Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book Celebrates Earth Day! The Proust Questionnaire, with Tom Rand

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Tom Rand

Each year, April 22 marks Earth Day, and we at Open Book are excited to celebrate this important day promoting and encouraging sustainable living, responsible consuming and conservation.

We could ask for no more appropriate writer to speak to today than Tom Rand, whose
Waking the Frog: Solutions for Our Climate Change Paralysis (ECW Press) is an accessible and entertaining examination of the psychological and economic factors that have led to our inaction on the issue of climate change — and how we can wake up and change for the better.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Tom tells Open Book about what he loves about his (many) jobs, a very Canadian bird and how we all have the chance to be heroes.

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?
I don’t dream of it, I try to live it. Happiness is a practical satisfaction with meaningful, engaged living. Then hanging out with friends.

What is your idea of misery?
Something much of the world struggles with through poverty, violence and injustice. Misery is real, but it’s often far away.

Where would you like to live?
Where I do now, but always open to a change. I love the country as much as the city, and find a lot of satisfaction when I adapt to the rhythms and complexities unique to a natural setting.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Humanity, empathy, humour.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Humanity, empathy, humour.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
Constant dissatisfaction.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Flying to interesting places, and drinking red wine everyplace. And being selfish with my time.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Anything other than cruelty or close-mindedness.

What do you value most about your friends?
That they know me for who I am. And somehow enjoy it!

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Meanness, cruelty, lack of empathy.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
What I do now; a mixed bag of entrepreneurial investing in killer clean energy technologies, writing books and articles about the bigger picture, talking to engaged audiences and generally trying to monkey with the fossil energy machine.

What would you like to be?
Myself, only less dissatisfied.

What is your favourite colour?
Bright yellow.

What is your favourite flower?
Can’t beat a sunflower.

What is your favourite bird?
The one in our new logo — the Arctic Tern; strong, independent, Canadian, with lots of endurance.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
The anonymous people who did great things behind the scenes. The nice folks who made a difference, but who history left behind.

What character in history do you most dislike?
There’s an awful lot of them…

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Cormac McCarthy for sure. Philipp Meyer. Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Who are your favourite poets?
Don’t read a ton of poetry — but hard to beat Frost.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Are you kidding? Superman.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Young people today who still believe we can turn the carbon boat around, who work on climate issues with a sense of hope and purpose. That, and anyone brave enough to stand up to tyrants in the face of real and present danger.

Who is your favourite painter?
Rothko and Chagall.

Who is your favourite musician?
John Coltrane.

What is your favourite food?
Falafels and simple italian pastas.

What is your favourite drink?
Red wine.

What are your favourite names?
Ben, Trent, Hugh and Jeremy.

What is it you most dislike?
Fundamentalist religion.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

How do you want to die?
Suddenly, from behind, at a moment not of my choosing.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Not even close to it yet.

What is your motto?
Keep pushing the boulder. Maintain the pressure.

Tom Rand is managing partner of the privately backed MaRS Cleantech Fund, and senior advisor to the MaRS Discovery District. Tom was a successful entrepreneur in the global telecommunications sector, and now focuses his efforts on carbon mitigation as a venture capitalist, author and speaker. His first book, Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, was shortlisted for the White Pine non-fiction award in 2012. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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