Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Elizabeth MacLeod

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November 27, 2013 - Elizabeth MacLeod is Open Book: Toronto's December 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answer to the Proust Questionnaire, Elizabeth tells us her greatest extravagance, her favourite heroes in fiction, the Clan MacLeod motto and more.

What is your dream of happiness?
Time alone with a great book, a purring cat — and no telephones!

What is your idea of misery?
Being surrounded by lots of people who all have many ideas about what I should be doing for them. While I’m suffering from a migraine.

Where would you like to live?
In a fabulous condo near the main theatre district in London, England.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Love of cats! Oh, and generosity, open mindedness and an ability to listen.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Kindness, patience and generosity.

What is your chief characteristic?
I tend to end up organizing people and things, whether I want to or not.

What is your principal fault?
Impatience.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I can always make time for reading, no matter what I should really be doing.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Fear and similar weaknesses.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their generosity, energy, intelligence and sense of fun.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Cruelty in any form.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Procrastinating and wasting time.

What is your favourite virtue?
Gratitude.

What is your favourite occupation?
Laughing with old friends.

What would you like to be?
A jazz singer.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue.

What is your favourite flower?
Purple iris.

What is your favourite bird?
Hummingbirds — I once saw them described in a bird-watching book as “pugnacious little flyers.”

What historical figure do you admire the most?
After Jesus Christ, also Eleanor Roosevelt and Sir Isaac Newton.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler is the obvious answer here but any dictator. I dislike them, but mostly I don’t understand them.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
It depends on the season. As I’m heading into winter, I like authors such as Jane Austen, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Gilman, Jane Duncan (Janet Sandison) and Miss Read. (I just noticed that these are all female authors, so I feel I must make it clear that I have nothing against male authors!)

Who are your favourite poets?
Shakespeare, of course, but definitely Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker!

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
My favourite man is Lord Peter Wimsey — he’s witty, funny and can solve any mystery (even the mystery of love!). And who doesn’t love Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice?

Who are your heroes in real life?
People coping with fatal illnesses.

Who is your favourite painter?
Piet Mondrian (and Edward Burne-Jones).

Who is your favourite musician?
Besides my brother John, Chopin (I studied piano when I was younger).

What is your favourite food?
Cookies, especially butterscotch and caramel flavoured ones.

What is your favourite drink?
Tea — almost any flavour and clear, no sugar. As C.S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

What are your favourite names?
My favourite female names are Aislin, Bette, London and Parker, and my favourite male names are Archard, Easton, Montgomery and Roger.

What is it you most dislike?
Anything that diminishes the world and makes it less beautiful.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
To have a glorious singing voice.

How do you want to die?
Quickly and painlessly.

What is your current state of mind?
Curious.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Still to come!

What is your motto?
“Hold Fast” — it’s the Clan MacLeod motto and seems like a good sentiment to get through the uncertainty in today’s publishing world.