Sunday, May 27, 2007


I have just started the reading of Theft, a novel by Peter Carey.

It begins thus:
I don’t know if my story is grand enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen. It is certainly a love story but that did not begin until midway through the shitty stuff, by which time I had not only lost my eight-year old son, but also my house and studio in Sydney where I had once been as famous as a painter could expect to be in his own backyard.

I found it to be an intriguing start.
His wording made me chuckle, but aside from that, I found that I immediately wanted to know about this “stuff” he is alluding to.
The opening lines are such that they make me want to get a grande or venti Starbucks© coffee and entrench myself in some serious reading.

But first, I thought of other impressive first lines of novels. Books I have loved.
So, here is a QUIZ for you.
See if you can recall which books match these openings.
They are all very well-known novels.
At the end, there will be a rating scale, whereupon it shall be arbitrarily decided, based upon your answers, whether you should be allowed to live, or whether someone should pull the plug on you.


1) The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.

2) Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

3) Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

4) It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

5) If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

6) We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone.

7) A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. [Note: If I placed the next line it would make it too easy…]

8) On they went, singing “Eternal Memory,” and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.

9) On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor.

10) 1801 -- I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country!

11) The Mole had been working very hard that morning, spring-cleaning his little home.

12) Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

13) Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure.

14) In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.

15) I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

The ANSWERS can be found HERE.


13 →15 Correct Answers: You are of the upper echelon of The Literati. Your blood temperature is just slightly higher than that of mere mortals. You probably know the correct pronunciation of J.M. Coetzee.

10 →12 Correct Answers: You are still in the upper Literary Savant Status. Your friends often think you are a big know-it-all. Truth is, you are a genius. You know what the “O” in O. Henry stands for.

7 → 9 Correct Answers: You have much more Literary Savvy than the average bear, but your blood temperature is the same as that of mere mortals. You know what kind of birds Flannery O’Connor raised.

5 → 6 Correct Answers: You love reading, but if you opened your travel bag as the stewardess was doing that Seatbelt Routine, and you found that you had forgotten your book, you would NOT make the pilot stop the plane, whereas people in the above three categories would!

3 → 4 Correct Answers: You are a reader, but you prefer to read bestseller type books and classic literature does not interest you much. You think Ian McEwan is the guy who played Gandalf in the movie, Lord of The Rings.

1 → 2 Correct Answers: You are convinced that Dan Brown is the best author that ever lived. You also find it difficult to spell Dan Brown, and are sure that Jane Austen is a female WWF wrestler.
O. Henry is a chocolate bar. And Shakespeare, a brand of fishing rod.

ZERO Correct Answers → You think that Hamlet is something written by Dr. Suess. Once, when asked who Charles Dickens is, you said, “NASCAR-driver?” Tying your shoes is often a problem. The plug should be pulled.



Merisi said...

What the Dickens, 8!
Now, let me check which ones I really didn't read, and which first lines I simply didn't memorize.
Full of hope (still),

cipriano said...

You got 8 of these correct?
That is quite good.
Tell me. What type of birds did Flannery O'Connor raise?
-- Cip

Beth said...

Hurray - I am worthy to live! I got 12 out of 15.
I didn't read two of those books (and I won't and you can't make me) and the third I just plain old forgot.
And maybe I cheated because I gave myself a point when I got the correct author but the wrong title for one.

(hey, i'm not as groggy as i thought i was...)

Dorothy W. said...

I only got 3! Oh, no!! But I do know that O'Connor raised peacocks.

cipriano said...

As I re-read the Quiz, I think that it is quite demanding. So far, the highest score has been reported to me, [outside of the public eye] from my Reading Partner. A score of 13.
But I am not surprised because she is so incredibly astute that it makes me ill.

Beth, you hath done well.

Dorothy, please disregard my "arbitrary" comments as to the Type 3-4 Personality. I myself only got two of them right, and I MADE the Quiz!

Isabella said...

I can't think too clearly at this hour -- I know a few off the top of my head and might guess a few more in the morning. Wanted to mention tho', that I too just started Theft; I'm in chapter 3 -- so far, so good. You're aware it's up for discussion at Reading Matters at end of June?

Arukiyomi said...

I love stuff like this so thanks for posting. A year ago I would have been pants at this so I was happy to score 8 with only one that I should have got: I put Clockwork Orange instead of Brave New World.

Just to make myself feel better I do know how to pronounce Coetzee if only cos I've made a fool of myself in front of a S. African at least once!

...and I have no idea about old Flannery's birds.

Anonymous said...

I'm all over the Flan birds. She writes about them extensively in her letters. She (and her mother) were totally into them - the whole nine yards.

But arukiyomi, the world awaits:
Is it cut-SEE-uh?

Wendy said...

Great quiz - but if you think I'm going to reveal my score you are oh so wrong :)

Poodlerat said...

Really fun quiz. I only got 5, although that's actually pretty good considering that I've only read one of the books on the list (Brave New World.) It wasn't one of the five.

Arukiyomi said...

@ Anon... close but more like curt-SEE-ah