I won a tube of Macbeth lip balm today. I was going to spend the afternoon doing homework but then my professor announced that the English department was having a “Literary Trivia Night” and I decided to goof off there instead. It was a blast. We had pizza from the cellar and literature related prizes like an Edgar Allen Poe lunchbox and Shakespearean insult gum. We also had something called “Head Game” where you throw balls at each other’s heads—just because. They really should have gone ahead and called it “gathering of the English nerds” instead.
The questions were quite hard. Most teams only got about thirteen out of twenty-four correct. I never thought I’d get asked what bird Lewis Carroll drew himself into in the illustrations of Alice and Wonderland, but I did. For the record, the answer is a dodo bird. We were also asked what famous work besides The Waste Land was published in 1922. The answer was Ulysses. I knew this because I slogged my way through parts of it in freshman year. It said things like:
“Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy.”
If I was going to have to read a book that said things like that then it was about time I got something practical out of it. Even if that something was a tube of Macbeth lip balm and some Shakespearean insult gum. I never liked Joyce. When I was first reading Ulysses, I used to wish that Bloom (the protagonist) had gotten run over by the tram car in one of the early chapters so the book would be over faster. Obfuscation for the sake obfuscation doesn’t appeal to me. It’s funny; the one criterion we’re not supposed to use in defining literature is how much someone would actually enjoy reading the book.
The best thing about the trivia night though was the vibe. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. When I said I didn’t know who my team was going to be the group next to me immediately invited me to join theirs. It was fun for me to be around people who also thought that a good time was sitting around eating pizza and trying to figure out what the five canons of rhetoric were. It was definitely worth skipping the homework.