Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Daniel Karasik

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Daniel Karasik (photo credit: Tim Leyes)

Digital reading continues to evolve as we become comfortable reading on different devices and in different environments — but nothing will change the desire for great, engaging fiction regardless of platform.

Found Press is an innovative digital publisher, offering short stories by some of Canada's most beloved writers, in quarterly bundles of four or as one-off, affordable and convenient literary snacks.

Their most recent season includes 2012 CBC Canada Writes fiction winner Daniel Karasik, whose story The Snake Crosses the Tracks at Midnight features a teenage narrator coming to terms with questions of family, desire and change.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Daniel tells Open Book about his own personal utopia, which Sesame Street character makes it into his favourites section and one very naturalistic life motto.

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?
Creative freedom. An engaged audience. Financial security. Persistent curiosity. Good health. Sexual fulfillment. Love.

What is your idea of misery?
Indifference, my own and others’. Incuriosity. Financial ruin. Sexual starvation. Illness. The absence or disappearance of love.

Where would you like to live?
Somewhere beautiful. Somewhere full of professional opportunity. Somewhere remote and quiet. Somewhere bustling with community. Somewhere with high-quality public health care. Somewhere that appreciates and rewards enterprise. Somewhere whose people are kind and courteous. Somewhere in which the dominant atmospheric quality is passion.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Vulnerability. Ambition. Kindness. Intelligence. Talent.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Strength. Honesty. Kindness. Intelligence. Talent.

What is your chief characteristic?
Desire. All kinds.

What is your principal fault?
Impatience.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Trying to be an artist on a full-time basis.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Impatience. Obsessiveness. Intensity, if that’s a fault.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their emotional intelligence.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Flakiness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Anxiety.

What is your favourite virtue?
Badminton. Oh, wait. Wit.

What is your favourite occupation?
Define occupation. PG-rated: writing.

What would you like to be?
Energized and challenged and optimistic.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue, last time I checked (age 8).

What is your favourite flower?
Hibiscus, because my mom’s part-time jewelery-making company is named after it.

What is your favourite bird?
Big.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Proust (thanks for the questionnaire, P!). Or Michel de Montaigne. Though I wouldn’t want to be either of them.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Disliking the dead seems like a waste of energy.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Marilynne Robinson. J.M. Coetzee. Proust, for my sins.

Who are your favourite poets?
Jack Gilbert. Rilke. Al Moritz. Beckett.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The ones I imagine look like me.

Who are your heroes in real life?
A few of the authors named above: Gilbert, Robinson, Moritz, probably Beckett. And my parents.

Who is your favourite painter?
Turner, maybe. That light.

Who is your favourite musician?
Bach, maybe? Or Lhasa de Sela? Or Amadou and Mariam? I’m bad at choosing favourites.

What is your favourite food?
Risotto’s way up there.

What is your favourite drink?
A perfectly blended smoothie. (When I reread this answer, it inexplicably fills me with alarm.)

What are your favourite names?
The names of the cities in Burkina Faso. Ouagadougou! Bobo Dioulasso! Ouahigouya!

What is it you most dislike?
Meanness.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Magnetism.

How do you want to die?
Peacefully. Old.

What is your current state of mind?
Uncertain and eager. In transition. Reflecting on transitions.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The volume of exceptional people in my life.

What is your motto?
Quack quack.


Daniel Karasik (b. 1986) is the author of three books: The Crossing Guard & In Full Light, a volume of plays (Playwrights Canada Press), The Remarkable Flight of Marnie McPhee, a play for children (Playwrights Canada Press), and Hungry, a poetry collection (Cormorant Books). His plays have been produced professionally across Canada, in the United States, and regularly in translation in Germany. His recent honours include the CBC Literary Award for Fiction, The Malahat Review‘s Jack Hodgins Founders’ Award for Fiction, the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award and Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award. He is also a professional actor and director and artistic director of the Toronto-based independent theatre company Tango Co.

For more information about The Snake Crosses the Tracks at Midnight please visit the Found Press website.

Buy this story or subscribe for more great Canadian short fiction at Found Press.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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