Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with John Brady

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November 23, 2011 -
John Brady is Open Book's December 2011 writer in residence.

What is your dream of happiness?
I don’t have one: minute by minute, hour by hour, there are wonderful times daily, along with the opposite. I particularly enjoy talk with lifelong friends on a walk, or in a pub. So much the better if I can hear the sea nearby.Were there to be one 'wish,' it would concern health.

What is your idea of misery?
Misery is when you realize that you are giving stock answers, thoughts, responses: that you have stopped becoming somebody interesting, and cannot see a way forward.

Where would you like to live?
Ireland, for a while, but it is too intense and redolent of family stuff. British Columbia is always a draw, as is non-city Ontario. Being Irish was no achievement, but I made myself here in Canada. Italy beckons too.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Humour and playfulness — which necessarily means he likes the company of kids i.e. not a glibster, or a cynic.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
.. yikes. I don’t see people so clearly as "a man" or "a woman." And I know men and women who have qualities that people ordinarily ascribe to either/or party. If I had to pick one, it would be strength (of character).

What is your chief characteristic?
Inventing / imagining: worlds, characters, ideas, dialogue, situations.

What is your principal fault?
Idealizing people and events: always trying to make a story of things can obscure matters and lead to trouble.

What is your greatest extravagance?
None in particular — though electronics and travel crop up more often than other items or habits.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Being easily frightened. People pretending to be fearless are dangerous in themselves.

What do you value most about your friends?
Humour, wit, intelligence, but without the easy conceit or the cutting remark. Being "funny" is not any substitute for being humorous.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Narcissism.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Impatience/intolerance.

What is your favourite virtue?
Loyalty — but not the dumb, tribal sort. Reasoned allegiance.

What is your favourite occupation?
Pro athlete in long distance running (!)

What would you like to be?
A more organized, perseverant person, especially in getting stories on paper.

What is your favourite colour?
Currently, orange. Long time fave: blue.

What is your favourite flower?
Heather in bloom. Second choice: gorse in bloom.

What is your favourite bird?
The kill-deer for its guile, the swallow for its toil.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
… often Freud, for his unstinting rationalism and clear-eyed stoicism.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
… lots: current faves Colin Thubron. Michael Holroyd, Christopher Hitchens, Dermot Healey. Guy Vanderhaege. Always and forever: Orwell, Chekov, Hemingway, Bellow (etc).

Who are your favourite poets?
Yeats and Heaney in smaller doses, Wallace Stevens.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Amongst others, Johanna Wagner (Mrs) But I can’t put names or even faces to the truly heroic figures, those 3rd world mothers who struggle to improve the lives of their kids and families.

Who is your favourite painter?
Rene Magritte

What is your favourite food?
I can’t pare it down to one. Fish (salmon first)… on fresh baked bread

What is your favourite drink?
Home made drip coffee, frothed.

What are your favourite names?
Plain names stay in my mind: Hanna, Julia, Mary, Michael, John. Some of the older Irish Gaelic names have great sticking power also: Ciaran (Kieran), Conor, Sorcha

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
A better, more natural runner: alas my trunk is too long to have championship legs.

How do you want to die?
Surprise me.

What is your current state of mind?
Curious; reaching. Wondering.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I am tempted to say fatherhood, but that is hardly "an achievement" — it seems to ensue, and you do what you need to do. I suppose, being able to start a new life here in Canada, and to marry and live here, comes to the top.

What is your motto?
Solvitur Ambulando.

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

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