Hard lines


"It's my game!" says Catherine Braendel, U-High'81, greeting the rain-soaked attendees as they arrive. At a July 10 Newberry Library event, visitors try out Braendel's It Was a Dark and Stormy Night—a board game she developed with her husband Addison Braendel, JD'92. Addison did the research for the game, which has players guess a book's author or title from its first line. A corporate lawyer by day, Addison spent his nights compiling books' opening lines into huge spreadsheets. After leaving her full-time nonprofit job, Catherine turned Addison's lists into a game and cofounded Good Read Games, Inc., with him to publish Dark and Stormy Night, now on sale at some local independent bookstores, including Hyde Park's 57th Street Books. Taking its name from the oft-quoted opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's mediocre 1830 novel Paul Clifford, the game's clues include the first sentences of classics as well as pulpier tomes.

Before the Newberry visitors start playing, Catherine encourages them, "People know way more than they think they do," evoking laughs from her audience. One woman ironically suggests Braendel offer Dark and Stormy Night through Starbucks. When Braendel asks the woman if she has a contact, she pauses for a moment before offering her local barrista. The games finally start, and one team's first clue is the opening line of The Tale of Genji, a lengthy Japanese classic, which stumps everyone. The next card begins, "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched..." "War of the Worlds!" shouts the other team. Addison stops by the table to talk. "I'd be interested to see if it's too easy or not," he says. "No way," both teams rapidly respond.

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: A player reads the first line of 1984; a team puzzles over a clue.

July 18, 2007