Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Frank Viva

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Frank Viva

Frank Viva is a Governor General's Literary Award nominated author, whose latest book is the gorgeously-illustrated picture book adventure A Long Way Away (HarperCollins Canada). Readers can travel from outer space to the depths of the ocean by reading one way, or reverse the journey by reversing the book. Both readings are equally magical and Frank's innovative storytelling will charm readers of all ages.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Frank tells Open Book about forgetfulness, his least favourite late night host and an imagined but spectacular end over the Scarborough Bluffs.

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?
To spend the entire summer at our little island getaway on Stoney Lake. With no email connection, I'd let each day unfold — a bit of reading, cooking, swimming and puttering in the boathouse. I'd think about needed repairs but never get around to it. I'd come up with new ideas for picture books and do a bit of sketching and writing. Good friends would come up on weekends — we'd watch clouds rolling by from the dock and take long afternoon snoozes — the kind where you drool.

What is your idea of misery?
Shopping in a mall or a big box store.

Where would you like to live?
Toronto.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Knowledgeable about cheeses.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
A good appetite.

What is your chief characteristic?
It depends who you ask. I'd say curiosity. My wife would say forgetfulness.

What is your principal fault?
I forget.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My antique two-seater Fiat (mid-life crisis).

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Forgetfulness, intolerance, curiosity and various extravagances brought on by a mid-life crisis.

What do you value most about your friends?
Keeping me grounded and helping me to remember.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Forgetfulness, unwarranted curiosity and self-loathing.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
All of them.

What is your favourite virtue?
The ability to forgive and forget (mainly forget).

What is your favourite occupation?
Sailor.

What would you like to be?
Dogcatcher.

What is your favourite colour?
This changes every day.

What is your favourite flower?
Edelweiss (also the song).

What is your favourite bird?
Anything from the pecker family.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Venus on the half-shell.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Jay Leno.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Kurt Vonnegut, J. P. Donleavy, Harold Pinter — those guys.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Mr. Natural.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Paul Krugman.

Who is your favourite musician?
Bob Dylan.

What is your favourite food?
Bread.

What is your favourite drink?
Wine.

What are your favourite names?
Lorenzo, Aldo, Bilbo — anything ending in o.

What is it you most dislike?
Short responses.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Oboe.

How do you want to die?
The doctor tells me I have something incurable and that I only two weeks to live. I rent a mint condition Jag E-Type and drive it over the Scarborough Bluffs.

What is your current state of mind?
Frustration.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Friday.

What is your motto?
Perfectly odd.


Frank Viva runs a branding and design agency in Toronto. He is a cover artist for The New Yorker, sits on two college advisory boards, and is past president of the Advertising & Design Club of Canada. His first picture book, Along a Long Road, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and named one of The New York Times’ 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011, School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2011 and Toronto Public Library’s First & Best for 2011.

For more information about A Long Way Away please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

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

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

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