As promised, here is the full account of the Book Geek experience, published Feb. 27, 2010, Manila Bulletin Students and Campuses section:
I am the Ultimate Book Geek
by Blooey Singson
I eat, live, and breathe books – ask those who know me and they can tell you as much.
I read over 200 books a year, maintain a blog devoted solely to books and reading, add half a dozen books to my collection every week, trade books with readers from all over the world, discuss books on both online forums and face-to-face book club meetings, and storm bookstore sales and warehouses with equally bookish friends.
So when I saw the announcement for the Book Geek contest on the Fully Booked website, I knew I just had to join. Little did I know that there were bigger things in store for me many months later.
Book geek of the month
It was like the mother ship calling home – Fully Booked launched the Book Geek contest in 2009, challenging book enthusiasts to test their mettle in a two-round competition – monthly eliminations and a final round for the monthly winners – for the right to the title of Ultimate Book Geek.
The monthly eliminations consisted of a sudden-death competition, where contestants were fielded with questions one at a time by the Book Geek host Madame Dementia.
Answering correctly each time you got your turn was crucial; it cost you the game once you made a mistake. When I qualified for the first monthly elimination round in February 2009, I crashed and burned in the fourth round, not even making it to the final two.
What Michael Crichton novel revolves around the theme of sexual harassment? was the question that led to my downfall – I’ve never read Crichton, and I took a wild stab at it, answering “The Andromeda Strain” – the only non-dinosaur, non-jungle, non- epidemic Crichton book I could think of, and I was eliminated, as the answer was “Disclosure.”
Luck was on my side that month, as the questions happened to be on familiar territory, like What is the real name of Dr. Seuss? (Theodore Seuss Geisel, which I knew from my extensive picture book collection);
In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book The Little Prince, what animal asks the Prince to tame him? (the fox – the Little Prince is one of my favorite books);
In Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women what is the affectionate term the March girls use to refer to their mother? (Marmee – I could have answered it in my sleep);
For which novel did Edith Wharton win a Pulitzer Prize? (“The Age of Innocence,” a lucky guess; I figured it was more popular than “House of Mirth”).
And the clincher – What is the one thing Jean-Baptiste Grenouille cannot smell? (himself – pertaining to the protagonist in another one of my favourite books, “Perfume” by Patrick Suskind).
I made it to the face-off, where we raced to accumulate five points. To my delight, the questions were right up my alley:
What was Lily Potter’s maiden name? (Evans – I am a Harry Potter fanatic with over 100 Harry Potter books in various languages in my collection);
Who is the author of “Charlotte’s Web,” who also co-authored “Elements of Style?” (E.B. White – I have all his books on my shelves);
What is the title of J.K. Rowling’s latest book? (“The Tales of Beedle the Bard” – I lined up for the midnight release of this book);
Who is the author of Memories of Midnight? (Sidney Sheldon – I had a high school friend who was addicted to his books);
What was the book that was most often mentioned in “Twilight”? (Wuthering Heights – Much as I detested the Twilight series I read all four books and remember them in excruciating detail).
I was declared Book Geek of the Month in March, taking home a cool P5000 in gift certificates.
My cousin Dianne, who is as obsessed with books as I am, was also named Book Geek of the Month in August.
The final reckoning
In January this year, we received the notice for the Book Geek finals scheduled in February. Dianne and I were feeling panicky, as we initially planned to systematically review for the final round but failed to make any headway over the months, as we were both terribly busy.
Two weeks before the Ultimate Book Geek finals, we decided we needed a cram session to have a shot at winning, so in true Book Geek fashion, I pulled out all the literary trivia books I’d been stockpiling for months: “The BBC Big Read Book of Books,” “The Nationwide Book of Literary Quizzes,” “Literary Trivia: Fun and Games for Book Lovers,” “501 Must Read Books,” “Cyclopedia of Literary Characters,” “Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory,” “Barron’s Whiz Quiz, Literature edition,” “Trivia Mania: Literature,” Penguin Classics catalogs, guides to children’s books, and more.
We split the books among ourselves and studied on our own, until the night before the finals, when we attempted to cram more book trivia in our memory.
At last, the day of the Ultimate Book Geek Finals came. We finally met the other finalists from the previous months: Gabriela Francisco (May 2009); Ma. Teresa Getes (June 2009); Trish Ocampo (September 2009); and Carlo Fernando (October 2009).
The mechanics were different for the final showdown. The arena was designed in a pyramid, where all the finalists started at the back row and each row had one less number of seats to accommodate the finalists.
The questions were flashed on the screen, and we were supposed to raise our flags to indicate our desire to answer. The first finalist to hold up his or her flag got the right to answer, and answering correctly allowed the finalist to advance in the pyramid. If the answer is wrong, he/she takes a step back until there is no more space to back up to and as the finalists forward, there are less and less spaces available to move forward to. The first two to reach the top spots in the pyramid would face off in the final round.
As I watched in a dazed stupor, the spots for the next row started to fill up. Dianne surged ahead with the question Who wrote “Crime and Punishment?” (Dostoevsky – we’d gone over that countless of times before), and when there were two final slots left, I finally sprang to action with the question Who was the author of “Eating Fire and Drinking Water?” (Arlene J. Chai – I had the book on my office shelf), which no one else raised their flags for.
I had a roll by then, answering questions in succession:
What did Gulliver do to save Lilliput? (He peed on it – I saw the old movie version a long time ago);
What was Jacob’s nickname for Bella and Edward’s daughter? (Nessie);
What was Stephen King’s first novel? (Carrie – it was in one of the trivia books);
What does C.S. in C.S. Lewis stand for? (Clive Staples – Dianne and I had gone over a list of authors’ initials and pseudonyms the night before).
Robert Langdon, Howard Roark, and the Baudelaire orphans
Dianne was making good progress as well and soon we were leading the pack.
Dianne secured the first spot in the final two with the question, What is considered to be Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece? (Madame Bovary), but I was not so lucky. I wanted to secure the second finals spot so I started answering recklessly. I made a mistake with What is Robert Langdon’s position in Harvard University?; I answered professor of Symbology, which the judges didn’t accept; he was professor of Religious Symbology so I had to move back a row.
And then in my eagerness to make up for it I made another mistake with Who was the architect in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead?”. I had no clue about the book, actually, and for some strange reason I decided to answer a real architect’s name, Mies van der Rohe (Frank Lloyd Wright would have been closer) but the question was actually pertaining to the protagonist, Howard Roark. I slipped another place back.
By then I was really agitated, because I wanted that finals spot so badly; before the competition started, I promised Dianne we would take the top two spots, and I didn’t want to bungle it.
So, more cautiously this time, I got back in the game with the next bunch of questions:
Who were the Baudelaire orphans in “A Series of Unfortunate Events?” (Violet, Klaus and Sunny – I have refrigerator magnets of them);
What is Charlie Swan’s profession? (Chief of Police of Forks – I seem to have a knack for answering “Twilight” questions);
Who wrote the award-winning novel “The Remains of the Day?” (Kazuo Ishiguro); and “Vanity Fair” revolves around this character… (Becky Sharpe – it was also in one of the trivia books we went over).
With a sigh of relief, I joined Dianne in the finals spot.
Carlo Fernando secured the second runner-up prize for himself, and the competition was over for the rest of the Book Geek finalists.
Now Dianne and I had to face off for the title of Ultimate Book Geek.
Ultimate book geek
By the final round, there was a little less pressure on Dianne and me, as we’d achieved our goal (Top 2) and we would have both been perfectly happy however the results turned out. Given a choice, we would’ve settled for a tie, but of course, we still had to compete for the top seed.
And so the finals round started. Dianne raised her flag first to the question, What are the names of the three musketeers?, a la “Slumdog Millionaire”, but she could only name two, and I was attempting to telepathically transmit the name of the third musketeer, but Madame Dementia had given me the chance to steal, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, I got my first point in the finals.
I answered another slew of questions: Who was the girl who got killed in “The Lovely Bones?” (Susie Salmon – We’d both read the book recently, although I raised my flag first); and “How many times did the Witch try to kill Snow White?” (Three) Dianne beat me to the Harry Potter question, What did Fred and George give Harry to help him get out of Hogwarts?(the Marauders’ Map) and both of us passed on the question From what book is the character Bastian Bartholomew Bux, which I guessed to be “The Neverending Story” but I didn’t want to risk it because I didn’t want a repeat of my elimination round debacle.
I finally secured the win with What are the names of the Brothers Grimm – Jakob and Wilhelm, and suddenly, the competition was over, and I was awarded the title of Ultimate Book Geek.
It was a long and gruelling experience that’s been one year in the making, but I enjoyed each minute of it, and I was happy to have been up against the only person I would’ve considered a formidable opponent, Dianne – who shares every bit of my passion for books and reading, as well as 80 percent of the titles on my shelves.
The P15,000 worth of books definitely sweetens the deal – until now I am giddy with the thought of the books I’ll be adding to my collection with this prize, and how I can spend all that in a year boggles me, the queen of bargain books.
And of course, just how many people can claim the title of Ultimate Book Geek?
Blooey Singson blogs about books at https://sumthinblue.com. She is active on the book club Flips Flipping Pages (http://www.shelfari.com/groups/12439/about) and the book trading site BookMooch (http://www.bookmooch.com/bio/sumthinblue). She is also a member of the children’s illustrators group Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan.