I Love You, Somerset Maugham: Day Five in Trebekistan

Well, I'll admit I've never read Somerset Maugham, but I'm sure going to give The Moon and Sixpence a shot now. An old friend in Philadelphia wrote to say that her husband was replaying tonight's last question almost as much as he replayed the punt return that won the Eagles game yesterday. And I have to say, having "20th Century Novelists" come out of the sky, when I was down going into Final Jeopardy to a guy who was crushing me all game long on stuff I had no idea about (Australia? Ship Happenings?), gave me an idea of what DeSean Jackson must have thought: "Oh my god, we just made up 21 points in seven minutes and now they kicked me a line drive on the last play of the game?!?" Any J! fan will tell you that the smart money when wagering from second place stays conservative and plays for the player in first to get it wrong (since you probably can't pass them if they get it right), but when faced with a dream category that I might have chosen for myself, I thought if I couldn't get it right I didn't really deserve to come back. So I went all in.

Jeopardy_Maugham And luckily on Jeopardy! all you often need is not to have read the book in question, but just read about it, in, say, a New York Review of Books article about its author, which is, I have to confess, the source of about two-thirds of all my knowledge. But now I feel it is my happy obligation to the game-show gods to actually sit down and read The Moon and Sixpence.

Knowing this little television run was coming up, I had thought I'd be blogging about it every night, but I haven't found many Omni hooks to do so, much less the time, in between replying to all the notes from long-lost friends (and the ones I see every day) who either knew the shows would be on or came across them by chance and, yeah, furtively searching to see what bizarre things people are saying about me on Twitter. (Favorite random Facebook message so far: "Your mild manner is intoxicating." My wife's reply: "I think they meant 'tranquilizing.'")

Of the many things I expected from this weird and temporary celebrity, the one I didn't really imagine, and the one that's been by far the best thing about it (the check won't arrive for a while yet...) is the sense of everyone I've ever known (and everyone they've ever known, by all reports) watching every night and rooting along, from Los Angeles to--I'm told--Afghanistan, without for the most part the knowledge that I have of what's going to happen. As the afternoons turn into evenings across the country, I get notes, and my friends and family get notes and pass them along to me, from people who just watched, and once again I am made to believe that this thing actually happened.

So any Omni readers who are tuning in--especially Western Reader!--thanks, and tune in again tomorrow. --Tom

P.S. When Julia guessed "John Green" in Final Jeopardy today, was she really guessing, or did she just blank and want to give Nerdfighter #1 a shout-out? Either way, our own Anne Bartholomew is no doubt thrilled. [P.P.S. According to Julia herself, it was a shout out. Nice!]

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