Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Nathan Whitlock

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Nathan Whitlock

Nathan Whitlock, author of A Week of This: A Novel in Seven Days (ECW Press), will host the inaugural Toronto Literary Salon on April 27th at The Spoke Club. In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, he lets us in on his dream of happiness, his chief characteristic, his favourite bird and more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" personality.

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What is your dream of happiness?
I’m not sure I’ve ever yet experienced real happiness in a dream. Most often, they are full of fear and despair. Which, if nothing else, explains why I am an early riser.

What is your idea of misery?
You’re looking at it.

Where would you like to live?
Atop a pile of money that I did not have to sacrifice anything to earn.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
His distance from my girlfriend.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Her my-girlfriendishness.

What is your chief characteristic?
A big, soppy, loving heart, and the big, cast-iron box I keep it in.

What is your principal fault?
I use humour as a shield. (And cleverness as a sword – have at thee!)

What is your greatest extravagance?
I have downloaded multi-CD box sets by the Louvin Brothers, Django Reinhardt, Miles Davis and others. Does that count?

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Bad manners. Drunken stumbling. Strong language.

What do you value most about your friends?
Patience. The fact that they actually consider themselves friends of mine, given how easy I am to de-friend.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
A metaphorical broomstick up the ass is certainly a turn-off. (I should add that I have no issue with literal broomsticks up the ass, as long as everything’s consensual.)

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My farts smell like broomsticks. (Also, I tend to go for the cheapest jokes first.)

What is your favourite virtue?
Tenacity, at least with regard to writing. I have been given more than enough discouragement, but I seem to keep at it.

What is your favourite occupation?
I hate doing it with a passion, but I am never happy if I am not writing fiction every day.

What would you like to be?
Independently wealthy, or living well off the proceeds of my writing.

What is your favourite colour?
“Blue must be the colour of the blues.” – George Jones (I think)

What is your favourite flower?
I love all things that flow equally.

What is your favourite bird?
It’s a toss-up between the one that gets flipped and the one that surfs.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
The people who did the actual work but never got the credit. (Not valid in the case of genocide.)

What character in history do you most dislike?
The asshole who took the credit. (Especially when it comes to genocide.)

Who are your favourite prose authors?
V.S. Pritchett. Alice Munro. Henry Green. (You know: all the cool ones.)

Who are your favourite poets?
Philip Larkin. W.H. Auden. Meaghan Strimas.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Charley Raunce, Clarissa Dalloway, Johnny Hake, Leopold Bloom and many others like them.

Who are your heroes in real life?
All the people I know who manage, despite all, to live their lives with humour and integrity. Some have been named elsewhere in this questionnaire.

Who is your favourite painter?
My appreciation of painting is sub-philistine, though I am always impressed by the wall of graffiti you can see out of the south side of the subway as it goes between Keele and Dundas stations.

Who is your favourite musician?
That I know: Alex Lukashevsky. That I don’t (four-way tie): John Fahey, Fela Kuti, Van Dyke Parks and Django Reinhardt.

What is your favourite food?
Good hummous is like God’s own snack.

What is your favourite drink?
Jack Daniels on ice. Earl Grey tea. Cold water. (Not in that order.)

What are your favourite names?
Iago, Olive.

What is it you most dislike?
See reference to “broomstick, asses” above.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Poise.

How do you want to die?
Later than expected, but before everything goes to hell.

What is your current state of mind?
Questioning. Proustian.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The continuing survival of my two children.

What is your motto?
“If you’ve spent more than ten minutes completing a questionnaire, you’re doing it wrong.”


Nathan Whitlock is the author of A Week of This: A Novel in Seven Days (ECW Press). His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Report on Business, Fashion magazine, Maisonneuve, Best Canadian Essays 2009 and elsewhere. He is the Books for Young People editor for Quill & Quire magazine and the former fiction editor for Driven magazine.

For more information about A Week of This: A Novel in Seven Days please visit the ECW Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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