Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Fraser Sutherland

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June 28, 2011 - Fraser Sutherland is Open Book's July 2011 Writer in Residence. In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Fraser tells us his greatest extravagance, his principal fault, the motto of Clan Sutherland 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?
None. I have an innate ability to convert any bliss to misery.

What is your idea of misery?
Answering questions like this.

Where would you like to live?
The “where” of an ideal environment must involve the “when”: Edwardian London, 1950s New York, 1920s Paris, 1930s Moose Jaw….

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Malicious wit. A sense of humour about women.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Quicksilver sensibility. A sense of humour about herself.

What is your chief characteristic?
Oblivious perverseness.

What is your principal fault?
See above; specifically, a refusal to take anyone seriously.

What is your greatest extravagance?
A container of cowskin with rice and peas at Gerry’s Fast Foods.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Insane generosity. Unappeasable appetites. In cats and dogs, an inability to get out of my way.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their willingness to buy me a meal.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Self-importance crossed with stinginess.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Contrariness for the sake of being contrary. Facially, a nicotine-stained moustache.

What is your favourite virtue?
Kindness, with patience a close runner-up.

What is your favourite occupation?
Are you serious? Sex. No, eating.

What would you like to be?
Something more than a human being, something less than a god.

What is your favourite colour?
Battleship green.

What is your favourite flower?
None. Let’s get rid of the damn things.

What is your favourite bird?
Any member of the parrot family, or any bird that looks like a parrot, like the puffin.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
It’s hard to skip over Jesus Christ.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler is rather dislikeable. I’m not too crazy about Stalin, either.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
By nationality: a tie between Ernest Hemingway and Patricia Highsmith; a three-way tie between Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Muriel Spark; John Glassco for his memoirs.

Who are your favourite poets?
Let’s pull names out of a hat and say Al Purdy, William Blake and Elizabeth Bishop. Shakespeare is overrated.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Any character, like the the hero of Confessions of Zeno, who elaborately doesn’t know what he or she is doing.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Dr. Robert Adler and the engineers at Zenith Radio Corporation, who in 1956 invented the TV remote control.

Who is your favourite painter?
Henri Matisse. But my favourite painting is Velásquez’s Las Meninas.

Who is your favourite musician?
It would have been nice to have heard Johann Sebastian Bach.

What is your favourite food?
Anything that has no bones and is pulled from the sea.

What is your favourite drink?
J & B and soda.

What are your favourite names?
Tabitha and Zenobia.

What is it you most dislike?
Noise, crowds, inedible food.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
After a lifetime of being an auditory Mr. McGoo, good hearing.

How do you want to die?
Out like a light.

What is your current state of mind?
The usual mixture of torpor and anxiety.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
To have attained my present age, despite gluttony, bibulousness, a penchant for accident-prone misadventures, deplorable habits and low standards of personal hygiene.

What is your motto?
The motto of the Clan Sutherland is “Sans peur.”

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