Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Dalton Higgins

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Dalton Higgins

Dalton Higgins is a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and journalist. He is Canada’s foremost expert on hip hop culture. In addition to writing numerous articles for Canadian and US print and on-line magazines, he is the author of Hip Hop World (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi) and co-author of Hip Hop (Thomson Nelson) and Much Master T: A VJ’s Journey (ECW Press). As a broadcaster, Dalton has hosted his own TV show and has appeared as a pundit on every major Canadian network, including CBC Radio One's Metro Morning. You can visit Dalton at his blog.

His most recent book, Fatherhood 4.0: iDad Applications Across Cultures (Insomniac Press) launches this coming Tuesday, Nov. 2 at Beit Zatoun on Markham St. See our Events page for more details.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Dalton tells us his idea of misery, his greatest extravagance, his favourite poets 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.

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What is your dream of happiness?
The Toronto Maple Leafs and (insert name of every Toronto pro sports franchise here) actually making the playoffs. It’s still okay to dream, ain’t it? And my family enjoying good health. Not in this particular order.

What is your idea of misery?
Being forced to watch full day repeat episodes of Jersey Shore. With Eminem playing in the backdrop. In the wilds of Ajax.

Where would you like to live?
In Africa or the Annex.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
His innate ability to be clueless, when it most counts.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Her ability to stomach said cluelessness (and idiocy) out of respect for Her fellow species.

What are your chief characteristics?
Cerebral and scattered. The latter trait is to be blamed on my being a product of the MTV Generation. And Twitter too. Any written entry that comes in to me at over 25 words is a problem.

What is your principal fault?
I am information overloaded. With no ideas in sight on how to rid oneself of the waste products (read: Snooki from Jersey Shore, and CBC’s The Tudors).

What is your greatest extravagance?
The freedom to relentlessly diss Maroon 5 in the blogosphere, over digital cable lines. And Kenny G (and Katy Perry too!).

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Bad grammar, even worse syntax. Speaking and writing coherently is soooo 90s.

What do you value most about your friends?
That they make some (feeble) attempts to understand the sheer unpredictability of it all, of me. Even when I’m dreader than dread.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
That us humanoids don’t spend enough time healing ourselves. Hurt people, hurt people.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
That I have low to no tolerance for B.S., deceit and trickery. And why should I? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? Well, I'm the only one here…

What is your favourite virtue?
It’s my vices that y’all (and Proust) should be more concerned with, because they undermine my virtues!

What is your favourite occupation?
Free thinker. No pay, even less benefits. Much like a free jazz musician.

What would you like to be?
A spiritualist nicknamed Daltpak Chopra (a black, David Chappelle-inspired version of Deepak). But with more booty.

What is your favourite colour?
Black. I love being, and wearing black. And I’m not goth either. You normals might not get this.

What is your favourite flower?
Callistemon citrinus. University and community college is good, motha funker.

What is your favourite bird?
Blue Jays, because I have to be hopeful about something related to this dayum bird. The Toronto sports team that carries this bird's name ain’t never gonna make the playoffs. Is there another question about misery somewhere in this questionnaire?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Paul Robeson. A genuine renaissance man and high achieving actor, singer, athlete, lawyer and social activist who remained true to his belief systems…he was committed to dismantling the shitstems, like I am now.

What character in history do you most dislike?
That colonizer dude named Chris (Columbus) who took all of these silly fateful voyages and ruined it for everybody.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Sorry, but you have not lived until you’ve read some W.E.B Dubois.

Who are your favourite poets?
Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Mutabaruka. And the Notorious B.I.G too.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The unnamed protagonist in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Dude was rendered socially invisible, like many African Canadians and First Nations folk of today, and was still able to try to make sense out of it all.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The Most High, the ancestors, the elders, my mom, dad, brother, wife, my eleven-year-old daughter, Shiloh, and four-year-old son, Solomon, the family dentist, extended Bell and Higgins familia and a few select friends (the ones who consciously put up with this mess).

Who is your favourite painter?
Jean-Michel Basquiat. His neo-expressionist style speaks to my pop culture obsessed, schizoid style(s) of wordplay.

Who is your favourite musician?
Miles Davis. Peter Tosh. Robert Johnson. Jay Electronica, amongst modern day rappers. Though he said some incredibly sexist and juvenile things at his debut Toronto performance a number of weeks ago. So he’s walking (rapping?) on eggshells, and might get expunged from my laptop. It’s sometimes hard to separate the medium from the message.

What is your favourite food?
Please refer to my wife Karen’s cooking playbook. And anything from Lalibela Ethiopian resto. Though their customer service, or lack thereof, really bites.

What is your favourite drink?
H2O. Guava juice. And Heineken (like most Jamaicans).

What are your favourite names?
Muhammad. Because its has such a rich, deep meaning, is prophetic, and it sounds dope in a hip hoppy kinda way. And my kids names (Shiloh, Solomon), because they, uhh, have such a rich, deep meaning and sound dope in a hip hoppy kinda way!

What is it you most dislike?
When human beings live up to their reputation as being the cancers of the earth. Being unfair to someone because you dislike their race, religion, creed or incredibly tight (Hercules and Love Affair-inspired) jeans is simply Gawd-awful. Witnessing the scourge of the earth commit such pathetic racist, sexist, xenophobic, misanthropic acts is even worse.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to answer Proustian questionnaires with some semblance of clarity and order.

How do you want to die?
Drinking really cheap bubbly on my (imagined) mansion on a yacht, off the seas of St. Kitts. Listening to Dead Prez and The Abyssinians.

What is your current state of mind?
The Tea Party are gaining traction, so, not so good.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The fact that I’ve been able to answer this Proust questionnaire with no semblance of clarity and order.

What is your motto?
Well, its not mine, I have to give some attribution, or I’ll get sued, but “I am the internet, and I am the winternet, and you ain’t seen nothing yet” — Dalton Scratch Perry

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For more information about Fatherhood 4.0: iDad Applications Across Cultures, please visit the Insomniac Press website.

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

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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