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Take the Philip Roth Quiz!

How well do you know the work?

Marc Tracy
December 15, 2010
Philip Roth.(
Philip Roth.(

HTMLGIANT has a wonderful series of posts containing the first sentences or paragraphs from all the books of various authors. And Philip Roth just got his due.

It’s worth checking out, but first, what say we make things a little more interesting? Presenting: The Philip Roth first-sentence quiz!

Below, find 10 first sentences of Roth novels (with thanks, again, to HTMLGIANT). Can you tell which books they begin? The answers are after the jump.

1. “It began oddly.”

2. “It was the last daylight hour of a December afternoon more than twenty years ago—I was twenty-three, writing and publishing my first short stories, and like many a Bildungsroman hero before me, already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman—when I arrived at his hideaway to meet the great man.”

3. “He’d lost his magic.”

4. “Dear Zuckerman, In the past, as you know, the facts have always been notebook jottings, my way of springing into fiction.”

5. “She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.”

6. “The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses.”

7. “When he is sick, every man wants his mother; if she’s not around, other women must do.”

8. “Not to be rich, not to be famous, not to be mighty, not even to be happy, but to be civilized—that was the dream of his life.”

9. “The Swede.”

10. “Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over.”

Click below for answers.

1. The Breast

2. The Ghost Writer

3. The Humbling

4. The Facts

5. Portnoy’s Complaint

6. Goodbye, Columbus

7. The Anatomy Lesson

8. When She Was Good

9. American Pastoral

10. Sabbath’s Theater

0-2: Goyishe kop.

3-5: Congratulations, you’ve read the four Roth books everyone’s read.

6-7: You are probably one of the enlightened few who knows how unbelievably funny the final 30 pages of The Facts are.

8-9: Sure, but can you name all the Goodbye, Columbus stories? In order?

10: You are probably Philip Roth. Or Nathan Zuckerman. Wait, now I’m confused.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.