Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Ann Ireland

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April 30, 2013 - Ann Ireland is Open Book: Toronto's May 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Ann tells us her chief characteristic, the qualities she admires most in people and her dream of happiness.

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?
Someone grabbing the Internet from my tight little fist.

What is your idea of misery?
Spending too much time and energy fretting about future events and situations that will likely never come to pass.

Where would you like to live?
Right where I live.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Looks you in the eye.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Is curious about the lives of others.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
I don’t think of faults as being faults.

What is your greatest extravagance?

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
I doubt they are faults at all — just characteristics.

What do you value most about your friends?
That they like me.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?l
Lack of curiosity about others and the world around them.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Self involved. World sometimes stops at my nose.

What is your favourite virtue?
Generous spirit.

What is your favourite occupation?
Writing, when it’s going well; hiking the hills of Berkeley with a friend; lifting off on an airplane to anywhere.

What would you like to be?
Here. Wherever that is.

What is your favourite colour?
Sea-green merging to blue.

What is your favourite flower?
The first one I see in the melting snow.

What is your favourite bird?
Cardinal — because it always startles.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Colette; she never quit.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Colette, Jeanette Winterson, Alice Munro, Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles.

Who are your favourite poets?
Pablo Neruda, Phil Hall, Roo Borson, Michael Ondaatje, Lorine Niedecker, Anne Carson.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents.

Who is your favourite painter?
James Ensor.

Who is your favourite musician?
Guy Clark, Pablo Casals, Renee Fleming.

What is your favourite food?

What is your favourite drink?

What are your favourite names?
Thomas Patrick.

What is it you most dislike?

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
To sing in tune!

How do you want to die?
Painlessly, with all my marbles and with my boots on.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Finding a place in the world.

What is your motto?
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily/ Life is But a Dream.

Read more Proust Questionnaires with Canadian authors in Open Book's Archives.


I wonder all the time about whether I am being too self-involved. :) arrgh! emoticons. whatya gonna do?

Yeah lack of curiosity is a big turn off.

"Finding a place in the world"... that is really nice to hear.

Interesting questions. I'm curious why you make a difference between men and women and the qualities you admire in each gender. Men have to look you in the eye, but women just have to do what comes naturally: be curious about the lives of those around them.

As to the questionnaire revealing one's true nature...would your answers (and mine) be different depending on time of day, day of the week, or how many glasses of wine you (we) had downed? I wonder.

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