Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Catherine Black

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Catherine Black

Catherine Black, an Assistant Professor of writing at OCAD University, is the author of A Hard Gold Thread (Guernica), her first prose project. Previously, she published a book of prose poetry, Lessons of Chaos and Disaster with Guernica's First Poet Series.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Catherine tells Open Book about homonyms, x-ray vision and her current state of mind.

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?
Big ol’ crumbling Mexican hacienda with family and friends and kids all around, good food, music, lots of laughter. Living life fully.

What is your idea of misery?
Watching anyone suffer, particularly loved ones.

Where would you like to live?
I’d split time between my (imaginary) Mexican hacienda and my (also imaginary) farmhouse in rural Ontario.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Surefootedness.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Opacity.

What is your chief characteristic?
My bright plumage.

What is your principal fault?
Self doubt. (I think. I’ve changed this answer a number of times...)

What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel I can’t afford. Fancy makeup I won’t wear but like having anyway.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Childishness.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their fierce loyalty, their honesty, their humour, their unconditional love.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Cruelty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Self-centeredness.

What is your favourite virtue?
Compassion.

What is your favourite occupation?
Fire Fighter. Oh, you mean occupation that I engage in. Okay. Um, being a mom. And loving. Kissing. Wandering. Exploring. Riding horses. Writing.

What would you like to be?
More at ease in the world. Also kinder.

What is your favourite colour?
Sun dappled.

What is your favourite flower?
Spelt. Oh, flower ... homonym. The Forget-me-not.

What is your favourite bird?
I like this question and think I’ll ask it more in casual conversation. A hen, if you must know.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Christ.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Carson McCullers, Joan Didion, Marcel Proust (shout out), Juan Rulfo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, Lydia Davis, Virginia Woolf...

Who are your favourite poets?
...P.K. Page, Patrick Lane, Rainer Maria Rilke, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Lyn Hejinian, James Galvin, Charles Simic...

Who are your heroes in real life?
My father.

Who is your favourite painter?
My husband.

What is your favourite food?
Toast. Buttered toast. And crème brûlée.

What is your favourite drink?
Good coffee with cream and raw sugar.

What are your favourite names?
Changes daily. I think about names all the time, I don’t know why, maybe it’s a fiction thing or a teaching thing. I love the name Josephine and I love my son’s name, Liam. I love the stories names carry, also their weight: their ballast or helium.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
X-Ray vision. Elastic arms. The ability to turn into a bucket of water or an eagle, as the situation warrants.

How do you want to die?
Swiftly, quietly, peacefully. Without too much time to think about it.

What is your current state of mind?
Hopeful.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Becoming a mother.

What is your motto?
Next right thing.
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For more information about A Hard Gold Thread, please visit the Guernica website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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

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