book, but it doesn't hold together as well as Boat. Some very good set pieces, however.

Your reasoning for 1984 was brilliant, and completely wrong. It does raise the twin questions of what 1984 would have been like if written by Robert E. Howard (or even worse, John Norman)

Heh... it's telling that I thought it might be someone philosophising in preparation for a major upset of society -- I just assumed they'd do it with a huge sword while wearing a loincloth.

If written by Robert E. Howard then Winston would have twisted the rat cage into a lump of scrap metal, escaped and killed the entire inner party setting himself up as ruler and liberating the proles.

I've not actually read any John Norman apart from the odd scrap. From what understand he would do similar but liberate only the male proles.

I think we have scarily similar taste in books. Of your ten, eight are on my shelves (the exceptions being the Hardy and the Flashman novel - I've read some of them but not that one; I was thinking of Holmes parodies like The Seven Per Cent Solution).

Self-kick for not getting the title of the Keillor, which I own - I was thinking it was one of his later books that I hadn't read, but LWD was an obvious default answer ;P

Most of Keillor's stuff reads the same way (the exception of those that I've read being Radio Romance), so I wasn't really expecting anyone to correctly guess the title.

And yes, we do seem to have quite similar tastes...

Have you read Lake Wobegon Summer 1956. It's so strange because it is his usual stuff interspersed with parody lewd teenage sexual fantasies. I had to buy the audiobook to hear him read it!

It's on the to-read pile - I picked up a copy a few years ago, but haven't yet got into it.

I think that that I didn't even guess at number one is proof that books you are forced to read and analyse for GCSE English will be hated and completely forgotten.

Nope, looking back at it, it still doesn't register at all.

I didn't do any Hardy at school; ias did, and feels as you do.

My schooling gave me an utter loathing of L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between (apart from the first line "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there", which even I'll admit isn't bad). They even forced us to watch the 1970 Harold Pinter-adapted film with Julie Christie and Alan Bates, and I've been trying to forget that ever since.

In this case, it's Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman, the bully and notable cad from Tom Brown's Schooldays. The quote is taken from George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman and the Tiger (1999)

Ah, I've heard about that recently (the author popped his clogs recently, yes? And was obviously sorely missed by many people at Radio 4, as I think I heard about five different obits...) I was going to give one a go, anyway; I shall put him on my list now. Especially as it's probably only the fact that you had Thomas Hardy in your .sig for ages that made me pick up Far From the Madding Crowd several years back...

The Broken Chronoclastic Infundibulator (for the highest aggregate wrong guesses at dates) goes to gothick_matt

Aww, thanks! I've always wanted one. And I've always been terrible at remembering dates.

Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicles (1997).

And would you recommend that one? Of all the excerpts, that was the one that made me want to keep on reading the most.

The Flashman books are fun, and it isn't necessary to have read Tom Brown's Schooldays to make sense of them, although it's helpful to have a rough knowledge of the major events in the C19th. The central conceit is great fun; Flashman is the cad's cad, a disgraceful lecher and a coward, yet he manages to be present at all of the key events of the late C19th and is lauded and decorated by royalty as a result.

Flashman and the Tiger is still my favourite (it's a novella - a much-maligned format - and there's a marvellously playful intertextuality), but the others are also good. Fraser will be much missed.

As for Far From the Madding Crowd, I first read it after Haydyn used the quote about Mark Clark to describe me ("a genial and pleasant gentleman, whom to meet anywhere in your travels was to know, to know was to drink with, and to drink with was, unfortunately, to pay for"). Yes, it's Victorian melodrama. ias thinks that I'm mad for rating Hardy, but thanks to that, I've read quite a few other pieces in a similar vein; I read some Emil Zola (Germinal is my favourite, with La Bete Humaine and La Debacle not too far behind), and then found Frank Norris's The Octopus (although in the latter case, it was partly a passing reference in Kim Newman and Eugene Byrne's Back in the USSA that made me curious to see what it was all about).

Yes, I think you'd like Murakami. Haruki Murakami was a chance find for me; the Waterstone's on Milsom Street in Bath had a copy of the US translation of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World on their import table, which I flicked through and decided that I wanted to buy there and then. It's not a bad place to have started, in retrospect; the story reminded me quite a bit of Iain Bank's The Bridge, but substituting quirky Westernised Japanese sensibilities for the Scottishness. I prefer his novels to his short stories (surprisingly for me), and of those I'd probably rate Wind-Up Bird most highly, with Norwegian Wood, Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance not far behind. My chief advice is not to do what I did; I read Dance, Dance, Dance before Wild Sheep Chase (of which it is the sequel) and went through much of the book with a dreadful feeling of deja vu.

On the other hand, I read the four novels in Ken Macleod's Fall Revolution series in reverse order, but I don't think that it marred my enjoyment of the books.

it's a novella - a much-maligned format

Not much-maligned by me, especially with my very limited reading time. Since I stopped spending hours on trains and buses every day, and started commuting on foot, reading's been a lot more difficult.

Yes, I think you'd like Murakami

Sold. Especially as Audible seems to have a highly-rated unabridged reading of Wind-Up Bird. I shall put it in my queue.

I find I can concentrate well on audiobooks when I'm walking; they're a very different experience from reading, but they can be excellent, especially if you take moderate care when picking them.

I'm heading towards the end of a very good reading of Iain M. Banks's Matter right now, which is good entertainment.

(Deleted comment)
and coincidentally I'm reading Kureishi at the moment

Which is more than I've ever done...

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