Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Micah Toub

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Micah Toub

Micah Toub, author of the just-released Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks (Random House, 2010), grew up in Denver, Colorado and now resides in Toronto. Formerly associate editor of the men's magazine Toro, he now writes a biweekly column on relationships from a male point of view for The Globe and Mail. He has contributed to a variety of magazines including The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Report on Business, Azure’s Designlines, and Quill and Quire. He received a National Magazine Award in Personal Journalism for an article that appeared in Toro. Visit his website at www.micahtoub.com.

Growing up Jung is in stores today.

Read an excerpt published in The Globe and Mail here.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Micah tells Open Book about his defining characteristic, his idea of misery, his secret favourite colour and more.

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?
My dream of happiness has always been that I perpetually healthy, my writing comes easy, flowing out of my fingers like a waterfall of nectar, and that I am persistently and blissfully content with someone I love, with whom I have no conflicts whatsoever. I realized recently this dream actually would be really boring and maybe the closest thing to being dead. So, I’m currently seeking a new dream. Got one?

What is your idea of misery?
Shopping for furniture.

Where would you like to live?
I would like to live in a place where the ocean is in front of my house and the mountains are behind. I took a road trip around the States a while back and looked into land near Big Sur, California. It’s really expensive!

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Adventurous, intellectual, funny, kind, strong handshake.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Adventurous, intellectual, funny, kind, strong handshake and great legs.

What is your chief characteristic?
With a running start, I can jump over a park bench—lengthwise—and I do this often.

What is your principal fault?
I can’t tell you that. I have many faults, but I secretly use them to my advantage. Maybe one of those faults is that I can be a bit secretive.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I go for long streaks where I don’t make my own breakfast.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Ignorance. In fact, I don’t even really consider ignorance a fault so much as a circumstance. I’ve witnessed people who pooh-pooh somebody because they don’t know something and my opinion is that everybody knows as much as anybody else—they just know different things. So if somebody doesn’t know something or if I don’t know something, I think it should just be considered an opportunity for education. (Granted, some people don’t take the opportunity… but just as bad is people who turn away from someone who wants to learn). Knowledge elitism makes me very angry!

What do you value most about your friends?
I value different things in each friendship, but overall, my closest friends are people who are willing to tell me when I do something that upsets them and are also willing to give me a lot of hugs.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
People who TALK EXTREMELY LOUDLY because they think what they’re saying is SO important or because they want everyone to hear. Of course, knowing a little bit about Jungian psychology as I do, I know this is an aspect of my “Shadow,” a part of myself that I need to grow more comfortable with. Are you listening to me!?

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
If I talk to someone a lot, I start sounding like them a little bit. I feel a little guilty or ashamed of this. I’m afraid they’re going to suddenly yell, “Stop talking like me!” And then I’ll say “I’m sorry” exactly how they would.

What is your favourite virtue?
Being able to do things that are personally scary to do.

What would you like to be?
I would like to be a writer who can sometimes transform himself into a bird of prey. I would also like to be able to time travel. Is that asking too much?

What is your favourite colour?
My favourite colour rotates, though it has been blue for a while now. My “secret favourite colour,” a term I coined when I was a child, has always been yellow.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Off the top of my head, I would say one of them would be Oscar Wilde. I admire people who are willing to challenge idiotic restrictions and oppressions of their time.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Besides Hitler? Hmmmm… People like Strom Thurmond or Ted Haggard (I realize he’s not exactly “historical”) —people who, quite the opposite of people like Oscar Wilde, hypocritically strike out against something because it’s popular or good for their careers to do so. Elliott Spitzer is another example.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Geoff Dyer, Joan Didion, Damian Tarnapolsky, Michael Chabon, Dostoevsky, Haruki Murakami, Nathan Whitlock, David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy, Kelly Dignan, Bret Easton Ellis, J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Camilla Gibb, etc.

Who are your favourite poets?
W.H. Auden, Ken Babstock, e.e. Cummings, Di Brandt, Percy Shelley, Karen Solie.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The sister and brother from The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who secretly stay overnight in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the protagonist from Catcher in the Rye; Art from Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Same people. (Hey, books are real!)

What is your favourite food?
I have an undying passion for chimichangas.

What is your favourite drink?
I’m in the process still of discovering this. Like many things in life, I like variety I guess. I like Manhattans quite a bit. So intense! On winter days, I like drinking dark, dark beers. I quite like La Fin Du Monde, a beer I discovered when I came to university at McGill. That shit fucks you up fast! And sometimes I’m in that mood.

What are your favourite names?
Jasmin (that’s my niece).

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Ease with public speaking

How do you want to die?
Oh man, do I have to? Okay, fine. I want to die of some respiratory disorder, where it becomes clear that I only have a handful of breaths left. I want to experience each of these last breaths while surrounded by loved ones, until the last one comes, and I let it out. And go.

What is your current state of mind?
I just had my fourth coffee of the day (this isn’t normal for me) so I’m a little bit hyper!!!!!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My latest greatest accomplishment is successfully divorcing while remaining (mostly) sane, and in the meantime remaining friends with my ex.

What is your motto?
300 days of sunshine a year. (This is also Colorado’s motto, the state I’m from. I really like it.)

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For more information about Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks please visit the Random House website.

Buy this book today 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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