Wednesday 15 June 2011

Naipaul Quiz: answers

Thank you for all your entries to the Male/Female quiz - I hope you all enjoyed it! Here are the answers, quickly - I've copied them down to the bottom with the quotations, in case you want to compare. Intriguingly, Dwarf's Blood by Edith Olivier seemed to attract the most interest from you all - and now I feel a bit guilty, since it's pretty scarce. From my own perspective, numbers 1 and 3 appealed to me most.

1.) Told By An Idiot - Rose Macaulay
2.) The Present and the Past - Ivy Compton-Burnett
3.) Time Will Darken It - William Maxwell
4.) Nothing is Safe - E.M. Delafield
5.) Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
6.) Before I Go Hence - Frank Baker
7.) The Harvest - Christopher Hart
8.) The To-Let House - Daisy Hasan
9.) Growth of the Soil - Knut Hamsun
10.) Dwarf's Blood - Edith Olivier

So... nobody got everything right. The lowest score was 4 (Sakura, Sue, and Laura!) and the highest score was 8 - a title shared between June, Colin, Karen K, Gill, Cynica, Deb, Claire, and Ruth. Well done, guys!

Here's an interesting fact - every author's was correctly identified more than incorrectly, except for Frank Baker - 16 out of 24 of you thought he was a woman.

Here's a little table of the answers - I don't know whether you can make it big enough to read by clicking on it, but it's worth a shot...

Here are those quotations again, with the titles.

Told By An Idiot - Rose Macaulay
One evening, shortly before Christmas, in the days when our forefathers, being young, possessed the earth, - in brief, in the year 1879, - Mrs. Garden came briskly into the drawing-room from Mr. Garden's study and said in her crisp, even voice to her six children, "Well, my dears, I have to tell you something. Poor papa has lost his faith again."

The Present and the Past - Ivy Compton-Burnett
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" said Henry Clare.

His sister glanced in his direction.

"They are pecking the sick one. They are angry because it is ill."

"Perhaps it is because they are anxious," said Megan, looking at the hens in the hope of discerning this feeling.

Time Will Darken It - William Maxwell
In order to pay off an old debt that someone else had contracted, Austin King had said yes when he knew that he ought to have said no, and now at five o'clock of a July afternoon he saw the grinning face of trouble everywhere he turned. The house was full of strangers from Mississippi; within an hour the friends and neighbors he had invited to an evening party would begin ringing the doorbell; and his wife (whom he loved) was not speaking to him.

Nothing Is Safe - E.M. Delafield
Even in what Julia now thought of as "the old days" - a year ago, and more - Terry had always minded things.

Whenever anything went even a little bit wrong he was almost certain to be fearfully upset. Sometimes he cried, even at twelve years old.

Daddy said Terry was a neurotic little ass.

Mummie said he was highly-strung, and that she'd been the same herself as a child.

5.) Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
Click!... Here it was again! He was walking along the cliff at Hunstanton and it had come again... Click!...

Or would the word 'snap' or 'crack' describe it better?

Before I Go Hence - Frank Baker
"You'd like you tea up here, father?"

There was a moment before the old man replied. Then he turned in his chair by the open window and stared bewilderedly at his daughter. She stood in the low doorway to the small study which overlooked the orchard, a thin, black-haired woman whose ringed hands were red and coarse from years of housework. Fenner's thoughts had wandered very far and he could not immediately relate the woman to his own life. It seemed to him that she was not his daughter, only one other individual in a haphazard dream world of unrelated human beings.

The Harvest - Christopher Hart
The sun shone down on a beautiful morning, edging the beech trunks copper and the beech leaves gold. The paddock lay like virgin land, the thin frost lay on it unbroken by human footfall, the grass only darkened here and there by delicate hoofprints where the deer had passed by when the mist still lay sorrelhigh, their sandy bellies brushing drops of dew from thistles, and had passed on and left the paddock still and silent as before in deep dreaming sleep.

The To-Let House - Daisy Hasan
Kulay, a fair, skinny, whip-wielding boy with grey, stony eyes, guards the border between a Shillong mansion, once home to a British tea planter, and its drab tenants' quarters. A forget-me-not hedge separates the drab houses from the magnificent mansion.

He is twelve and is wearing a red polo-neck sweater. He dances in circles like a ribbon of stony sunlight.

Growth of the Soil - Knut Hamsun
The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest - who trod it into being first of all? Man, a human being, the first that came here. There was no path before he came. Afterward, some beast or other, following the faint tracks over marsh and moorland, wearing them deeper; after these again some Lapp gained scent of the path, and took that way from field to field, looking to his reindeer. Thus was made the track through the great Almenning - the common tracts without an owner; no-man's land.

Dwarf's Blood - Edith Olivier
Sir Henry Roxerby was dead. As far as Brokeyates was concerned, he might well have died years earlier, for the place had begun to go to rack and ruin long before he took to his bed. During those last five years, the main drive had never been used. Sir Henry had no visitors, and the butcher and the baker preferred to reach the house by the stable entrance, near the churchyard. It was thus possible almost to avoid the Park altogether, and none of the village people cared about going further into that than was absolutely necessary. It had a haunted look.


  1. Ooh. The two that I answered incorrectly were the Frank Baker and Edith Fowler, which I find interesting as they have a domestic and quirky style, respectively.

    Fun experiment. We can all judge but it's based on style and subject matter as opposed to talent; Naipaul's thesis, as it stands, isn't exactly disproven but it's certainly misguided.

  2. What a great quiz idea (sorry I missed it!). Off to add a few titles to that never-ending list...

  3. I got so excited as I checked my answers - the first 5 were correct. Was I going to sweep the board? I moved to the second half of the list. Ah. No. Just one out of five.
    Never mind - several were tempting. (However, I tidied my bedside cupboards last weekend and my tbr pile is now stacked neatly, fondly dusted. Oh dear - at least thirty books! So no more for a bit.)

  4. I really enjoyed this challenge, Simon! And you've drawn my attention to some novels I'd like to read. I have to admit that I recognised the Patrick Hamilton extract---one of my favourite writers.

  5. Great fun! I decided to answer completely @ random & still got 6!
    Have you let Mr. N. know the result?

  6. Obviously I'm not a genius like Naipaul! Interesting excercise which shows how your preconceptions can judge how you read.

  7. Just an observation: if the guesses were completely random and with 24 respondents you would expect to see 2 or 3 people getting 8 right (the probabilities are hypergeometric); 8 is definitely excessive. Either you have an effect or the guesses weren't completely random.

  8. I looked, but didn't even try because I couldn't guess with any confidence - which I think proves the same point that we all came up with, anyway. What a fascinating little research project. Thanks for doing it, Simon! And thanks for bringing attention to Naipaul's pigheaded remark in the first place.

  9. 6 out of 10! That's a pass, right?
    Just saw this article- automating guessing a writer's gender puts a whole new spin on things:

  10. I obviously can't count or type. I have, however, found the scrap of paper I jotted my answers on and I put F then M for 8 & 9, so I actually got 6!

    But the results just go to show that by and large, you just can't tell! Great fun and thanks for the analysis.


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