Monday, 12 April 2010

Is it an age thing?

Our Writers' Group had their book launch last week - each of us has written on the theme of railways and we have published a little book called "Trains of Thought." Like the curate's egg, it is good in parts - but at least we have all made an effort and that in itself is worthy.

On the launch evening I did a literary quiz and also made the book cover in the photograph above as the prize (with a writer's notebook inside). The quiz went down very well and luckily only one person got the whole thing right, so I was able to give her the book.

But what really interested me was that I tried the quiz out on various friends and relations beforehand, so that I could be sure it was set about right. My grand-daughter, who is seventeen and doing English A Level (and is far better read than I will ever be) could only answer a few; my son, who has been a keen reader all his life, and - like his daughter - is far better read than I will ever be, got about two thirds of them right and another friend I tried it out on got only a few right. Yet these are all very intelligent, very literary people who read all the time. The difference is that they were all much younger than I am (to varying degrees).

I know that any one of them could have produced a quiz which I could not answer. So that is my question - should the old classic authors and poets still be read by young people?

I thought about how I had got to know the authors and poets in my quiz - and discovered that I had not got this information from school days at all, but from my father, who was himself a very keen reader and who imparted this knowledge to me. If you fancy having a go at the quiz, I print it below. And, incidentally, if you would like to try your hand at making a book cover like the one in the photograph I will print the pattern on my blog with pleasure.
Alphabetical quiz.
A Who said "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possesion of a fortune must be in want of a wife?
B Who said, "Oh to be in England now that April's there"?
C Who said, "As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean"
D Which poet - "Is there anybody there said the traveller?
E Who said "I have the body of a weak and feeble woman.
F Which poet said "Good fences make good neighbours.
G "And God said let there be light."
H The author of "Chocolat."
I "The wolf shall lie down with the lamb."
J Who said, " A man is generally better pleased when he has a good dinner on the table than when his wife speaks Greek."
K "East is east and west is west."
L "The owl and the pussy cat went to sea."
M "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche."
N "England expects every man will do his duty.
O "That demmed elusive pimpernel."
P "And so to bed."
Q Who rode a horse called Rosinante?
R "Better by far you should forget and smile, than you should remember and be sad.
S "Hail to thee blithe spirit."
T "Into the valley of death rode the six hundred."
U Who was 'so very 'umble."
V "We are not amused."
W Who wandered lonely as a cloud?
X Which poet, beginning with a B, said "You should not take a fellow eight years old and make him swear to never kiss the girls."
Y Who had the words "Horsemen pass by!" on his epitaph.
Z J'Accuse!


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Well, I can manage just eight…and haven't a clue re. the remainder. I've been a lifelong reader, have read most of the classics—both British and American—and a lot of literature from, say, the 1920s onward, plus a passel of popular fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. I'd like to think it was faulty memory, but it's probably not. I'd have certainly not been anyone's competition for your quiz.

Anonymous said...

Mad keen to do this off the top of my (ancient-ish) head, but can't get comment box and quiz on same screen!
First JA in P&P
Byron towards the end
Browning in there too
and Marie Antoinette.
I think these things are definitely age specific. There used to be a 'canon' of stuff every Englishman/woman would know (see contents of Palgrave)!!!
Now we have a much wider range of possibilities.
In America there would be some stuff English people had never heard of and vice versa.
I would not have got your prize but would have been a runner-up!
What fun it sounds......

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Weaver of Grass, I can answer only the questions about the idle ship and the horseman, Coleridge and Yeats respectively.
I enjoyed this post of yours and in particular the idea "Trains of Thought".

Heather said...

I managed 14 plus one or two 'on the tip of my tongue'. Your book cover is so attractive - I do hope who ever won it will appreciate the work you have put into it. I think you may be right with your 'age thing'. It takes time for books to become classics and when they do, what we regard as classics are superseded, although there are some titles which will always remain at the top.

Tramp said...

My father was also very well read and by all accounts his father, who died in 1936, aged 76, was a prolific reader. Grandfather was a gardener with only elementary formal education but he had an extensive library from which I have a copy of the works of Shakespeare. One day I will read it!

Titus said...

Boastful old me was going for a full house until I got to X. Relieve me of my agony please.

And yes, it is generational, but I do think the "classics" and the "canon" exist for a reason. They're good.

Cloudia said...

I fear that I would look the fool!

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Cloudia said...

Do come visit!

Anonymous said...

I will be the second fool then, however I feel confident in telling you your book cover is beautiful.

BT said...

I would have won the wooden spoon I'm afraid. Heather, 14 is amazing! I do love that book cover and would love the 'recipe'.

dinesh chandra said...

Great weaver ji great.


ji is honour

dinesh chandra

ChrisJ said...

13 for me, but I don't know American Lit having been educated in Engoland.

The Solitary Walker said...

19 I'm certain about - and a couple of others I'm less certain about. The rest I've heard, and ought to know, but don't.

This is my kind of literary quiz. But ask me about much contemporary fiction, SF, thrillers, crime, romance, horror, aga-sagas, bodice-rippers, chick-lit, historical novels or Canadian poets 1950-1970 and I would have no idea!

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

Well, I'm afraid I'd have been sitting quietly in the corner! I know a few, plus a few I can't recall but the majority, no.

If one spent every waking moment reading, it wouldn't be possible to do it all. And as each generation comes along, the classics become further removed. Pride and Prejudice etc. may find new audiences because they're filmed and televised time and time again but so much else sinks below the surface; known of but not known and if we don't know, we can look it up on the internet! Another fascinating topic.

Studio Sylvia said...

Know some of the quotes but not the authors.
Hi Weaver, I've just awarded you the Circle of Friends Award :) see my blog for details.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Loved this quiz! Especially since I arrived here after you'd given the answers! "We are not amused" is such a favourite.

I'm reading Our Mutual Friend at the moment, so yes, I do feel everyone should read, and re-read, the classics.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I recognise a lot of those quotes but can only name a few of the writers,

I think classic writers should still be read, definitely

jeannette said...

this is not about the quiz, but I LOVE the book cover!

maggi said...

I managed about 10 but then got really frustrated as there were others that I should have known but just couldn't remember. The book cover is lovely.

Coastcard said...

Good to read your posts again, Weaver. I have been away in sunny Devon - where we saw quite a few Swallows. I much enjoyed your quiz - some easy, others a challenge for the memory and others still, simply beyond me!

My motto in most things - and I guess literature might be included here - is 'the best of the old spiced with the best of the new - peppered with the unusual'!

Coastcard said...

P.S. the motto was in relation to what young people today might be encouraged to read... Sorry: I failed to make that clear!