Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Teva Harrison

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May 31, 2016 - Teva Harrison's unique and powerful graphic memoir In-Between Days (House of Anansi) has been making waves since before it was even published. It began its life as a popular comic series on The Walrus magazine's website, as Teva explored her experience of being diagnosed with cancer at age 37 through her gorgeous, quirky, insightful comics. When it was announced that Teva would be adapting the comics into a book length work fleshed out with essays about her experiences, publications scrambled to add the book to "most anticipated" lists on the strength of Teva's raw voice, irresistible wit, and indomitable spirit. Now the book is here, and we're thrilled to welcome Teva to Open Book today, where she takes our version of the famous Proust Questionnaire.

Teva gives us answers that demonstrate her trademark knack for lush and beautiful description, from her answer about her favourite colour to a personal motto we love. She tells us about her favourite fictional heroes and her splurge items that make us want to swing by for dinner.

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What is your dream of happiness?

Dappled shade. Berries. The sun shining through my beloved’s eyes. Everything in bloom at once, crawling with lazy bees, heavy with pollen. The sound of happy laughter.

What is your idea of misery?

To be rendered idle.

Where would you like to live?

By the sea.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

A sparkling eye, a quick wit and humility.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

Candour, confidence and decisiveness.

What is your chief characteristic?

Questioning.

What is your principal fault?

Crippling indecision about the least important choices.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I always have the loveliest food. I don’t rein myself in. Whether it’s gorgeous groceries or heritage varietals for the garden, I am very extravagant when it comes to food. And I love to share.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

Lateness.

What do you value most about your friends?

Excellent conversation and really good hugs.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Taking credit where it isn’t due.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

Unmitigated worrying.

What is your favourite virtue?

Kindness.

What is your favourite occupation?

Drawing, when it’s actually painting.

What would you like to be?

Myself, for a very long time.

What is your favourite colour?

I could fall endlessly into a sea of blue.

What is your favourite flower?

Nodding campion.

What is your favourite bird?

Whichever is eating at my feeder at any given moment.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

Eleanor Roosevelt.

What character in history do you most dislike?

It seems kind of obvious, but that Hitler was a very bad man.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

James Thurber (when he write for children), Annie Proulx, Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy.

Who are your favourite poets?

Mary Oliver, Anne Carson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Arthur Rimbaud.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

The Little Prince, Joe Kavalier, the Golem, Frankenstein’s monster, Prince Zorn of Zorna.

Who are your heroes in real life?

People who listen to the disadvantaged, speak up for them, and improve their lot.

Who is your favourite painter?

Helen Frankenthaler or Mark Rothko. If I can expand it to include performance and installation art, Matthew Barney.

Who is your favourite musician?

In this moment, I’m going to say Chet Baker. Ask me later for a different answer.

What is your favourite food?

Foraged berries.

What is your favourite drink?

Coconut water. Or Corpse Reviver #2. Depends what you mean by drink.

What are your favourite names?

Petunia, Marigold, Gavriel.

What is it you most dislike?

Casual cruelty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

I wish I could carry a tune.

How do you want to die?

Quietly and a long time from now.

What is your current state of mind?

Tired. Happy. The satisfied peace of the fresh stillness after a storm.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Self control.

What is your motto?

Live like a tornado.


Teva Harrison is a writer and graphic artist. She is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic memoir, In-Between Days, which is based on her graphic series about living with cancer published in The Walrus. It was named one of the most anticipated books of 2016 by the Globe and Mail, which also named the author one of 16 Torontonians to Watch. She has commented on CBC Radio and in the Globe and Mail about her experience. Numerous health organizations have invited her to speak publicly on behalf of the metastatic cancer community. She lives in Toronto.

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