Monday, October 15, 2007

Stupid quiz

As my Number One Son is fond of reminding me, people can be really stupid.

I found this little quiz, "An artist or a hack?" quite annoying. Check out these instructions:

Some of the quotes below are from one of the greatest writers ever. The other are from one commercial writer, who achived [sic] popularity among uneducated people, but failed to make a contribution to Literature. Can you tell the difference between their prose?

Since the bias of the individual who wrote the quiz was patently obvious from the language of his instructions, I didn't actually play the manipulative little game. But I was curious enough to click over and take a look at the answers.

Who, according to the author of this quiz, was "one of the greatest writers ever"? James Joyce. (I beg to differ, but that's another post.) And who was the "commercial writer who achived [sic] popularity among uneducated people, but failed to make a contribution to Literature"?

Stephen King.

No, I'm not kidding.

I don't care for horror novels, but I once read two Stephen King novels on a dare--skimmed them, mostly, because I really don't enjoy those kinds of stories. But I came away convinced that King has a rare gift for storytelling and a wonderful way with the English language. No, I didn't like the books, but I couldn't help but admire the writing. And isn't that quite a compliment?

By the way, all six of the James Joyce excerpts in the quiz were taken from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The six Stephen excerpts came from Jerusalem's Lot, Suffer the Little Children, Pet Sematary, and the introduction to Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

I own copies of James Joyce's Ulysses and Dubliners, but I've never been able to get into either of the books. When I read the Stephen King novels, I didn't like the scary stuff and the gore, but I was pulled into the stories against my will--which is more than I can say for the Joyce books.

If you hear anyone disparage King's writing talent or craftmanship, you send them to me. I don't like his genre or his books, but I believe King is an extraordinary writer. Surely the reluctant admiration of people like me says something about the quality of his work. He is no hack.


Kristin said...

I will guess that the creator of this 'quiz' is a senior in high school in some AP English program. That's when I read "Portrait of an Artist"--or was it junior year?

At that age, your head is so full of your instructor's ideas that you haven't quite gotten a full grasp of how to ponder things out completely on your own.

Stephen King does have an amazing gift. His characters are so fully drawn, so believable. I don't particularly like his goriest stuff, but I do enjoy his novels that are more grounded in the real world (albeit with a bit of the gross) like Delores Claiborne and Misery.

That quiz creator is a nitwit.

Katie Alender said...

Have you read Stephen King's On Writing? That book had such a huge impact on me.

pacatrue said...

I will disagree partially. I think both Joyce and King are great writers.

Anonymous said...

I skimmed "On Writing" and came to the same conclusion you have about King - not a fan of the genre and haven't finished any of his books, but I do think he has a gift.

Never did read any of Joyce's work. Didn't come up in my classes and maybe that's a good thing - there are many classics I just don't get. I'll stick with Jane Austen, pretty much the only writer my teachers introduced me to in high school and university whose work didn't stink. ;)

Deb said...

What a funny quiz! I totally agree with you about Stephen King. I don't like horror, but I've been entranced by his stories and characters. His 'On Writing' book has had a profound impact on how I write and better yet, how I think about writing.

Too bad the quizmaster didn't choose Shakespeare to compare as well. From what I know of Shakespeare he comes down on the Stephen King side of things more often than not.

If a book takes you out of yourself and into a new world hasn't it done what you asked it to do?

I've been lurking reading your blog for a while. I'm enjoying it. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Brenda Coulter said...

I will guess that the creator of this 'quiz' is a senior in high school in some AP English program.


Yes, Katie, I've read On Writing and found it both fascinating and inspiring.

Actually, Paca, I suspect that Joyce was a great writer, and that I'm just not clever enough to understand why.

Yes, Deb, I was waiting for someone to drag out an example like Shakespeare or Dickens, the "hacks" of their times. (And thanks for reading my blog.)

Stephen King said...

There are even more moronic quizzes on that site:

"Some of the images displayed below are True Masterpieces of Abstract Art, created by Immortal Artists. They carry profound meanings, which are, however, beyond the apprehensions of the vulgar. The rest were produced by the author of the quiz. They mean nothing."

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, dear. I'm not certain I should thank you for pointing that out, Stephen.

shobha pandit said...

Strange isint it that i was actually looking for literary quiz when i came across ur interesting blog....please do visit my blog:

Stephen King said...

Not only, Brenda, you should - you must. Because he also has a quiz regarding your sister Ann:

Anonymous said...

Stephen King does read and understand what people here are calling "classics." He is also perceptive and honest enough to point out that he is NOT in the same league with Joyce or Shakespeare or Dickens.

The fact that Joyce is one of the greatest writers in the history of English or any other language does NOT reside in the opinions of those who avoided reading real literature in high school or who were so full of their own half-formed ability to judge masterworks that they believe that taking high school courses consists of getting your head crammed with "your instructor's ideas."

Read beyond the blogosphere and note how many truly educated people can appreciate King as a good commercial writer of soon forgotten though clever formulaic pop while being in awe of the insight, skill, ingenuity, depth, and mastery of language of a unique artist such as Joyce.

They know something more than many of the folks chiming in here because they DID get past the opening pages and actually read the books. It IS easier to get sucked into King's novels--but Joyce is not out to sucker anyone.