Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Laura Marello

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Laura Marello

The Tenants of Hotel Biron (Guernica Editions) is Laura Marello's brand new novel. Set at the turn of the twentieth century in the glamorous, titular Parisian hotel, the book relates fictional experiences amongst real life artists, including Auguste Rodin.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Laura tells Open Book about Matisse in Nice, her greatest extravagance and Buzzy the parakeet.

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?
For myself: Living on the beach and devoting time to writing without other work obligations. I would need my two cats Cooper and Chloe, a husband or life partner, a pool or swimming beach.

What is your idea of misery?
For myself: Not living on the ocean and not having time to write. Being away from my cats Chloe and Cooper, or family. Living without a life partner or companion. Being in constant physical pain. Being constantly fearful.

Where would you like to live?
On the coast in Santa Cruz, Davenport or Elk (Mendocino County) California; on the coast near or in Nice, France; Eze France, Portofino or the Amalfi Coast; Santorini, Paros or an island in the Cyclades; the Villa Ephrussi in the south of France; in a botanical garden or large greenhouse; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard; Provincetown, Truro or Wellfleet on Cape Cod; Rapa Nui or Bora Bora; Hyeres or Capri; Mallorca; Venice, Italy; Paris, France.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kindness, honesty, trustworthiness and respect for women.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and respect for women.

What is your chief characteristic?
Intensity.

What is your principal fault?
Fear.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Being a writer.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Fear. Cowardice, impatience.

What do you value most about your friends?
Kindness, generosity, honesty, fidelity, trustworthiness, warmth.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Meanness, hurtfulness, self delusion.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Fear.

What is your favourite virtue?
Compassion, kindness.

What is your favourite occupation?
Being Matisse in Nice when Matisse was in Nice, pearl diver in the Society Islands, (continued below).

What would you like to be?
Matisse in Nice; owner of the villa Ephrussi in St. Jean Cap de Feret; pearl diver in the Society Islands; Lighthouse Keeper at Pt. Pinos Light in Monterey; Customs Inspector on the Cote des Douaniers in Brittany, scuba diver; marine biologist specializing in sea otters at the Monterey Bay aquarium; marine biologist specializing in dolphins at the Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz; a wildlife photographer for National Geographic; a surfer, ocean swimmer and sailor in Santa Cruz; a windsurfer in Davenport California; a wine maker in Elk California; an archaeologist in the Cyclades; a saxophone player.

What is your favourite colour?
A light gray-blue for interior walls, coral for clothing, orange for the inside of a Mt. Mary’s backpacking tent at high altitude or camping on the beach in Goleta, pale yellow for my bedroom, silver for sports cars, taupe — but for what? Most oil paint colors for the sounds of the words (ochre, sienna, cobalt, alizar crimson, etc) .

What is your favourite flower?
Peony, the ones people give me, the orchids and jack in the pulpits you discover while walking in the woods in Provincetown.

What is your favourite bird?
Buzzy, a beloved parakeet who often said, Orange juice, please; I would like some orange juice, please.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Herodotus, whoever painted the animals on the caves at Chauvet and whoever created the Nasca Lines.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Herodotus, Italo Calvino, Julio Cortazar, Herman Broch, Shakespeare and Robert Musil, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Jane Bowles, Christine de Pizan, Marguerite Yourcenar, Nelida Pinon, Maryse Condé and Jeannette Winterson.

Who are your favourite poets?
Mary Oliver, Cynthia Zarin, C.P. Cavafy.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The Man Without Qualities, Bartelby the Scrivener, Xantippe, Jake Barnes, Don Quixote, though none are heroes.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother, my sister, and my great aunt.

Who is your favourite painter?
Matisse, Modigliani, van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Helen Frankenthaler.

Who is your favourite musician?
Erik Satie, Samuel Barber, Debussy, Ravel, Joni Mitchell.

What is your favourite food?
Chocolate.

What is your favourite drink?
Sportea.

What are your favourite names?
Amelie, Gabriella, Sandro.

What is it you most dislike?
Fear and cruelty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
To be a great painter or composer.

How do you want to die?
Peacefully, in my sleep.

What is your current state of mind?
Amused.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
To still be alive.

What is your motto?
When something difficult or challening happens, try to learn something from it that will help you become a better person.


Laura Marello is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and a Fine Arts Work Center Provincetown Fellowship. She has enjoyed writer's residencies at MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Millay Colony, Montalvo Center for the Arts and the Djerassi Foundation. Laura Marello grew up in New York and Los Angeles, and has lived most of her adult life in northern California.

For more information about Tenants of the Hotel Biron please visit the Guernica Editions website.

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

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with great Canadian writers.

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