Nemo’s Almanac is a long-running literary quiz, which may sound like a pointless thing to write about but it’s – almost – an important cultural phenomenon. It’s also at a critical moment in its history, representing as it does a radically different pace, mode and rationale of intellectual inquiry from the instant gratification of curiosity that the internet has made possible. It consists of 72 quotations, plus one more on the cover, arranged according to monthly themes (this year’s include Hats, Coal, Novelty, Foxgloves, Silence and Socialism). It was started by a governess called Mrs Larden (first name unknown) in 1892 as an almanac and quiz for her charges. The fourth editor, Katherine Watson, who ran a bookshop in Burford, turned it over to John Fuller in 1970. The editorship subsequently passed to Alan Hollinghurst, who in turn passed it on to the late Gerard Benson, who was followed by Nigel Forde; and now I am Nemo and the Almanac has become my responsibility.
One of the many silly books being published for Halloween is The Horror Film Quiz Book. The questions are organised by film, though it might have been as well to categorise them according to difficulty. They range from the absurdly easy – 'who directed the original Psycho?' or 'For his main female lead roles Hitchcock chose girls with what hair colour?' – to the uttery impossible for anyone except the most committed horror nerd: 'What type of chainsaw was used in Texas Chainsaw Massacre?' Winter evening fun for all the family.