Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Edward Nixon

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Edward Nixon

Though The Fissures of Our Throats (Guernica Editions) is Edward Nixon's first full length collection, Edward is a well-known figure in the Toronto literary community, curating the popular Livewords reading series and publishing four previous chapbooks of his work. So it comes as no surprise that his collection has already made an impact, with fellow writers praising it for its confidence and playfulness. Of The Fissures in Our Throats, poet Jim Johnstone said "[it's] pitch perfect, singing with a fully formed voice".

Today we speak to Edward as he takes on our version of the Proust Questionnaire, where he gives Open Book a great hypothetical scene as his version of happiness, a list of favourite drinks that makes us thirsty and one very smart motto en Français.

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?
In the evening on the terrace the light is slow-fading blue-orange to indigo-black, out on the bay we see sails unfurled as boats nudge against the tide toward their darkening berths, waves curl and uncurl, and someone gently asks if we’d like another glass of Veuve Clicquot,

What is your idea of misery?
Listening to someone explaining why The Fountainhead is such an important book, as the band plays Rush covers, while being forced to consume pork rinds and Blue.

Where would you like to live?
I love Toronto, though I think New York would make a fine alternative.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Imagination. Intelligence. A fine-tuned irony. Honesty. A capacity for gentleness.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Imagination. Intelligence. A fine-tuned irony. Honesty. A capacity for gentleness.

What is your chief characteristic?
Extrovert.

What is your principal fault?
Not suffering fools gladly.

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

What do you value most about your friends?
Loyalty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Lack of curiosity.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Impatience.

What is your favourite virtue?
Love.

What is your favourite occupation?
My day job ain’t bad.

What would you like to be?
Old and healthy enough to enjoy the view from there.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue.

What is your favourite flower?
Without the rose we can’t do it.

What is your favourite bird?
Osprey.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Thomas Paine

What character in history do you most dislike?
Plato.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
A selection: Samuel Beckett. Anton Chekov. Don DeLillo. Albert Camus. John LeCarre. Doris Lessing. Alice Munro. Michael Ondaatje.

Who are your favourite poets?
A selection: John Ashbery. W.H. Auden. Nicole Brossard. Anne Carson. T.S. Eliot. bpNichol. Frank O’Hara. Phylls Webb. William Carlos Williams.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Pip. Godot. Anna Wulf. George Smiley. The little dog. A friend of my youth.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I don’t think there heroes in real life just people who do the heroic when they must, when they can. I’d say my mother demonstrated heroism many times during her long life.

Who is your favourite painter?
3-way tie: Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Gerhard Richter.

Who is your favourite musician?
3-way tie: John Coltrane. Leonard Cohen. Patti Smith.

What is your favourite food?
Sockeye Salmon with a side of lightly steamed cooked broccoli.

What is your favourite drink?
A tie: Champagne. Niagara Baco Noir. Coffee. & a new fave: Barking Squirrel.

What are your favourite names?
Astrida. Arabella. Lalo. Margot.

What is it you most dislike?
Cruelty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to sing.

How do you want to die?
In my own bed at dawn, with my family beside me.

What is your current state of mind?
Pretty damn fine thanks.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Co-parenting my son from infancy to university.

What is your motto?
Toujours prêt.


Edward Nixon was born and grew up in British Columbia. Since 1984 he has lived in Toronto and is the proud father of a 19-year-old son. Having stumbled inconclusively in the thorny woods of academe, Edward currently toils in the private sector as the founder and Managing Partner of EN Consulting Group, a boutique public outreach consultancy located at the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto. He has hosted and curated the monthly Toronto reading series Livewords since 2008. He is the author four poetry chapbooks – Nights in the City of the Dead, Arguments for Breath, Free Translation and Instructions for Pen and Ink. The Fissures of Our Throats is his first full collection.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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