Friday, February 23, 2018
A Literary Quiz
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
So wrote William Carlos Williams in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower.” He’s affirming, as many have done, the importance of art in our lives. We’re diminished and even bereft without it.
Sorry, but that sentiment just isn’t true. People can do just fine without reading Dante or listening to a sonata by Mozart or looking at a Vermeer painting. Or, to drop down a good way from those titans, they get along quite well without literature or art or music that is merely of high quality. Of course, they may get on quite badly, but they can’t be rescued from their misery by poetry. Maybe a few can get a momentary lift, but that’s all. Good parents, or love, or achieving their dreams (if they dare to aspire to something) would be of more help to them. To achieve a full and happy life money is much more important than what is found in poetry; at least it can provide adequate food and shelter. Williams, who was a doctor among the poor in Patterson, New Jersey, should have known that.
Those who appreciate art can die (and live) as miserably as those who don’t care a fig for such things. Many creators of art have been exceedingly unhappy. Suicides abound.
This cynical perspective may seem odd coming from someone who writes reviews and essays on literary matters. I’ve long been an advocate for the arts, but I’ve been unable to get anyone to share what I value — to read a book or even see a film I recommend. There’s a barrier, a stubborn refusal. Their attitude is this: only if you put a revolver to my head and fully intend to pull the trigger will I read this book or watch this film. Otherwise, no. Why do they resist? Most likely they have me tagged (unfairly) for a person whose tastes lean toward work which is difficult, and they don’t want to expend energy in that way. It’s a chore, like dusting the Venetian blinds. If they do read, it’s something undemanding; when they see a film (and they do see films) they seek mindless escapism. I feel that they’re choosing ground chuck over prime rib, but a burger with bacon and cheese, on a toasted bun, is satisfying to them.
Let’s put the majority of human beings aside and consider writers of fiction. These are the people who would respond to Williams’ poem and would espouse the belief that literature is of primary importance. If so, shouldn’t they be readers? My contact with writers, on a one-to-one basis, doesn’t occur in my daily life. It’s only on those infrequent occasions when I go to artists’ colonies that I’ve rubbed elbows with them. Some are well-read, but for the majority their experiences with literature are shallow. In conversations I’ve found that their reading consists of the following: novels or stories that have been assigned to them in classes (many have advanced degrees in creative writing); that which is currently in fashion; work recommended by someone they consider important to their career (and, if this important person gets something published, they read it and then compose a letter to him or her using words like “luminous” and “moving”). They may also read a book that’s similar to the one they’re contemplating writing. There it ends, and I see no desire to go further.
I don’t consider these people to be well-read, even though they may think they are.
So here it is, writers, a quiz which will test how deep your knowledge of literature goes. I’ll stick to authors who wrote in the 20th century (and no person will appear more than once); I won’t include obscure works (if you disagree, check out their provenance); novels or stories written in a foreign language are excluded.
It’s not a difficult quiz — really, it isn’t. I eliminated quite a few deserving authors whose work has been recognized as worthy. I thought, “Nobody will get this one.” Of course, some would get him or her, and their work, but too few.
What will make this seem like an unfair test to some is another exclusion: representatives from those five categories of books that I cited previously — the types of books that the ill-read do read — are mostly absent.
The test consists of 100 points. The questions in Section Two are worth one point each, but all the other sections have two parts, and if you get one of the two, you’re entitled to one point. Guesses of the educated kind are encouraged.
A score of 94 or more correct responses puts you in the range of an A. 86 to 93, a B. 78 to 85, a C. 70 to 77, a D. Below that, you’ve flunked. You can use your computer (Wikipedia is useful) to check the answers.
I’ve included a way for you to boost your total score with extra points. This will be explained in the final section.
Last comment: I’ve only included works that I value. All novels and stories mentioned in the quiz are ones I consider to be very good to great. So maybe, if you draw a blank, you can search them out and read them. (Where’s my revolver?)
1) Connect the authors with the following places and name a book they appeared in. (16 points)
a) E. M. Forster Nuthanger Farm
b) Henry Miller Toad Hall
c) Katherine Anne Porter Marabar Caves
d) Richard Adams Five Towns
e) Edith Wharton Villa Borghese
f) Thomas Berger Starkfield, Mass.
g) Kenneth Grahame The Vera
h) Arnold Bennett Little Bighorn
2) Connect the author with the short story he/she wrote (12 points)
a) Gertrude Stein The Swimmer
b) Bernard Malamud Wigtime
c) D.H. Lawrence Guests of the Nation
d) William Carlos Williams Paul’s Case
e) John Cheever The Good Anna
f) Isaac Bashevis Singer The Use of Force
g) Frank O’Connor A Painful Case
h) Sherwood Anderson The Magic Barrel
i) Raymond Carver The Odour of Chrysanthemums
j) Willa Cather Gimpel the Fool
k) Alice Munro The Egg
l) James Joyce Are These Actual Miles?
3) Supply the name which completes the title of the novel, and connect it with its author. (20 points)
a) Morte d’___ Evan Connell
b) The Lonely Passion of ___ ___ Robert Lewis Wallant
c) Mrs./Mr. ___ Kingsley Amis
e) ___’s Journey Robert Graves
e) Sister ___ Brian Moore
f) The Tenants of ___ James T. Farrell
g) Lucky ___ J. F. Powers
h) A House for Mr. ___ William Trevor
i) The Young Manhood of ___ ___ Theodore Dreiser
j) I, ___ V. S. Naipaul
4) Connect the author with the character they created and name a book they appeared in (28 points)
a) Prewitt A. B. Guthrie
b) Hazel Motes Truman Capote
c) Harry Angstrom James Jones
d) Charlotte Haze Christopher Isherwood
e) Willie Stark William Faulkner
f) Perry Smith Flannery O’Connor
g) Fraulein Schroeder Joseph Conrad
h) Sam Pollit Walker Percy
i) Francie Nolan Vladimir Nabokov
j) Binx Bolling Philip Roth
k) Boone Caudill Betty Smith
l) Winnie Verloc Robert Penn Warren
m) Brenda Patimkin Christina Stead
n) Popeye John Updike
5) Connect a first novel with a later work by the same author, and then name the author (22 points)
a) Burmese Days The Ballad of the Sad Café
b) Company K Cold Spring Harbor
c) The Ox Bow Incident A Handful of Dust
d) Chrome Yellow The Day of the Locust
e) The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Coming Up for Air
f) The Death Ship The Arrow of God
g) The Folded Leaf The Bad Seed
h) Decline and Fall The Track of the Cat
i) Revolutionary Road The Chateau
j) The Dream Life of Balso Snell A Bridge in the Jungle
k) Things Fall Apart Point Counter Point
6) Extra credit (though the authors and their works are as fully deserving as those that appear in previous sections). Connect the author to the novel they wrote. In the list below is either the name of a person or place that appears in that novel or is the title of another work by the same author. You can earn one point if you make both connections (10 possible points)
a) Mary McCarthy Loving
b) Frank Norris Wide Sargasso Sea
c) Flann O’Brien The Man Who Fell to Earth
d) Muriel Spark The Getting of Wisdom
e) Elizabeth Taylor The 42nd Parallel
f) Henry Green A Charmed Life
g) Walter Tevis Momento Mori
h) John Dos Passos The Octopus
i) Jean Rhys Mrs. Palfrey of the Claremont
j) Henry Handel Richardson The Third Policeman
1) Charley Raunce, servant
2) The Big Money
3) Mr Rochester
4) Southern Pacific Railroad
6) de Selby, scientist/inventor
7) “Yonder Peasant, Who Is He?”
8) Maud Long Ward (aged people, female)
9) Australia Felix
10) J. T. Newton, Anthean