May 17, 2018

It’s time to play: Fragment of Great Literature or Nine Inch Nails Lyric?


The birthday boy. Via WikiMedia Commons.

Well, it’s been a hell of a week. People are flagrantly ignoring the due dates of their library books, broccoli is turning up in simply outrageous places, respected authors are scoring middling grades on papers about their own work — none of which is to mention the goddamn news, as harrowing and hope-slashing as ever.

Where, one may ask, will hope be found?

Maybe, just maybe it’ll be found exactly where it’s always been found: in the music of Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who’s turning fifty-three today. Trent, baby, if you’re out there — happy bday! (Fun fact: did you know Mr. Reznor shares a birthday with noted Volkswagen pitchperson Enya? Happy fifty-seven to Enya.)

To celebrate, a little game for you. It’s called: Fragment of Great Literature or Nine Inch Nails Lyric?, and it’s going to be your everything, promise.

The rules are simple (a pen and paper may help, if you’ve got ’em): we’ll list some brief quotations. For each, you try and guess whether it’s spoken by a character in a novel, or is a line from a Nine Inch Nails song. To keep things manageable, and in honor of the winsome divinity known as “the 1990s,” we’ll be focusing on NIN’s first three albums, Pretty Hate MachineBroken (an EP in length but an album in concept), and The Downward Spiral. A correct answer is worth two points. And you get an extra three points if you can name the great work of literature or Nine Inch Nails song the line is from. Sounds fun, right!? It is fun. Answers at the very bottom.

Also, no cheating. If you cannot handle Google responsibly, it will be taken away. And a quick reminder that both Trent Reznor and great literature are known for occasional raunch — so if you faint easily, put the kids to bed, or something.

Alright, who’s ready to play Fragment of Great Literature or Nine Inch Nails Lyric??!

  1. “My disease! My infection! I am so impure.”
  2. “Do you say my blindness is not real? That I too am faking it?”
  3. “I can climb anything, you said so yourself.”
  4. “The Devil wants to fuck me in the back of his car. Nothing quite like the feel of something new.”
  5. “Those who experience a rending of their joy are in pain.”
  6. “Everybody’s still chipping away, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Look through these blackened eyes.”
  7. “Who can say when the day sleeps if the night keeps all your heart?”
  8. “Everything I never liked about you is sort of seeping into me. I try to laugh about it now. But isn’t it funny how everything works out?”
  9. “OK, but I’m covered in urine.”
  10. “You could be my chaperone. You could be my shadow. Penumbra.”




(scroll down to see the answers)











(further down)










(they’re down there, I promise)





  1. Alright, started with an easy one. This is, of course, Nine Inch Nails, from the chorus of The Downward Spiral’s Reptile. Props to the wheezing-dental-drill sound that blesses this particular track. Oh, my beautiful liar.
  2. Great literature! These words are spoken in Lavie Tidhar’s brain-melting, genre-shredding novel A Man Lies Dreaming. Elizabeth Hand put it kind of perfectly in the Washington Post when she called it a book that reminds us “stories are all we have. And in the right hands, they can be a formidable weapon.”
  3. Gimme an L! Gimme an I! Gimme a T! Gimme an ERATURE! This is said by Franklin Ribkins to his brother Johnny in Ladee Hubbard’s exhilarating and Du Bois-inflected novel of race, justice, and superheroics The Talented Ribkins.
  4. Jeez, Trent, talk about First World problems! This is, of course, a lyric from The Only Time, off NIИ’s debut full-length, Pretty Hate Machine.
  5. Great literature! This line appears as part of the Neetsa Pizza worker’s creed early on in Rachel Cantor’s splendtastical A Highly Unlikely Scenario. The creed continues, “Pain is relieved through compassion. Compassion is best achieved in a White Room, and delivered through concentrated listening, use of time-tested Listener algorithms, and liberal use of Neetsa Pizza coupons.”
  6. If quoting Nine Inch Nails is wrong, #6 has no interest in being right. This of course is from Last, off 1992’s Broken. Originally released via an ancient technology known as “compact disc,” the album (maybe it was an EP?) featured ninety-nine tracks—most of them blank, one of them an Adam Ant cover—and a sound as smooth as a jackhammer in a windtunnel.
  7. Sorry, cheated. It’s Enya. Had to. Won’t happen again.
  8. If that’s not Nine Inch Nails, well, nothing is. These are some lyrics from Down In It, off Pretty Hate Machine. The song’s Genius page describes the events portrayed here as “highly ironic.” Now you know.
  9. Thus spake the tender Reverend Maloney in Michael Bible’s wild and excellent Sophia, just before having his scrotum tasered. Literature!
  10. One last shot of literature to take us out. This is Esther in Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan, scheming with her friend for a way out of the hospital and back into a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.


What your score means:

0-10: You enjoy neither books nor sensitively aggro industrial pop. You are lost.
11-20: You use broccoli as a bookmark.
21-30: Godmoney, I’ll do anything for you. (Translation: right on.)
31-40: Did you cheat? Or are you just awesome?
41-50: Happy b-day, Trent. Enjoy it.



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.