Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Erin Balser

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Erin Balser

Erin Balser is a writer, critic and consultant living in Toronto. A displaced Maritimer, she drinks way too much coffee, spends all her time on the internet, pretends she’s a vegan and writes things. You can find her writing such things at Books@Torontoist, where she’s the senior editor, Bookclub-in-a-Box, where she’s the associate executive director and @booksin140. Her latest project, KIRBC Presents Books in 140 Seconds premiered on YouTube airwaves this spring and her first book, Don't Stop Believin': The Unofficial Guide to Glee, will be published by ECW Press this fall.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Erin tells us where she'd like to live, what she most dislikes, her greatest accomplishment 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" personality.


What is your dream of happiness?
To find a balance between work and play and to love doing both. And drinks on patios.

What is your idea of misery?
Toronto summers.

Where would you like to live?
Yesterday? A farm in Nova Scotia. Today? An apartment in Paris. Tomorrow? Who knows.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Intelligence, sense of humor, ability to not take self too seriously.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Intelligence, sense of humor, ability to not take self too seriously.

What is your chief characteristic?
I’m hilarious.

What is your principal fault?
I think I’m hilarious.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My collection of fashion and photography books.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

What do you value most about your friends?
The ability to both make me laugh and make me think.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Perpetual lateness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My uncanny ability to skew everything to the negative.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
An astronaut.

What is your favourite colour?
Pink, but don’t tell.

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Isabel and Ruben Toledo. But they’re a couple and both alive, so they probably don’t count.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler. (Obviously.)

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Flannery O’Connor, Miranda July, Michael Chabon, David Foster Wallace, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf.

Who are your favourite poets?
TS Eliot, Anne Sexton, WB Yeats, Sylvia Plath

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The Baby Sitters Club.

Who are your heroes in real life?
RuPaul and my grandmother.

Who is your favourite painter?
Right now I’m obsessed with Yayoi Kusama and fashion illustrator René Gruau. But any of the female artist within the abstract expressionist movement will do if I have to pick one all emcompassing painter to define my artistic tastes.

Who is your favourite musician?
My musical knowledge is so limited, answering this question will be embarrasing for all involved.

What is your favourite food?
Chocolate chip muffins. They can be both breakfast and dessert.

What is your favourite drink?
Before noon? Really strong coffee. After noon? Anything alcoholic.

What are your favourite names?
Wackernagel. It’s the last name any first name can be paired with.

What is it you most dislike?
Narrow-minded people and eggs.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to dress myself correctly, fashionably and event-appropriately every day.

How do you want to die?
Dramatically and unexpectedly (but not any time soon).

What is your current state of mind?
Tired and refraining from going all sarcastic on this questionnare.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Not having a “real” job but still being able to make rent each month.

What is your motto?
Don’t f**k it up.


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

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