Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Carellin Brooks

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Carellin Brooks (photo credit: James Loewen)

Carellin Brooks's One Hundred Days of Rain (BookThug) is essential reading for anyone who has ever had their heart broken. As the unnamed main character experiences every type of rain imaginable (the book is set in Vancouver, of course!), she also ruminates on the life and death of her relationship in prose that is at once lush and tough.

Today Carellin appears on Open Book to take the Proust Questionnaire. She tells us about indulging a despotic streak, shares a delicious cocktail recipe and offers us a very practical family motto that we just might have to steal.

To get a taste of One Hundred Days of Rain, don't miss the chance to read an excerpt on Open Book!

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.

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What is your dream of happiness?
Someplace where the food is free, someone else cooks it and I can see the ocean. Oh, and it’s warm. So a Mexican all-inclusive, basically.

What is your idea of misery?
Being around people with whom I cannot communicate emotionally.

Where would you like to live?
Right where I am, in downtown Vancouver. With a few sojourns to hot places, of course.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Courage, charm and good cheer.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Sexual awareness, beauty and intelligence.

What is your chief characteristic?
Sharpness.

What is your principal fault?
The same.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I love to go to restaurants and act like an adult. (Yes, I have kids).

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
An inability to see their own flaws, solipsism and unrealistic optimism.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their ability to overlook my obvious flaws and their conversational acumen.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Vegetarianism.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Being judgmental.

What is your favourite virtue?
Openness.

What would you like to be?
I’d like to be a mythological creature — a griffin or a winged horse. Then again, I’ve always wanted serfs, so maybe I should pick medieval lord. I have a despotic streak I’d enjoy indulging. I’d probably end up caring about everyone’s welfare, though, which would be boring.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Sigmund Freud. He was so iconoclastic and incredibly vulnerable.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
I love Rebecca Brown, whose spareness is haunting and who is one of the greats. I’m crazy about the oldies — Trollope’s a favourite, and not just for his name. And I have a big soft spot for funny authors, like the ones I discovered when I worked at New Star: Andrew Struthers, John Armstrong.

Who are your favourite poets?
I adore Anne Carson’s early work, and love Erin Moure and Sachiko Murakami. Rachel Rose is a brilliant poet who was just named Vancouver’s Poet Laureate. I also just heard Kayla Czaga read from her first book and was enchanted.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I like superhero characters, the female ones. The graphic novel Elektra Assassin, which was drawn by the brilliant Bill Sienkiewicz, stands out. Last year in a class I was teaching I mentioned my early fondness for the Dazzler, the main character in a short-lived eponymous comic book in the early eighties. One of my students immediately Googled her. So this year I banned technology from the classroom. Past, stay there!

Who are your heroes in real life?
Parents.

Who is your favourite painter?
I’m a big Jackson Pollock fan. One of his canvases in the living room would just make my day.

What is your favourite drink?
My partner makes a drink called a Kakkoii. It was invented by David Wolowidnyk, the bartender at West — gin, plum wine, lemon juice, infused cinnamon syrup. One or two of those and you forget you ever had problems. Otherwise, give me champagne.

What is it you most dislike?
The practice, individual or institutional, of trying to control women’s bodies.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Well, obviously I’d like the ability to effortlessly make a great deal of money. But really, like Dale Carnegie, I’d settle for winning friends and influencing people… although sometimes I suspect I’m more like Toby Young.

How do you want to die?
Quickly.

What is your current state of mind?
Cheerfully philosophical, punctuated by panic and nameless dread.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Keeping children alive.

What is your motto?
I like the motto attributed to cardiac surgeons: “Sometimes wrong, but never unconfident.” But our family motto is more likely our oft-repeated advice at table: “Never leave your food unattended.”


Rhodes Scholar Carellin Brooks is the author of fresh hell: motherhood in pieces (2013), Every Inch a Woman (2011) and Wreck Beach (2007). She edited the anthologies Carnal Nation, with Brett Josef Grubisic, and Bad Jobs. Winner of the Books in Canada Student Writing Award for poetry (1993), the Cassell/Pink Paper Lesbian Writing Award for non-fiction (1994) and the Institute for Contemporary Arts New Blood Award for prose (1995), Brooks lives and works in Vancouver, where she was born. Connect with Brooks at http://www.carellinbrooks.com or on Twitter @carellinb.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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