Quizzes and Memes

It’s been a very strange week so far, trying to hunt down quizzes and memes that I could post on this site. It turns out to be a huge industry on the internet, and like most internet phenomenon, produces screeds and screeds of stuff that boggles your mind without actually ever hitting the exact spot. I’ve been to visit the Queen o’ memes, otherwise known as Emily, and her first cousin, the Marquise o’ memes, otherwise known as Charlotte, whose discernment in memeing matters is to be admired. And from these little trips I discovered that I was Shakespeare in a past life (not too shabby), that I am 44% control freak (far better than I expected, but then I’m only interested in controlling my own environment, you others can all do exactly as you please) and if I were to be a mythological creature I’d be a unicorn. Well, if you say so. I couldn’t quite bring myself to answer all those questions with four answers, but if you’re asking me which four places I would rather be in right now, I’d probably say a) in the bath, b) on a beach with a good book c) in a restaurant with a delicious looking main course being placed before me and d) typing the last few words of the last line of a completed book manuscript. But in all honesty I’m quite happy sitting here typing to you.

Over at Archie’s place I took the book quiz for the second time, hoping to come out with something better than A Prayer for Owen Meaney. Disaster! This time it was Ulysses, which believe me, I did not consider to be an improvement. You know I don’t think one book is really enough to cover any one individual in any case. Anyone who actually paused to think about it could tell instantly that I am half Catch-22 (irony, paradox, contradiction) and half Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate (endless good intentions, mild English eccentricity, a profound thankfulness for central heating). From there, however, I did discover a whole world of quizzes opening out. I couldn’t resist ‘What mental illness do you have?’, although the answer ‘obsessive/compulsive disorder’ wasn’t accurate at all, and I was, I admit, intrigued by ‘What type of person do you attract?’. I really thought the answer should have been nutters and weirdos (empirical evidence from years of university teaching would suggest this), but no, I attract geeks. I was prepared to dismiss this conclusion until I came across the sentence: ‘Geeks make good partners, but tend to be arguementative. If you are a TRUE geek magnet, you will know if that was spelled correctly and actually care.’ Ah. Anyhow, after that the next quiz I saw was ‘What color ought your toenails to be?’ and seeing that you didn’t automatically bypass to a quiz entitled ‘Why can’t I make the simplest decision for myself?’ I decided to give it up at that point.

So, I thought it was best if I just put together a little meme for myself, and this one’s on the joy of language.

List some of your favourite words:

Serendipity, proximity, charm, devastating, axiom, halcyon, crucible, deliquesce, cerulean, mellifluous, meditation, equivocate.

What’s your favourite maxim or proverb?

Celui qui vit sans folie n’est pas si sage qu’il le croit./ He who lives without madness is not as wise as he thinks he is.

What’s your favourite quotation?

‘The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.’ Elizabeth Drew

What’s your favourite first line of a novel?

‘Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.’ Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups

Give an example of a piece of description that’s really pleased you in your reading lately:

Elizabeth Hardwick describing Gertrude Stein’s writing style: ‘Many wires and pieces of string went into the contraption, the tinkering, and the one result was that she wrote at great length and used a vocabulary very, very small. It was her original idea to make this vocabulary sufficient for immensities of conception, America, Americans being perhaps her favourite challenge. When she is not tinkering, we can see her like a peasant assaulting the chicken for Sunday dinner. She would wring the neck of her words. And wring the neck of sentences, also.’

Which five writers do you particularly admire for their use of language?

Julian Barnes, Rainer Maria Rilke, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, W. Somerset Maugham.

And are there writers whose style you really dislike?

Rachel Cusk, Boris Vian, Irvine Welsh.

What’s the key to really fine writing, in your opinion?

Good grammar and a feel for the musicality of words.

Naturally, I’d be delighted if anyone else searching for a meme to fill in an idle blog post felt like giving this a try…

23 thoughts on “Quizzes and Memes

  1. Don’t feel so bad, Litlove, about Ulysses. Like you, I am Ulysses and Shakespeare (strange combination), but I am a muse instead of a unicorn. This is an interesting meme, and I may have to give it a try.

  2. I may not be able to resist temptation too. I love many of your words on the list, although for years I pronounced halcyon, haly-con. Now that I know how it is meant to sound, I love it even more.

  3. Hobgoblin – well I feel much better about it if you were Ulysses too. A muse would have been good – I could have got behind that one. I must say I would love to see your answers! And warmest wishes for Muttboy’s speedy recovery as well. Charlotte – I should have put a question in on words that are difficult to pronounce or which one has mispronounced for years! That would have been good! Can’t wait to see your answers if you do succumb.

  4. Excellent questions all and most interesting answers. I may just have to declare it a week of memes over at my place as well and give this one a go. Sadly, I am currently so obsessed with online Scrabble that I found myself eyeing up your list of favourite words for their points-value instead of savouring their musicality. Clearly, I need help! (Incidentally, I’d never even heard of the word deliquesce until now. You’d think that I would have come across it when I was writing about abjection…)

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  6. I’m so glad I’m not the only one obsessed with the music of language. Students look at me gone out when I ask them to re-write something to get the music right.

  7. I followed the link from Archie’s about you being upset about first being Owen Meany – clearly we don’t agree on that book. But that’s okay and I liked your questions so much that I’ve used them on my blog for other people’s enjoyment. Nice to meet you.

  8. Really enjoyed your meme and I might just have to use it tonight or tomorrow! Love your list of words. Cerulean is marvelous. And Hardwick’s Gertrude Stein description is fantastic. I liked Hardwick’s other book of essays so much, I think I will have to find this one too.

  9. Charlotte, that’s funny I used to pronounce in precisely that incorrect way! I have to consciously correct myself every time I see it.

    Litlove that was a great meme and I’ll definitely do it at some point. I must say that the bar for being a “geek” or “nerd” lowers every day — can you spell argumentative and you like correctly spelled words? Geek! Huh.

  10. Ahh, another unicorn. Have you discovered any secrets to keeping that horn pretty and white? Bleach, I will note from experience, is not a good thing to put on a unicorn horn if you don’t want a bit of it eaten away. Meanwhile, I’m saving your lovely meme for a rainy day (actually, that would be today. I’m saving it for a sunny day, then), as I’m feeling my next post needs to be something other than a meme (or a challenge). Otherwise, I’m going to need to change the title of my blog to “Queen o’ Memes Corner.”

  11. Kate – oh if only I’d know I’d have tried to keep them all to 7 letters! Actually I am rubbish at scrabble, reduced to three letter words with no hope of a coloured square in sight. I’m afraid I came across the word deliquesce in the phrase ‘a sight to deliquesce the bowels’ so yes, good vocabulary for abjection! (and how interesting that you should be writing on it). Ann – you have a firm supporter of the concept here. It can make all the difference. Azahar – hello and a warm welcome to you! I loved your answers and will come and leave a comment to that effect. Owen Meaney is one of those books I wanted badly to love and couldn’t. My fault, not the book’s. Stefanie – I would so love to see your answers! And oh yes, do get hold of American Fictions. It reproduces a couple of the essays in Seduction and Betrayal, but they are vastly outweighed by new ones, all of which have been excellent so far. Andi – I’d love to see your answers! I’ll watch out for it. Imani – can’t wait to see your list of words! And you are so right! That bar is set way too low. Emily – yes well, horn is notorious for going a dirty yellow colour, isn’t it! I might try Vanish stain remover. As I have found to my cost today, it is very useful to have a meme on the back burner for when time is lacking! I’m sure I’ll catch it on your site whenever you decide to give it a go.

  12. Oh what a great meme and what wonderful answers! I love the quotation about Stein. And I also love your account of what books you are (the Heller — which I need to read — and Mitford)

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  14. Your maxim and your quotation are just wonderful – as is your meme and I will definitely feel compelled to give this one about the joys of language a try!

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  19. This is quite fun. Saw it over at Kate’s too. Will have to join in.

    I must get you a Kerouac book!!!! Let me know if you’d like me to ship you one…

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