by Julia Buckley
Thanks to the wonderful Internet, most of my old reference books have become dusty shelf decorations. Even my beautiful dictionaries, because of my laziness (or perhaps a desire for super efficiency) lie neglected in the face of the online information at my fingertips.
Still, I love to explore these beautiful books now and then. This weekend I perused The New York Public Library Desk Reference (Second Edition), which before online encyclopedias was one of the most wonderful compendiums of knowledge--a whole set of encyclopedias smooshed into one volume. In the '90s I loved having everything I might need right there-- everything from the Emancipation Proclamation to the recipes for alcoholic drinks.
I also liked to go to the lists of authors, divided by geographical region, and to make my children quiz me on my knowledge. They did so, grudgingly, and I created my own little parlor game by blowing the dust off the books and looking inside them.
So I'm sharing the fun of that game now: without consulting the aforementioned Internet, how many authors can you identify by the information listed after their names in the Desk Reference?
American and Canadian Authors
1. This author was born in 1876 and wrote Winesburg, Ohio.
2. This author of The Underground Woman was one of the American Expatriots in 1920s France. I was lucky enough to meet her in 1987; she was 84 at the time.
3. This Illinois author wrote Tarzan of the Apes in 1914.
4. This author of My Antonia is a celebrated chronicler of the American prairie.
5. This author, born in 1888, published The Big Sleep in 1939.
British, European, Russian authors
6. This famous Danish fairy-tale author was born in 1805, but he was no ugly duckling.
7. This woman, one of a trio of writing sisters, penned Wuthering Heights. (Can you remember what her sisters wrote?)
8. This Russian author of The Cherry Orchard was born just before America's Civil War.
9. This brooding Brit wrote The Return of the Native and Jude the Obscure.
10. This champion of A Room of One's Own also penned To The Lighthouse.
Well, how did you do on my Desk Reference quiz? Are you sufficiently literary? I'd say anything from 7-10 would be a pretty good score!