Our Greatest Author

Chances are you've seen or read a work by author Robert Ludlum — you know, The Bourne Identity, The Prometheus Deception. His titles — and his elaborate conspiracies — seem to follow a particular formula. Puzzle guru Art Chung has renamed famous works in Ludlum's signature style, and challenges our contestants to name the originals.

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Let's bring up our next two brave contestants. Please welcome Meera Siddharth and Helen Stoilas (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Meera, here's a question for you. Who do you think is the greatest author of all time?

MEERA SIDDHARTH: Oh, you're putting me on the spot. Shakespeare.

EISENBERG: Good. That's a great answer for being put on the spot. I'm liking that. Helen, what do you think?

HELEN STOILAS: J. K. Rowling.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: I can see how this game is going to divide up a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

STOILAS: I think I'm in trouble.

EISENBERG: I think you're both fine, actually. Art, what are we playing?

ART CHUNG: Well, this game is called Our Greatest Author, but it's referring to spy novelist Robert Ludlum. And Robert Ludlum's books are famous not only for their elaborate conspiracies and gripping plots, but also for the strict pattern in their titles, such as "The Bourne Identity," "The Icarus Agenda," and "The Prometheus Deception." Very creative, right?

So, what we're going to do is we're going to rename famous books in the style of Robert Ludlum, and you have to guess the original work.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: Here's an example. In a controversial 1955 novel, Ludlum explored the furtive double life of his protagonist, an erudite professor with a sexual obsession. He called it "The Humbert Depravity."

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: That would be the novel "Lolita." You got that?

STOILAS: Yeah.

CHUNG: Okay. All right, the contestant who gets more right moves on to our final round, at the end of the show. Here we go. In this 1964 Ludlum book, the hero's chance discovery of a hidden ticket launches him on a baffling tour through the shadowy world of a secretive candy manufacturer.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: Ludlum titled it "The Wonka Confection."

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Meera?

SIDDHARTH: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

CHUNG: You are correct.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: This 1996 Ludlum novel follows an unnamed narrator as he meets a mysterious stranger and starts an underground society dedicated to fisticuffs. He called the book "The Durden Hallucination."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Helen?

STOILAS: "Fight Club."

CHUNG: That is "Fight Club."

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So far, both Shakespeare and Harry Potter are paying off.

STOILAS: Yeah. Yeah.

CHUNG: In a 1951 Ludlum book, the red-hatted hero spends several crummy days fending off an oppressive kabala phonies, following the titular event, "The Caulfield Expulsion."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Meera?

SIDDHARTH: "Catcher in the Rye."

CHUNG: "Catcher in the Rye," correct.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: Recently, Ludlum wrote a young adult trilogy, employing familiar themes. A secretive, despotic government, constant surveillance and a conflicted heroine fighting for her life. It's all in "The Everdeen Tournament."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Meera?

SIDDHARTH: "The Hunger Games."

CHUNG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That must be a favorite of yours, Helen, because Meera...

STOILAS: I actually...

EISENBERG: ...but you...

STOILAS: I actually have bow and arrow at home.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Because of that particular book series and film?

STOILAS: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

STOILAS: I'm a dork.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

EISENBERG: Yeah, that doesn't make you special here right now, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: We're all with you.

CHUNG: Ludlum won a Pulitzer for this cult classic about a philosophical hero who rages against the idiocy of the modern world, while living at home with his mother in New Orleans. He titled it "The Ignatius Eccentricity."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Helen?

STOILAS: "Confederacy of Dunces."

CHUNG: "A Confederacy of Dunces," correct.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: In 1960, Ludlum tried his hand at children's books, writing a gripping thriller about an innocent man who is stalked and harassed by a stranger, who insists that he sample an odd delicacy. It's called...

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: "The Sam I Am Provocation."

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Helen?

STOILAS: "Green Eggs and Ham."

CHUNG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: Starring Matt Damon as Sam.

(LAUGHTER)

STOILAS: I will not eat them.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: That was your Jason Bourne/Dr. Seuss impersonation.

STOILAS: Yeah, I was channeling Matt Damon.

EISENBERG: It sounded threatening. I'm not going to lie it sounded threatening.

CHUNG: Ludlum drew from his own life story in this 1916 novel about finding one's calling as a writer while coming of age in Ireland at the end of the 19th Century. He called it "The Dedalus Formation."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Helen?

STOILAS: "Finnegans Wake."

CHUNG: No, sorry. Meera, do you know?

SIDDHARTH: Ulysses.

CHUNG: No. Anyone out there know?

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIENCE YELLING)

CHUNG: "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," the earlier one. The only one we read, really.

STOILAS: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

STOILAS: I was going on a long shot.

CHUNG: And we have a tie.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

EISENBERG: All right, here's your tiebreaker. Ludlum also wrote plays.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: His 1606 tragedy featured witches, murders, coups and conspiracies, plus the shocking twist ending that gives the play its name, "The Dunsinane Reforestation."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Meera?

SIDDHARTH: Macbeth.

EISENBERG: Yes, of course.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Shakespeare for the win. Meera, you are moving on to our Ask Me One More final round, at the end of the show. Helen, thank you so much.

STOILAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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