Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Andrew Sullivan

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Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan's debut novel, Waste, comes on the heels of his widely-praised short story collection, All We Want Is Everything. Waste (Dzanc Books), has been praised as "a gut-punch to the soul", "a rollicking ride with sadists", and "an unflinching, black-hearted story told with relentless, straight-razor prose".

So we were a little nervous to have him take on our version of the Proust Questionnaire, a personality quiz beloved by its namesake, which lets us get to know writers on a personal level. Luckily, chatting with Andrew isn't as nerve-wracking as reading his powerhouse prose.

He tells us about a delicious extravagance, the original Beastmaster, and our new favourite name for a dog.

Don't miss Waste, a stunning novel that tells the story of a town on the brink of collapse, wannabe skinheads, a dead lion, and the very nature of violence.

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What is your dream of happiness?

A house in the woods with no need for money.

What is your idea of misery?

A life alone with no home.

Where would you like to live?

Two hours outside a city with no neighbours in sight.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

Patience.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

Fury.

What is your chief characteristic?

Endurance.

What is your principal fault?

Rage. It is a constant, low-key struggle.

What is your greatest extravagance?

An 8-piece bucket of fried chicken (serves one).

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

Timidity. The world is big and full of unknowns.

What do you value most about your friends?

Their kindness. There is nothing greater someone can give you.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Selfishness. A weed strangling an entire garden.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

Fear. It’s a limit you set for yourself. No one can undo it but you.

What is your favourite virtue?

Patience, as I have close to none.

What is your favourite occupation?

Bounty hunter. In space. In the future.

What would you like to be?

Untethered by any role or responsibility.

What is your favourite colour?

Red. Like Santa.

What is your favourite flower?

Dandelion. It’s everywhere and it’s edible. It will never die.

What is your favourite bird?

The crow. It knows all, sees all, flies straight. It will outlive us.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

St. Francis of Assisi, the original Beastmaster and friend of crows.

What character in history do you most dislike?

There a lot of obvious options here, so let’s say Andrew Jackson, celebrated murderer/politician.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Harry Crews. Shirley Jackson. Richard Price. Miriam Toews. Richard Yates.

Who are your favourite poets?

My grandpa when he’s explaining how someone else lived and died.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

I’ll go with St. Francis again, Samson, and Atreyu from The Neverending Story. Generally, I don’t go to fiction looking for heroes.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Any animal that escapes from a zoo.

Who is your favourite painter?

I could lie and say something like Francis Bacon here, but I will be honest and say Mike Mignola of the long celebrated, under-appreciated Hellboy series.

Who is your favourite musician?

Jason Molina. An epic dirge master.

What is your favourite food?

Fried chicken. I will be buried in it.

What is your favourite drink?

Caesar. With hot sauce.

What are your favourite names?

If I had a dog, I’d name it Bonk. That’s as close as it gets.

What is it you most dislike?

The sound of Styrofoam rubbed on Styrofoam. And these new age puritans.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

Multiple languages. I have no affinity for them. I am a donkey outside of English.

How do you want to die?

Alone like everyone else and anywhere but a hospital or prison.

What is your current state of mind?

Resigned and hungry.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Living without debt.

What is your motto?

“Survival is triumph enough.”


Andrew Sullivan is from Oshawa, Ontario. His debut short story collection, All We Want Is Everything (ARP Books, 2013), was one of the Globe and Mail’s Best Books of 2013. Sullivan no longer spends his days handling raw meat, boxes of liquor, or used video games. Waste is his first novel.

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