Dispatch from PEN Literary Quiz Night

By Jane Ciabattari

Exciting night at St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO. The first PEN Quiz night, as a bookend kickoff to Brooklyn Book Festival. Wesley Stace (John Wesley Harding), the  emcee, was fast-paced, fair-minded, funny. (He also has a book coming out in February: Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer.) I led a team of mostly NBCC members. Other team leaders included Jami Attenberg, Joseph O'Neill, Lisa Dierbeck, Rivka Galchen, David Haglund (PEN Journal Managing Editor and an NBCC board member), Tayari Jones, and Justin Taylor. Teams included such literary lights as Kate Christenson, Dale Peck. Audience included PEN Executive Director Steve Isenberg, novelist Teddy Wayne (Kapitoil),  like that.

Questions were not necessarily easy.  Translator of Cervantes, Marquez. (Edith Grossman.). Name of the hotel where Humbert Humbert took Lolita. (The Enchanted Hunters). Country where Salman Rushdie was born (India). The US poet laureate after Billy Collins (Louise Gluck.) After a tense hour or so of teamwork, the seven around my table writing answers down, conferring, concluding, inscribing the answers on the official tally sheet,we had 21 answers right out of 24. So did David Haglund's team. Ten teams, the last two standing were my team and David's. The tiebreaking round had four more questions. And the winner, after getting all four final questions correct: My team! The winners of the PEN lit quiz smackdown:Cathy Cevoli, and NBCC members Paul Devlin, Rigoberto Gonzalez, John Madera, John Reed, David Varno, and yrs truly. Cheers to all the champs, and all the players. And thanks to PEN, especially Beth Weinstein, Nick Burd, Antonio Aiello. Hope we're back next year in Brooklyn!