Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Susan Glickman

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Susan Glickman (photo credit: Nancy Shanoff)

It's quite a year for Toronto writer Susan Glickman! This spring sees the publication of both her most recent collection of poetry, The Smooth Yarrow (Vehicule Press), and her third book for children, Bernadette to the Rescue (Second Story Press). If that weren't enough, in the fall, Cormorant Books will publish her second adult novel, The Tale-Teller. Impressively indefatigable, Susan took the time to chat with Open Book and share her responses to the infamous Proust Questionnaire.

In her answers, Susan tells Open Book about her favourite letter, a delicious way to die and her greatest accomplishment.

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?
Not having to worry about money.

What is your idea of misery?
Having to worry about money.

Where would you like to live?
I like where I live, in a tall skinny old house in a friendly Toronto neighbourhood with as many dogs as trees. But I would love to be able to travel more often; not just travel through places but actually live in them for months at a time. Also, every summer I yearn to be beside/in/on a lake, but I don’t always get there.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Honesty and humour.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Honesty and humour.

What is your chief characteristic?
Enthusiasm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is your principal fault?
Anxiety, the frenetic version of the same corrosive darkness which in slow motion becomes despair.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying presents.
What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Tardiness.
What do you value most about your friends?
Their love.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Cruelty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Self-consciousness.

What is your favourite virtue?
Kindness.

What would you like to be?
Taller. But failing that, “respected for my writing” will do just fine.

What is your favourite bird?
The chickadee. Chickadees always make me happy, especially when I’m cross-country skiing and they are having a cheerful conversation in a pine-forest. Also as a word-person, I am amused that they say their own name, a fact I learned from the Audubon bird identification tapes that I like to listen as a form of meditation in city traffic.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
At the moment, John Banville, Helen Dunmore, David Mitchell, Andrea Barrett, Peter Carey and Alice Munro, but ask me again next week and I will probably make a different list.

Who are your favourite poets?
At the moment, Robert Hass, Don McKay, Yehuda Amichai, CK Williams and Karen Solie, but again, this list changes day to day.

Who is your favourite painter?
Tom Thompson.

Who is your favourite musician?
Martha Argerich.

What is your favourite food?
Tart crisp apples with sharp and crumbly old cheddar cheese.

What is your favourite drink?
Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

What are your favourite names?
Nebuchadnezzar and Hephzibah. My favourite place-name in England is Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and my favourite road sign in Quebec is the exit for St. Zotique and St. Polycarpe west of Montreal. Looking at what I just wrote, I see I have a fetish for the letter “z”. Make of that what you will.

What is it you most dislike?
Feeling helpless.

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

How do you want to die?
Of a surfeit of raspberries.

What is your current state of mind?
Baffled.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
That I haven’t given up yet.

What is your motto?
“Have nothing about you that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris)


Susan Glickman gardens, makes soup, walks the dog, works as a freelance editor and teaches Creative Writing at Ryerson University and U of T. The Smooth Yarrow, her sixth collection of poetry with Véhicule, comes out in the spring of 2012. Her second novel, The Tale-Teller, follows in the autumn; her first, The Violin Lover (2006), won the Canadian Jewish Fiction Award and was named one of the year’s top 100 books by the National Post. She is also the author of the “Lunch Bunch” children’s books, and of The Picturesque & the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape.

For more information about The Smooth Yarrow please visit the Vehicule Press website.

For more information about Bernadette to the Rescue please visit the Second Story Press 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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