Thursday, November 17, 2005

BOOKS: Test Your LQ*

Finally! The Governor General's and National Book Award winners have been announced, just in time for the proud sponsors of 50 Books (aka me) to bring you this skill-testing quiz!

Question: How many winners of major awards for fiction have you read over the past ten years? (Bonus scoring guide at the end!)

Note: Two half-read books do not equal a whole. Also, repeat winners, such as Richard B. Wright's Clara Callan, only count as one book.
The Sea by John Banville (2005)
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (2003)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002)
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2001)
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999)
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1998)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)
Last Orders by Graham Swift (1996)

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2005)
The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2004)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003)
Empire Falls by Richard Russo (2002)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2001)
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999)
American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1998)
Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser (1997)
Independence Day by Richard Ford (1996)

The Time in Between by David Bergen (2005)
Runaway by Alice Munro (2004)
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M. G. Vassanji (2003)
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke (2002)
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (2001)
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje and Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards (2000)
A Good House by Bonnie Burnard (1999)
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro (1998)
Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler (1997)
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (1996)

Governor General's

A Perfect Night to Go to China by David Gilmour (2005)
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (2004)
Elle by Douglas Glover (2003)
A Song for Nettie Johnson by Gloria Sawai (2002)
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (2001)
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (2000)
Elizabeth and After by Matt Cohen (1999)
Forms of Devotion by Diane Schoemperlen (1998)
The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart (1997)
The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe (1996)

National Book Award
Europe Central by William T. Vollmann (2005)
The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck (2004)
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (2003)
Three Junes by Julia Glass (2002)
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
In America by Susan Sontag (2000)
Waiting by Ha Jin (1999)
Charming Billy by Alice McDermott (1998)
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997)
Ship Fever and Other Stories by Andrea Barrett (1996)

Your score:

49 -- Perfect score! Congratulations. You are either a prolific reader with impeccable taste or a virgin.
40-48 -- So close! And yet... who cares?
30-39 -- Middle of the pack. Good ol' forgettable, not-that-great-but-not-too-crappy middle of the pack.
20-29 -- You tried. Unfortunately, for you trying doesn't get you very far.
10-19 -- Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stop making excuses. And it's too late to say that literary prizes are stupid. You already took the test.
1-9 -- Too bad Classic Comix weren't on the list. Better luck next decade.
0 -- I'm sure your mom thinks you're smart.

*LQ = literary quotient (er, in case that needed explaining)


Tammy said...

I scored a 12. It would've been 13 if you could count two half-read books as a whole. Not that it matters. Literary prizes are stupid.

Anonymous said...

But...but...a lot of these are bad books. Life of Pi, Kelly Gang, and The God of Small Things were among some of the lousiest reads I've ever had.

And the Pulitzer? They're practically giving those away with a fill up at the local Chevron. I have two already; were it not for the current gas crisis, I'd have even more.

It's not just that these prizes are dumb; they're useless as well as a gauge of what's good in writing. It's akin to thinking that the academy awards have merit because they honored Marissa Tomei. And Kim Bassinger.

Anonymous said...

Life of Pi a lousy read?

Try reading with your eyes open next time.


Essy said...

I read it with my eyes open Snarky McPatronising-Pants and I was still disappointed.

Okay, let's see if I can do this without any plot spoilers...

I enjoyed the opening section and the mid-section, then the the whole thing just shot off into left field and fell to pieces. It didn't fit with the tone of the book up to that point and the author hadn't put the spadework in to sell me on the sudden change in direction and the suspension of disbelief involved.

The ending also bugged the hell out of me for much the same reason. I see the message the author wants me to take away from the ending, but he never makes me believe. And since the prologue repeatedly tells me the story is going to make me believe? Yeah, I think the book fails on that level.

There were some pretty broad and complicated themes tackled in the book and I think Martell deserves kudos for even taking a swing, but in my case he failed to connect.

Anonymous said...

Well. I've only read two. And technically I'm still one story away from finishing "Interpreter of Maladies" but it'll be done today. Really, it will be! I'm...I'm still good. I am.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that someone doesn't like Life of Pi. I just won't read it because of that kerfuffle over the Brazilian writer he stole the plot from and then insulted in an interview. I don't mind literary catfights, but this was just unnecessarily mean on Martel's part.

I've read maybe 4-5 of these books. Yet I read over 100 books a year, none of them "Classic Comix." How many thousands of books published a year? I doubt the only worthwhile ones have won the Booker...

Lisa said...

Any points for having seen the movie?

This and my lousy GRE scores are conspiring to make me feel very dumb indeed.

Well, back to the comix and their pretty, pretty colors.

Meredith said...

I've only read 13. I'm also ashamed to admit that I haven't heard of most of the books on the Giller and Governor's General lists. I, too, tried to read Pi but at 50 pages in, I knew that it wasn't going to happen.

Tammy said...

Scores shmores (mmm... s'mores). OBVIOUSLY we're all turbo-smartypants or we wouldn't be posting here. I don't let no dummies play in my sandbox.

And Altoids! So nice to see you here! But why are you trashing on Classic Comix, sister? I never would have passed grade 9 English if it weren't for their edition of Great Expectations.

my low score, if Life of Pi, Kelly Gang, and The God of Small Things were some of the worst books you've read, then you need to pick out my reading material for me, because you clearly have greater skill and/or luck in that department than I.

For whatever it's worth (which probably isn't much after my Classic Comix confession), I thought Life of Pi was okay right up till the ending, which confused me thoroughly. So I re-read the ending three times before giving up in perplexment. Me dumb.

I also gave up on Vernon God Little because it both annoyed me and filled me with dread, a bad combination.

I think I'm also the only person not on the Governor General's Award committee to attempt to read A Song for Nettie Johnson. I have a feeling that most of them didn't finish it, either.

I'm sort of surprised by the books that I've read that did end up winning prizes. Like, was Amsterdam really the very best novel published in the ENTIRE Commonwealth in 1998?

Anonymous said...

Heck yes! I scored above 0! Such a momentous day!

I also scored something like 109 on an online IQ test the other day and have been feeling dumb every since.

Anyhow. I've read 5. FIVE! I've ATTEMPTED 9 more. Eh, I prefer my stupid-people literature.

I didn't get far through Life of Pi but I'm determined I will. there's a couple on there that I've been reminded I want to read now!

Cee said...

I've only read 5 *crawls under a rock in shame* I never finished The True History of the Kelly Gang, or The Blind Assassin - not due to not liking them though, I'd actually like to finish them. One day.

Anonymous said...

Better luck next decade, me. And, listen, Mlsshom, Small Things was a superb read based on the word-play alone!

Joshua said...

I only got a four. And all four were Pulitzers. I am proud that I read them all before they won, though. I'm not no trend chaser!

However, mostly I didn't read these books because I was too busy reading genuinely great books. Because, unfortunately, Dostoevsky has won a major literary award in a while.

Anonymous said...

I loved Life of Pi... in the end. As I was reading the first chunk, before the voyage, I kept wondering what everyone thought was so great about it, but it got better and better. Whenever I recommend it, I warn people that it takes a while to get drawn in to the story.

I'm struggling not to drop the whiny old lady in the Blind Assassin, though.

queen of the harpies said...

18. I read a lot of can lit though and I think all of the “G” prizes artificially inflated my score.

Anonymous said...

Hey Doppelganger! Yeah, I've been reading the site for a while through DHAK. But I'm horrid about commenting.

Classic Comix? Better than nothing. My personal opinion is that they're a) a way to get through classics you're obliged to read and will never like, and thus make required reading more palatable; or b) for people just beginning to get into heavy literature, they're excellent at getting them to make that lit/visual bridge. We can't all have mainlined Bloom in fetu. *g*

Anonymous said...

That whole thing is kind of annoying. As though books that won prizes are more worthwhile than those that didn't. As though you either read THESE books or you were going down to the liberry to rent you up some movies.

I must say, though, that American Pastoral is one of the best books I've ever read.

Anonymous said...


. . . but Cold Mountain is one of the worst.

Anonymous said...

Zero. Yikes, I'm a flunky. But I'll attribute that to the fact that I'm currently a student, which means that all the "good" books assigned to read are older, and any reading I do for pleasure is going to be pure fluff. I'm sure if the list went back 100 years (provided the award had been around that long) I'd fare better.

Matthew E said...

I've read one. Kavalier and Clay. I don't know if I should be ashamed or not; I read all the time, and most of it isn't crap. (Including the comic books.)

But somehow I feel like a gauntlet has been thrown down. I wonder how long it'd take me to read all the rest?

Joie de Vivre said...

Five: Small Things, Pi, and Kavalier and Clay, Blind Assassin and Middlesex. Of all the books I've read in the past two years, these are the stand-outs, too, with the exception of Assassin. Are we really meant to believe that the narrator doesn't know what's happening with her sister? Having sisters myself, I was offended she was such a spectacularly crappy one.

katiedid said...

God. Just one. Middlesex. Which was fine, not terrible, but not quite "the masterpiece" it was made out to be when it was released.

Boy, it suddenly dawns on me that I all I ever read lately are non-fiction books and trashy magazines. I need to branch out, I guess.

Copy Editor said...

Wow. Just one for me too. I LOVED God of Small Things.

But I've been doing the 50 books thing this year too (working on number 46 -- a bio of Shakespeare -- now), it's just that I haven't sought out well-reviewed books. I work in a bookstore, so I can borrow whatever I want and I just grab whatever has an interesting title (also, I only borrow hardbacks, to ensure I bring them back in good condition). If I don't do that, I just go to the "new arrivals" section of the library and pick. So I wind up reading a lot of random, obscure stuff and a LOT of biography and social science. I'll have to work on more classics and "award" books in the next year.

Liz said...

I Scored a 1. It's not fair to call me an idiot, though. I read Plenty of books in a year, But they're not new books. Right now I'm in the middle of Ulysses, Midnight's Children, and The Magnificent Ambersons.