Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Cathie Borrie

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Cathie Borrie

Caring for aging parents is a difficult right of passage that many of us will go through at some point in our lives.

The experience is often a struggle, but not without its emotional rewards, as author Cathie Borrie explores in her memoir, The Long Hello (Simon & Schuster Canada). Cathie details the emotional journey of caring for her mother, who was living with Alzheimer’s disease, for seven years. She shares the beautiful and intimate dialogue that develops between them, illuminates on her childhood memories and depicts the struggle to maintain a life outside of her caregiving duties.

Today we speak to Cathie as part of our Proust Questionnaire series, where she tells us about her desire to be a jazz/blues singer, her admiration for Charlotte the spider and peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches.

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?
I dream that when I die I might receive an offer to end up in animal heaven. So I don't eat meat — that seems a prerequisite.

What is your idea of misery?
If I lost, or lived without, a personal consciousness of how I examine and pursue my life.

Where would you like to live?
Where I live now, in North Vancouver, by the sea.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kindness, wit, and an insatiable, curious mind. Courage.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Kindness, wit, and an insatiable, curious mind. Boldness.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Absentmindedness, being judgmental.

What do you value most about your friends?
The ones who embrace this perspective: they know they have one life to live, and live it "truly, madly, deeply!”

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Cruelty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Being judgmental.

What is your favourite virtue?
Benevolence.

What is your favourite occupation?
Writer/Performer.

What would you like to be?
A blues/jazz singer, with a voice like Nina Simone, or Patricia Barber.

What is your favourite colour?
Gray.

What is your favourite flower?
Lady's Slipper, like the ones my gran showed me during summer after dinner walks on Genoa Bay Road, circa 1960.

What is your favourite bird?
The common loon.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
E.B. White's Charlotte.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Judas Iscariot, sort of. Dislike squealers. The notion of betrayal, but also...the opposite of beneficence, of not stepping to the plate, failing to do the right thing, terrifies me. That’s a lot of people.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Anita Brookner, Lydia Davis, Anne Michaels, Harriet Doerr.

Who are your favourite poets?
Yeats, Derek Mahon, Mary Oliver, Rumi.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird.

What is your favourite food?
A peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich on thick multi-grain bread, hold the butter.

What is your favourite drink?
Zinfandel (Cline's, California).

What are your favourite names?
Jules, Winn, Jack, Babs.

What is it you most dislike?
Ignoring personal suffering.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
This shifts over the decades. Right now: singer.

How do you want to die?
Looking over the sea with my favourite playlist blaring through my headphones and a mushy, runty SPCA dog in bed with me.

What is your current state of mind?
Awake, charged, euphoric and peaceful.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Being accepted by the perfect literary agent who found me the perfect publisher.


Cathie Borrie trained as a nurse in Vancouver and holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She also graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in law and she has a Certificate in Creative Writing from the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. She lives in Vancouver.

For more information about The Long Hello please visit the Simon & Schuster Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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