The Big Quiz: The Answers

Thursday 16 June 2016

Here, then, are the answers to our recent Big Quiz. Quite a few of you, I know, had a go, and some emailed their answers. One sagacious colleague scored a fantastic 13/20 (well done). And some others… well, they scored less well. To be fair, however, the quiz was challenging, even for an audience of erudite bibliophiles.

1. B. David Lodge. Mr. Lodge is my favourite reader on the list. Whilst he has close associations with the city of Birmingham – not that far from Leicester – he was in fact born in London. Of the other writers, I recall working as a (rather junior) university lecturer and being asked to teach Bali Rai’s (un)arranged marriage; I enjoyed it enormously, but wondered – and wonder still – why we were teaching, to all extents and purposes, a work of young adult fiction.

2. C. Clarice Lispector (see image). Clarice Lispector – that really was her name – has been described as someone who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf. Should readers detect some sexism in this claim, I wouldn’t argue. Still the claim did inspire me to read on, and I can strongly recommend Benjamin Moser’s Why This World – A Biography of Clarice Lispector.

3. D. Isabel Allende. One correspondent wrote to tell me, in correctly answering this question, how much he enjoys reading Allende. We all have different tastes, I hear.

4. D. Mikael Blomkvist. Most people got this question right. You are also right if you think the Swedish-language version of the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is vastly superior to the English-language version, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig.

5. A. AD 787. This, anyway, is the date that David Crystal provides in his magnificent The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Not everything Professor Crystal writes is ‘magnificent’ (he ‘recycles’ well). However, his encyclopedias are must-haves.

6. C. taro (which is borrowed from Polynesia). Thank you again Prof. Crystal.

7. D. Albert. As one colleague said, “It’s Albert. It’s Albert. Don’t you think I know that?!” Well, you’re right. It’s Albert.

8. A. Sharon Olds for Stag’s Leap. Hardly an easy question I would suggest. But, what do I know?

9. A. 2012. It’s not the only year the Pulitzer Prize wasn’t awarded. In essence, the prize was not awarded because the Pulitzer Prize Board could not, or would not, nominate a winner. This was a contentious decision; Maureen Corrigan, a member of the panel that nominates works, described the Pulitzer Prize Board’s decision as ‘inexplicable’.  At any rate, this is what Wikipedia tells me. Decide for yourself if you believe the claim to be accurate.

10. D. The Hours by Michael Cunningham. If you read carefully, this question shouldn’t be too tricky (right?). Coincidentally, Mr. Cunningham was a 2012 Pulitzer Prize jury member. Again, I’m reading Wikipedia…

11. A. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. I enjoyed writing this question. Most of you who responded got it wrong. Yes, you did.

12. C. Vladimir Nabakov and Wole Soyinka. Looking back on this question, I’m inclined to say “who cares? Class based quackery”. In the (somewhat unlikely) event that you do care, Graham Greene, Will Self, and Jeanette Winterson attended Oxford – the other half of Oxbridge.

13. B. London. One colleague did write to say that the correct answer is “Albuquerque. I has to be Albuquerque!” No, it isn’t. I think you’re confusing Patrick White with Walter White (aka Heisenberg) in Breaking Bad.

14. A. Kurt Vonnegut. Most English teachers have, I think, read Slaughterhouse 5. Do so if you haven’t.

15. D. It was the day my grandmother exploded. Published when I was 23, I thought The Crow Road magnificent. At more than twice that age, I no longer think that. Nevertheless, The Crow Road is probably Mr. Banks’ best novel, and the opening remains spectacularly memorable.

16. D. Matthew Rhys. One colleague, in discovering this, said (quite loudly), “no way! No way!” Well, yes way. Mr, Rhys is of course in The Americans – a quite excellent television drama. Do try to watch it.

17. C. Raymond Carver. As for Mr. Murakami, I just don’t like his books. I have, however, come to realize it is a view many don’t share with me. I remember one former colleague waiting outside the not-yet-opened local bookshop to buy her copy of 1Q84. For what it’s worth, Mr. Murakami’s marathon PB is much better than my own (not difficult to achieve) and he lives in Kyoto (which make me rather jealous).

18. D. Mr. Whiskers. Surely even a 7th grader knows this!

19. C. Neil Gaiman and Laurie Halse Anderson. These two writers are definitely not married to one another. In fact, for all I know, they may never have met. Of course, this question, whilst difficult, probably falls into the category ‘who cares anyway?’.

20. A. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. I’m not sure that this question was, with a little thought, all that difficult. That said, the other titles do also exist. Really.

And that’s it. If you didn’t get too many questions right, don’t panic. And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to others. It isn’t good for your mental health.



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