The American Canon of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

A Selection from the Posthumously Published Ernest Hemingway Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, A Very Short Death, c.1959

It was late summer and you were alone in the café. You were sipping vermouth and reading about the war. You liked the way the vermouth tasted good when you drank it with your mouth. The war was going badly.

You tapped your tired fingers on the arm of the wooden chair where you were sitting in the café when it was dark and late. You liked how the chair was made of wood.

“Oh darling, you mustn’t talk such rot,” she had said.
“I’ll kill him.”

You felt broken and drunk in the cool night and remembered the white boat on the river.


a. Grit teeth and think about the war.
b. Order a brandy that overflowed and ran down the stem of the glass and think about the war.
c. Notice the electric light hanging over the empty terrace and think about the war.

The American Canon of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (McSeeeney’s)

What’s extremely funny about this format is that it’s not too different from the reading quizzes I give. Since it’s so easy nowadays for students to download plot summaries from the Internet, in order to motivate students to keep up on their literary readings, I will make a multiple-choice test, with questions that list four things that did happen in the reading, and one other event that will sound plausible to someone who has only a basic understanding of the plot, but that didn’t really happen.