The Godfather: Peter Corris on quizzes
One of our weekly domestic pleasures is doing the quiz in the print edition of the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald. We rope in family members and guests whenever possible and compete with another couple who do the same. Results are variable but my impression is that they come up trumps more often than us. The pleasure comes from inspired correct guesses, defining the subtlety of the question and the amazement at knowledge acquired years ago and long forgotten suddenly coming up when needed.
I think that the impulse to test our knowledge is innate (quizzes of all kinds proliferate on the web) and in fact, quizzes have played quite a prominent part in my life. I’ve already written about Jean’s and my participation in pub trivia nights, particularly the night when we emerged with a substantial cash prize. And I’ve written about the quizzes I give weekly to one of my grandsons.
In the early 1980s, perhaps prompted by the success of the ABC television show Mastermind, for which I had set the questions in a couple of categories, Jean and I conceived the idea of an Australian quiz book. The result was The National Times Book of Australian Quizzes (1983) compiled by Jean and me with a preface by Huw Evans, who was the host of Mastermind. Jean was working for the National Times then and the paper sponsored the book, which was published by Allen & Unwin.
It was fun to put together and we drew on various people and sources. Jean recalls that our eldest daughter, then a keen equestrienne, helped with the category ‘Horses’. The categories were arranged alphabetically and, with a cover illustration by our friend, artist Michael Fitzjames (then also at the National Times), it made a nice-looking paperback. Unfortunately it didn’t sell well but it went into libraries and small payments crop up from time to time in our PLR and ELR statements.
Two years later I went to bat as a sole compiler with The Australian Family Quiz Book, published by Angus & Robertson in 1985. This was directed at a younger audience and I acknowledged the help of my children and several of their friends. The book was brilliantly illustrated by another friend, Fairfax cartoonist Patrick Cook, and two images stand out. One in the category ‘Deeds’ shows a totally discombobulated William Tell struggling to load his crossbow while his son stands by a tree, apple on his head and a very troubled expression on his face. Typical Cook – taking the piss. Another, appealing to me as an expatriate Victorian, is for ‘Cities’: it shows a swaggie heading for Melbourne while his dog clings desperately to a signpost pointing the other way.
A few years ago, while spending six weeks in a rehabilitation hospital with a broken leg, I made up quizzes and emailed them to friends, who responded with their own quizzes. The rules were that the questions had to come from the top of the head and Wikipedia was outlawed. I also gave quizzes to my visitors. It served a crucial purpose in hospital – helping to pass the time.