Monday, April 8, 2013

Test your literary mettle with this NY Public Library quiz

I expect DG readers to do very well on this impromptu quiz, taken from The Plot Thickens, a hefty deck of cards devoted to famous works of literature. If not, I'm sure you'll have some entertaining excuses or observations! (Even if you haven't read the book or seen the play, as I admit I haven't for some of these classics, there are enough clues to fire up the "little grey cells," as Poirot would say.) I shuffled the deck and picked out 10 cards at random. (History buffs: stay tuned for tomorrow's stumpers culled from Headlines from the New York Times.)
  1. This Pulitzer Prize–winning play is centered around the 65th birthday of Big Daddy, a Southern patriarch whose alcoholic son, Brick, is tormentd with guilt over the death of his friend Skipper, and who scornfully rejects his wife, Maggie.
  2. In this ever-popular thriller [soon to be remade in Hollywood, I might add], an ingenuous young woman struggles to free her marriage from the specter of her aristocratic husband's late wife, but meets a formidable obstacle in Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper of her grand new home, a woman fanatically loyal to the memory of her late mistress.
  3. In this classic short story set in Paris (considered by many to be the first true detective story), C. Auguste Dupin, the archetype of the cerebral sleuth, solves the riddle of the beastly murders of a mother and daughter, whose bodies are discovered in a room that appears to have been sealed from the inside.
  4. In this Booker Prize–winning novel set in India, two infants (one the product of an adulterous union of a low-caste Hindu woman and an Englishman and the other from an affluent Muslim family) are switched at birth; both will grow up to play significant roles in the history of their nation.
  5. In this thrilling historical adventure set in the Highlands of Scotland in 1751, 16-year-old David Balfour is orphaned; determined to steal David's inheritance, his villainous and greedy old uncle arranged to have his nephew abducted and sold off to slave traders.
  6. In 1930s Chicago, Bigger Thomas kills two women (one accidentally, one deliberately) and is sentenced to death, in this best-selling novel that deals unflinchingly with the consequences of racism in America.
  7. Set in the late 1870s, this epic western recounts the dangerous, exciting, sometimes comical, sometimes deadly events that take place during a cattle drive from Texas to the Montana Territory led by two former Texas rangers, Augustus (Gus) McCrae and Woodrow Call.
  8. In this play set in a junk shop, two small-time hustlers, Donny and Teach, plan a burglary that in the end they never carry out. This was the first of the playwright's works to reach Broadway, and it established him as a virtuoso of the American vernacular.
  9. This complex novel follows the rise and fall of the Sutpen family from the early 1830s through the Civil War and into the early years of the 20th century. Family patriarch Thomas Sutpen is utterly ruthless in his dynastic ambitions (he had abandoned a first wife and child upon learning that she was part black), ultimately sowing the seeds of his own--and his family's--destruction.
  10. In a novel operating on two planes simultaneously (one set in Victorian England, the other 100 years later, the contemporary present of the novel's narrator), Charles Smithson is engaged to Ernestina, but falls in love with Sarah Woodruff, the jilted lover of a French officer.

"Good sleuthing my fine fellow/good woman!"
  1. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams
  2. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  3. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," by Edgar Allen Poe
  4. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie
  5. Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  6. Native Son, by Richard Wright
  7. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
  8. American Buffalo, by David Mamet
  9. Absalom, Absalom, by William Faulkner
  10. The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles


  1. Blurggg, I only got 3. I am, however, extremely pleased to see "American Buffalo" included. Easily one of my favorite plays and a great reminder to re-read it!! Cheers and Happy Monday!!

    1. Cheers to you too! I'm sure Baron von Muggenhausen will be commenting on Mamet too, easily his favorite playwright. He chatted him up in a hotel in Venice if I'm not mistaken.

  2. Through the fog of a spring allergy attack, I vaguely discerned half of the answers correctly.
    I find that as my spare time dwindles, I whittle down my reading to mostly non-fiction, leaving aside the benevolent lies of fiction for a more leisurely era (coming when?)
    My so-called bucket list has bucket lists!

  3. I am not even going to comment how terrible I did on this quiz;(