Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Pearl Pirie

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Pearl Pirie

Pearl Pirie blogs at pesbo, Humanyms and a few other places. She photographs literary events and organizes workshops for the Tree Reading Series, one of Canada's longest-running literary events.

Her poems have appeared in Dandelion, ditch, Dusie, PRECIPICe, 1cent, Ottawater and This Magazine. She has chapbooks with AngelHouse Press (over my dead corpus, 2010) and above/ground press (boathouse, 2008). She launches her new book, been shed bore, published by Chaudiere Books, on Sunday, Nov. 7 at the Dusty Owl Reading Series in Ottawa. See Open Book: Ontario's Events page for more details..

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Pearl tells us her greatest extravagance, her motto, her idea of misery 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.


What is your dream of happiness?
For everyone I love to love one another.

What is your idea of misery?

Where would you like to live?
Wherever I am at the moment. Or fantasyland answer: If I could bring friends with me, I know this little 12th-century cottage on a Tuscan mountaintop near Cortona. But that may be winter-jitters talking. It is a small cottage…

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Calm alertness.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Calm alertness.

What is your chief characteristic?
Hair that looks like a tribble about to hop off my head and gallop for cover with the dusty bunnies? Naw, you'd have to ask someone else for that one.

What is your principal fault?
Please don't ask someone else. Or, distractabi—

What is your greatest extravagance?
Time dawdling, but it's rewarding.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
The things that are my strengths.

What do you value most about your friends?
The varied perspectives and the hugs. (Likewise, if I have to choose between two books, the perfect solution is getting them both.)

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Argyle, but mercifully the fashion is progressing its way to the department store's baby girl aisle, which means it won't be back for 30 more years.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Mislaying things. I'd have an entire extra lifetime at my disposal if I could get back the years of looking for lost whatevers. Back when I taught ESL the first "word" some learned from me was whereismybook? Book, chalk, pen eventually were deduced as being affixes. English grammar appeared more similar to Inuktituk than it is.

What is your favourite virtue?
For Aurelius Clemens Prudentius the Seven Heavenly Virtues were charity, diligence, patience, chastity, temperance, kindness and humility. They all have their sticky downside, don't they? I want them all, but charity, as defined as rightful action coming from the will, seems an area to press for growth.

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?

What is your favourite colour?
Cobalt blues. I used to buy clothes in that colour even if it didn't fit or never would. The colour range is energizing.

What is your favourite flower?
That which could bloom.

What is your favourite bird?
More importantly, where. In the bush.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Mahatma Gandhi for his faith in symbolism, minimal force and constant pressure.

What character in history do you most dislike?
To take a page from Gabriel Gudding, “The older I get, the less interested I become in disliking things.”

Who are your favourite prose authors?
John Lavery, Stuart Ross, Steve Venright and Kelley Armstrong.

Who are your favourite poets?
Hm, off-the-top, always happy to re-read: Monty Reid, Kay Ryan, nathalie stephens, Stephen Brockwell, Daphne Marlatt, Tomas Transtromer, Anne le Dressay, Matsuo Bashō, Sheila E. Murphy, derek beaulieu, Sandra Ridley, Joseph Massey and Lorine Neidecker.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Captains Janeway and Picard.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The bus drivers and clerks who make lives easier and smoother. And rob mclennan, who has wellsprings of energies that defy physics and biology.

Who is your favourite painter?
Meaghan Haughian composes painting I can hear.

Who is your favourite musician?
(Shrug) I can hardly tell my muzak from my music.

What is your favourite food?
Fresh off the plant, still perfumed, warm from the sun. When that's not happening, 70% (and upwards) chocolate.

What is your favourite drink?
Tapwater, slightly cooler than tepid.

What are your favourite names?
Chris, Alex, Sonal, Meredith, Thane, Laithe, Bo (Romani, Swedish, Chinese or English), and Noor.

What is it you most dislike?
Sudden loud noises or motions.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Wouldn't unnatural ones be more interesting? Like flipping into being fungal mycelia and communicating through electrical and chemical signals with that collective?

How do you want to die?
Under the delusion of no regrets.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Did you laugh? (There.) You didn't? (Accomplishments still to come.)

What is your motto?
Why not.


For more information about been shed bore please visit the Chaudiere Books 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.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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