Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Natalie Zina Walschots

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February 1, 2013 - Natalie Zina Walschots is Open Book's February 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answer to the Proust Questionnaire, Natalie tells us her dream of happiness, her chief characteristic 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" nature.


What is your dream of happiness?
A day that is cool and sunny, a lonely beach, a mug of tea, a soft sweater, something to write on, nowhere to be.

What is your idea of misery?
A grey cubicle, in a grey uniform, without even my own music to listen to.

Where would you like to live?
Somewhere near the water, with clean air and wifi access, with that particular golden quality of light you only see in California or Arizona in the fall.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Passion, intelligence, loyalty, courage.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Passion, intelligence, loyalty, courage.

What is your chief characteristic?
I think it must be that I am not afraid to go the difficult way, or to some place hard and strange and alien, if the result is joy. I would rather rapture than contentment.

What is your principal fault?
I don't have an off switch, so I don't so much relax as eventually collapse. This can make me odd and irritable.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Food. Good wine, excellent cheese, the best meat, buttery pastries. And books, both physical and electronic. My bookshelves are groaning and so are my harddrives.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Passion that can become misplaces, conviction that can become stronger than sense, hope or ambition that obscures sense. As long as actions (even incorrect ones) come from a place motivated by love it is easy to forgive.

What do you value most about your friends?
I am absolutely convinced I have the best collection of friends in the entire universe. They are smart, compassionate rockstars one and all, and every single one of them would be at my house in minutes in the middle of the night if I asked them to bring a van, a boning knife and a tarp.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Bigotry. There is no bigger turn-off, no way to immediately fill me with disgust and animosity than to display stupid hate. I consider bigots fair game.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
I have very strong Hermione Granger tendencies, which means I can be a bit of a know-it-all and over-explain things without being terribly gracious about it.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
Writing, when the words are coming in that magical, smooth way they sometimes do. Otherwise, walking on the beach listening to metal.

What would you like to be?
In another life I was going to be a doctor. Generally I think I would just like to me more of what I am — more experience, accomplishment, intensity, but along the same lines.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?
Gerbera daisies, African violets and dandelions.

What is your favourite bird?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Ada Lovelace, founder of scientific computing, instrumental to the development of the Babbage Engine, the world's first computer programmer 150 years before a computer would be built.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Heinrich Kramer, the author of the Malleus Maleficarum (the "Hammer of Witches") that was used as a handbook to torture and kill untold thousands of women. The Inquisition at one point denounced it for being too extreme.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Natalee Caple, Andrew Kaufman, Erin Morganstern, Emily Schultz, Harlan Ellison, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Tony Burgess, Peter Watts, Stacey May Fowles, Mike Carey.

Who are your favourite poets?
Christian Bök, Lisa Robertson, Dennis Lee, Jen Currin, Sina Queyras, Michael Robbins, Nicole Brossard, Susan Holbrook, bpNichol, Jordan Scott, Alden Knowlan, Karen Solie.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Doom, Sherlock Holmes.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My brother, Michael, a gentle and intelligent philosopher king.

Who is your favourite painter?
Salvador Dali.

Who is your favourite musician?
Mike Patton.

What is your favourite food?

What is your favourite drink?
Bourbon and coke with lime.

What are your favourite names?
Tallulah, Eleanor, Agalloch.

What is it you most dislike?
Spiders and stupidity. Stupidity here refers to small-mindedness, meanness, a complete spiteful unwillingness to learn and change and grow.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could move gracefully. I dance like a gangly dinosaur, even after six years of ballet.

How do you want to die?
Spectacularly and quickly.

What is your current state of mind?
Peaceful. The sleeping puppy next to me is casting a spell of calmness.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Publishing my books; being able to support myself as a freelance writer.

What is your motto?
I would rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck. — Emma Goldman

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