Saturday, August 21, 2010

WIN!!! WIN!!! WIN!!!

FIRST LINES, LAST WORDS:  This is a pop quiz.  Following is a list of  first lines and exit lines.  The first lines are from books, relatively well-known or maybe not.  The last lines are dying words by literary people, mostly well-known.

GOAL: The goal, for those who confuse easily, is to identify the book title and the dying literary lion.  The first five people to do so and to send me the answers will win prizes, as follows:


First – All four Poke Rafferty books, signed

Second and third – THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, signed

Fourth – THE FOURTH WATCHER and its Spanish version, EL CUARTO OBSERVADOR, signed (the Spanish book's inscription will be in, ahem, Spanish.)

Fifth – I'll think of something.  It'll be a surprise!

And then there's a floating prize that anyone can choose over whatever prize he/she qualifies for: I'll edit and comment on 20 pages (double-spaced) of the winner's work-in-progress, accompanied by a one-page overview of the work.  So if, say, the fourth-prize winner chooses the edit, I would move the fifth-place winner up to fourth and name a new fifth-place winner.

Still with me?

KICKER:  Okay, here's the kicker.  There's also an essay question at the end of the quiz, which I've added because I've always wanted to know what the hell the quotation means.  The quotation is from Richard Harris's literally unlistenable hit McArthur Park, and I'm asking for an interpretation of the lyric.  I don't care whether it's right (I privately believe there's no right answer).  I'm looking for something plausible, however absurd, that actually uses the lyric as a starting point.  Please hold your interpretations to 300 words.  And don't use the word “ineffable” because I hate it.  

KICKER PRIZES:  In the case of a tie on the Q&A section of the quiz, the essay question will decide who wins, but essay interpretations will also qualify for prizes of their own.  The second, third, and fourth-best interpretations will each receive a signed copy of THE FOURTH WATCHER because that's the title I've got the most of.  The very best interpretation will win all four Poke books, signed.  And, if I can find one, a VHS copy of “A Man Called Horse,” and someone to watch it with.  (Subject to availability. Not legal in all areas.  Watching companion cannot be transported over state lines.  If you're under 18, you don't remember the song anyway.)



1  “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.”

2  “What was the question, Alice?”

3  “It's all over now; write, 'Eddy is no more'.”

4  “Does nobody understand?”

5  “It's been a long time since I had Champagne.”

6  “I must go in.  The fog is rising.”


7  The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers. 

8  For a long time I would go to bed early. 

9  Even Camilla had enjoyed masquerades, of the safe sort where the mask may be dropped at that critical moment it presumes itself as reality.

10  It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. 

11  If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all that before they had me, and all that David Copperfield crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. 

12  The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. 


Three hundred words, no more, explaining the following:

McArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet green icing flowing down.
Someone left my cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to make it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, nooooooooooooo . . .


1  Leave a comment on this site saying “I'm in” or something even more clever.

2  Do your best to answer – if you can't get them all, enter anyway.  Who cares?  Maybe no one will get them all.

3  E-mail your answers to  with the topic heading QUIZ ENTRY.

4  If you want the edit instead of any other prize you might win, just put EDIT at the end of the entry.



  1. I'm in-

    "You oughta have more sense than to take chances with strangers like this." - Johnny Morrison - THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946)

    Murder, Mystery & Mayhem

  2. Couldn't resist, I had to try. But I have to say I'm feeling a little old after the essay.
    Theresa N

  3. Hi, all -- I know there are only two of you, but Cara also commented and I had to delete her comment because it was in response to a duplicate post. I had a hellacious time formatting this, and apparently I accidentally published one of the NSG ones.

    Love the BLUE DAHLIA quote, Searcher -- looking forward to your entry.

    Theresa, I've already responded to your entry and dealt with the age issue. Compared with me, you're a spring chicken.

  4. I'm in.

    "Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces" Marcel Proust.



  5. Tim, here's what a wise sage had to say about the melodramatic glory of Macarthur's Park in a British newspaper six years ago:

    Do I win?

    Plus, even if you don't like it, you have to give Webb a free pass considering he wrote 'I need more than want you/ And I want you for all time.' Which is utter genius. Then there's By the Time I get to Phoenix and Galveston too...

  6. Dan -- What a brilliant piece in The Guardian. Whoever wrote that is . . . oh. Never mind. Okay, Jimmy Webb wrote "Wichita Lineman" and "By the Time I get to Phoenix" (by the time I got to Phoenix yesterday it was 3:46, which is kind of prosaic, I guess), both great songs, but he also wrote "Up, Up and Away," which has poisoned more ears than Hamlet's uncle, and some other genuine pop detritus.

    So I love Jimmy Webb and I hate Jimmy Webb. Sort of the way I feel about cigarettes.

    Anonymous Michelle -- GREAT Proust quote and undoubtedly true. I wonder whether we could get Jimmy Webb to set it to music.

    By the way, some of the entries are hilarious on "Macarthur Park."

  7. I have been waiting for years for someone to make some sense out of
    McArthur Park. Will we get to see the entries? I was too hesitant to commit to paper any wild imaginings I had about the cake.

    The quotes were great! What a good idea. I learned something as well as had a bit of fun.

  8. I'm in.

  9. All I can tell you is that the person whose famous last words were "What was the question, Alice?” was beyond doubt Kenneth - as in, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"