IELTS Reading Test 183

Groucho Marx Arthur Sheekman

In a show-business career that spanned over seventy years, Groucho Marx successfully conquered every entertainment medium, becoming a star of the vaudeville stage, Broadway, motion pictures, radio and television. But, as the author of seven books, a play, two film screenplays and over one hundred magazine articles and essays, Groucho quietly conquered another medium, one in which he was as proud to work as any of the others. His writing is often overlooked in studies of his career, perhaps due to the quantity and variety of his other work.

Throughout his literary career, Groucho was dogged by the incorrect and unfair assumption by many critics and even by his biographer that he used a ghost writer. Most Hollywood celebrities who wrote books had professional writers do the actual work. The fact that Groucho publicly stated on many occasions that he abhorred ghost writers is clouded by his relationship with Arthur Sheekman. Friends for many years, Groucho and Sheekman had an unusual literary relationship. They worked in collaboration and each offered the other editorial help. For a brief time in the early 1940s, Groucho fronted for Sheekman, who was having trouble selling his work. By thus lending his name to another writer’s work, Groucho subjected all of his literary endeavors to suspicion from critics who simply refused to believe that an entertainer could write.

That some of Sheekman’s magazine pieces got into print under Groucho’s byline becomes apparent from reading the unedited correspondence between the two of them. The letters indicate that Groucho’s essays from this period fall into three categories: first, pieces written by Groucho with no input from Sheekman at all. In a July I, 1940, letter to Sheekman, Groucho asked, ‘Did you see that little piece wrote for Reader’s Digest? On March 17. 1941, he wrote, ‘My drool is coming out in next week’s Issue of This Week so cancel your subscription now.’ Clearly Sheekman could not have had anything to do with a piece that he was told to look for.

The second and probably largest category of Groucho’s essays of this period consists of those written by Groucho and sent to Sheekman for editorial assistance. On July 20, 1940, Groucho wrote: Tm enclosing a copy of the piece I wrote. Probably another page or so is needed to complete it, but our starting date [for filming Go West ] came and I just haven’t had time to finish it. Let me know what you think of it and be honest because any other kind of opinion would be of no value to me. I won’t attempt to influence you by telling you the reactions I’ve already had, so for the love of God tell me the truth.’ Shortly thereafter, on October 10, Groucho wrote: ‘1 received your suggestions on my piece – I’m glad you liked It, If you did – you’re probably right about the beginning. I’ll do it over again.’ By the time Groucho wrote to Sheekman on July 25. 1942, it appears that some sort of financial arrangement had been made regarding Sheekman’s suggestions. On that date Groucho also wrote: Tm writing an unfunny piece on insomnia and I’ll send it in a week or so, I hope, for you to read – I’d like your opinion, proofread — correcting all the glaring illiteracies and, otherwise, do a fine polishing job.’

The remainder of Groucho’s essays from this period comprise the third category, Sheekman compositions with varying degrees of input from Groucho. The level of Groucho’s contributions to the articles in the third category ranges from actually suggesting the topic and drawing up an outline to simply rewriting a few paragraphs for the purpose of injecting his own style into the piece. In a July 10, 1940, letter Groucho wrote: ‘I think you ought to try another political piece – a campaign thing – for This Week or some other magazine. This will be an extremely hot topic for the next few months and I think you should take advantage of it. If you’ll write to me, I’ll try to jot down a few items that you could complain about.’ Presumably, the chain of events would continue with Sheekman sending an essay to Groucho for his approval and whatever rewrites were needed. On May 29, 1940, Groucho wrote, ‘Received your piece and looked it over.’ In these letters to Sheekman, Groucho always referred to a piece as either ‘my piece’ or ‘your piece’. The letter continued, ‘I thought the piece was good … and I’ll send it to Bye and see if he can sell it… I’ll just rewrite a couple of paragraphs in your piece – not that I can improve them, but perhaps they’ll sound a little more like me.’ Groucho was concerned enough about this arrangement to take the care to at least make the piece somewhat his own.

Groucho really had no need for this entire enterprise. He gave the money to Sheekman and had no trouble getting his own work published. The principal reason for him submitting Sheekman’s work to magazines as his own was that it made Sheekman’s material easily marketable based on Groucho’s celebrity. Sheekman couldn’t have been altogether happy with the arrangement, but the reality was that he was periodically unemployed and the use of Groucho’s name brought in occasional paychecks. So it is not quite fair to call Sheekman Groucho’s ghost writer. A more apt description of their literary relationship at this time is that Groucho occasionally fronted for Sheekman and offered him the services of his literary agent, while each offered the other editorial advice. The reasons for some of their collaborative efforts not being credited as such remain unexplained, but Groucho was never shy about crediting his collaborators, and in every other case he did so.

Questions 1-4
Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer of Reading Passage 1? In boxes 1 – 4 on your answer sheet ante

YES if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

1. Groucho’s work as a writer was sometimes better than his work in other media.
2. Groucho’s relationship with Sheekman cast doubt on his own abilities as a writer.
3. Money was occasionally a source of disagreement between Groucho and Sheekman.
4. Groucho occasionally regretted his involvement with Sheekman.

Questions 5-8
Complete the notes below. Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.


Questions 9-13
Write the correct letter A-G in boxes 9-13 on your answer sheet.

9. Groucho referred to his own inadequacy with regard to use of language.
10. Groucho explained his reason for amending an essay.
11. Groucho agreed that part of an essay needed revising.
12. Groucho drew Sheekman’s attention to an essay soon to be published.
13. Groucho suggested that an essay should adopt a negative point of view.

List of Letters Sent by Groucho to Sheekman

A July 1, 1940
B March 17, 1941
C July 20, 1940
D October 10, 1940
E July 25, 1942
F July 10, 1940
G May 29, 1940

An Earth – Shaking discovery

In 1963, a paper appeared in the journal Nature that radically changed the way we view this planet and its resources. Tts authors, Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews, did for the Earth sciences what Crick and Watson did for biology and Einstein did for physics, and new areas of scientific development are still emerging as a result.

Yet both men are largely forgotten and unrecognised. What Vine and Matthews did was to provide proof that continents really do drift across the surface of the globe. This understanding profoundly affects the way we use the planet today – it directs the way we prospect for resources such as oil and minerals: it has enabled us to predict most volcanic eruptions and to understand patterns of earthquakes. Incredibly perhaps, an understanding of the mobile dynamic nature of the Earth is helping an understanding of long-term global climate changes. Despite the significance of their work, neither man received great honour or fame.

The idea of continental drift was first proposed in a serious way by the German meteorologist Allred Wegener in 1915. People had noticed the neat jigsaw-like fit between South America and Africa, but Wegener found actual fossil evidence that the two continents were once joined. No one took him seriously; in fact he was ridiculed by most of the geological community. This was partly because, not being a geologist, he was perceived as an outsider. But the main reason for the hostility; according to Vine, was that Wegener was unable to come up with an explanation as to how whole continents could possibly move even an inch, let alone dance to the music of time around the globe.

In the 1920s, the Scottish geologist Arthur Holmes hypothesised that convection currents within the Earth ‘could become sufficiently vigorous to drag the two halves of the original continent apart! In the late 1950s, an American, Harry Hess, came up with the hypothesis that new sea floor is constantly being generated at the mid­-ocean ridges by hot material rising in a convection current. But neither man could find evidence to prove it. It was no more than just a hunch that it had to be right, and a hunch is not enough for science.

Vine had been fascinated by the apparent fit of the continents since the age of 14, and as a graduate student at Cambridge was assigned a project analysing one of the new magnetic surveys of the ocean floor. He found what he describes as parallel zebra swipes of normal and reversed magnetism’ around the mid-ocean ridge. Most significantly; these stripes were symmetrical either side of the ridge crests. There had to be a reason for this. The young Vine and his supervisor Matthews proposed that the magnetic stripes were caused by new ocean floor being formed as molten rock rose at the mid-ocean ridges and spread each side of the ridge.

As the molten rock solidified, it became weakly magnetised parallel to the Earth’s magnetic field. U was just becoming recognised in the early 1960s that the Earths magnetic field flips every so often, so magnetic north becomes a magnetic south pole and vice versa. These flips in magnetic field were being recorded in the new sea floor. It was like a giant tape recording of the ocean floor’s history. As new sea floor was made, it pushed the last lot aside, widening the ocean and in turn pushing the continents either side further apart. In other words, they had discovered the mechanism driving drifting continents that was missing from Wegener’s work. The science of the Earth was never the same again.

By the end of the 1960s, confirmation of global sea floor spreading led to plate tectonics – the view of the outside of the Earth comprising just a few rigid plates which are shunted about by growing sea floor. There was a realisation that mountains are formed when two plates collide, and that most volcanoes and earthquakes occur on the edges of these plates. All this was accepted as fact by all but a few diehard dinosaurs in the geological world.

It is now in the impact of shifting continents on the global environment that Vine feels the most exciting and significant research lies: ‘The distribution of continents and the opening and closing of ocean gates between continents has had a profound effect on climates and has caused flips from Ice­house Earth to Green-house Earth.’ The recognition that the Earth’s hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere are all intimately linked with the drifting continents and the goings- on deep within the Earth has spawned the term ‘Earth Systems Science’. It is a great oak tree of science that has grown from the acorn of truth supplied by Vine and Matthews. The holistic approach of earth systems science is very much welcomed by Vine: Tm rather pleased that this has come together.’ He feels that the future for understanding the planet lies in an integrated approach to the sciences, rather than the isolated stance the geologists took throughout the 20th century: There was an incredible polarisation of science and I was caught between the boundaries. It was anathema to me – the whole of environmental science should be integrated.’

Questions 14-17
Complete each sentence with the correct ending A-G from the box below.

14. The work done by Vine and Matthews has had implications concerning
15. Wegener attempted to provide an explanation of
16. Wegener’s conclusions were greeted as
17. The theories presented by both Holmes and Hess concerned

A matters that had not received much attention for some time.
B something which could not possibly be true.
C something misunderstood at first but later seen as a breakthrough.
D matters beyond simply the movement of continents.
E something that had already been observed.
F something arrived at by intuition that could not be demonstrated.
G matters requiring different research techniques

Questions 18-22
Label the diagram below.



Questions 23-26
Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

23. What is the name of the theory concerning the structure of the Earth that developed from the demonstration of sea floor spreading?
24. According to Vine, what has the movement of continents had a big influence on?
25. What branch of science has emerged as a result of the work done by Vine and Matthews?
26. Which word does Vine use to describe the way in which he believes study of the Earth should be conducted?

Think happy

A What would Sir Isaac Newton have made of it? There he was, painted in oils, gazing down at one of the strangest meetings that the Royal Society, Britain’s most august scientific body, has ever held. If Newton had flashed a huge grin, it would have been completely appropriate, for beneath him last week a two- day conference was unfolding on a booming new field of science: investigating what makes people happy. Distinguished professors strode up to the podium, including one eminent neurologist armed with videos of women giggling at comedy films; another was a social scientist brandishing statistics on national cheerfulness. Hundreds of other researchers sat scribbling notes on how to produce more smiles.

B The decision by the Royal Society to pick ‘the science of wellbeing’ from hundreds of applications for conferences on other topics is no laughing matter. It means that the investigation of what makes people happy is being taken very seriously indeed. ‘Many philosophies and religions have studied this subject, but scientifically it has been ignored,’ said Dr Nick Baylis, a Cambridge University psychologist and one of the conference organisers. ‘For the Royal Society to give us its countenance is vital, because that states that what we are doing deserves to be acknowledged and Investigated by the best scientific minds.’

C At first sight, the mission of Baylis – and the growing number of other scientists working on happiness research – appears fanciful. They want to deploy scientifically rigorous methods to determine why some people are lastingly happy while others tend to misery. Then they envisage spreading the secret of happiness across the globe and, in short, increasing the sum of human happiness. ‘If someone is happy, they are more popular and also healthier, they live longer and are more productive at work. So it is very much worth having’ he says.

D Baylis, the only ‘positive psychology’ lecturer in Britain, knows that the aims of happiness research might sound woolly, so he is at pains to distance himself from the brigades of non- academic self-help gurus. He refers to ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘wellbeing’ and emphasises that his work, and that of others at the conference, is grounded in solid research. So what have the scientists discovered – has a theory of happiness been defined yet?

E According to Professor Martin Sellgman, probably the world’s leading figure in this field, happiness could be but a train ride – and a couple of questionnaires – away. It was Seligman, a psychologist from Pennsylvania University, who kick-started the happiness science movement with a speech he made as President of the American Psychological Association (APA). Why, asked Seligman, shocking delegates at an APA conference, does science only investigate suffering? Why not look into what steps increase happiness, even for those who are not depressed, rather than simply seek to assuage pain? For a less well- known scientist, the speech could have spelt the end of a career, but instead Seligman landed funding of almost £18m to follow his hunch. He has been in regular contact with hundreds of other researchers and practising psychologists around the world, all the while conducting polls and devising strategies for increasing happiness.

F His findings have led him to believe that there are three main types of happiness. First, there is ‘the pleasant life’ – the kind of happiness we usually gain from sensual pleasures such as eating and drinking or watching a good film. Seligman blames Hollywood and the advertising industry for encouraging the rest of us, wrongly as he sees it, to believe that lasting happiness is to be found that way. Second, ị there is ‘the good life’, which comes from enjoying something we are good or talented at. The key to this, Seligman believes, lies in identifying our strengths and then taking part in an activity that uses them. Third, there is ‘the meaningful life’. The most lasting happiness, Seligman says, comes from finding something you believe in and then putting your strengths at its service. People who are good at communicating with others might thus find long-lasting happiness through becoming involved in politics or voluntary work, while a rock star wanting to save the world might find it in organising a charity concert.

G Achieving ‘the good life’ and ‘the meaningful life’ is the secret of lasting happiness, Seligman says. For anybody unsure of how to proceed, he has an intriguing idea. To embark on the road to happiness, he suggests that you need a pen, some paper and, depending on your location, a railway ticket. First, identify a person to whom you feel a deep debt of gratitude but have never thanked properly. Next, write a 300-word essay outlining how important the help was and how much you appreciate it. Then tell them you need to visit, without saying what for, turn up at their house and read them the essay. The result: tears, hugs and deeper, longer-lasting happiness, apparently, than would come from any amount of champagne.

H Sceptics may insist that science will always remain a clumsy way of investigating and propagating happiness and say that such things are better handled by artists, writers and musicians – if they can be handled at all. And not everybody at the conference was positive about the emerging science. Lewis Wolpert, professor of biology as applied to medicine at University College London, who has written a bestseller about his battle with depression, said: ‘If you were really totally happy, I’d be very suspicious. I think you wouldn’t do anything, you’d just sort of sit there in a treacle of happiness. There’s a whole world out there, and unless you have a bit of discomfort, you’ll never actually do anything.’

Question 27-30
Complete the sentences below with words taken from Reading Passage 3. Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

At the conference, research into happiness was referred to as the (27)…………………

Baylis and others intend to use (28)………………………to find out what makes people happy or unhappy.

Baylis gives classes on the subject of (29)………………………

Baylis says he should not be categorised among the (30)……………………..who do not have academic credentials.

Questions 31-36
Complete the summary below using words from the box. Write your answers in boxes 31-36 on your answer sheet.

Seligman’s categories of happiness Seligman’s first type of happiness involves the enjoyment of pleasures such as (31)……………………….He believes that people should not be under the (32)…………………….that such things lead to happiness that is not just temporary. His second type is related to (33)…………………….Identification of this should lead to (34)…………………….and the result is ‘the good life’. His third type involves having a strong (35)……………………..and doing something about it for the benefit…of others. This, according to Seligman, leads to happiness that has some (36)……………………


Questions 37-40
Reading Passage 3 has eight: paragraphs labelled A-H Which paragraph contains the following information?

37. a view that complete happiness may not be a desirable goal
38. a reference to the potential wider outcomes of conducting research into happiness
39. an implication of the fact that the conference was held at all
40. a statement concerning the possible outcome of expressing a certain view in public

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