Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Jane Eaton Hamilton

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Jane Eaton Hamilton

Fiction writer and poet Jane Eaton Hamilton has risen to many challenges over the years (including capturing the coveted CBC Canada Writes prize not once but twice). Her most recent challenge has been to write about one of the oldest, trickiest subjects a poet can take on — love. In her third collection, love will burst into a thousand shapes (Caitlin Press), Jane touches on the joy and pain of literature's most difficult subject, covering marriage, art, war, children, loss and more.

Author Marnie Woodrow praised the collection, calling it "a book to read and re-read many times... one of the finest poetry collections I have ever read."

Today we're excited to speak to Jane as she takes our version of the Proust Questionnaire. 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.

Jane tells us about a desire to study animal communication, the authors she most loves and her proudest accomplishments, one of which includes being a part of Canadian history.


What is your dream of happiness?

My personal dream of happiness would include a summer cottage, lake swimming, bare feet, canoeing and bonfires, with partner, kids and grandkids.

What is your idea of misery?

Loved ones’ suffering. Animals suffering. Ill health. Poverty. War. Planetary collapse.

Where would you like to live?

I would like to move every year to a new country (and maybe language). France, Spain, Belgium, Morocco, Namibia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Thailand etc.

What qualities do you admire most in a person?

Honesty, integrity, compassion, strength, ferocity used to change the world.

What is your chief characteristic?

I’m kind and funny.

What is your principal fault?

Acute shyness and a blunderous mouth. Gullibility.

What is your greatest extravagance?


What characteristic do you dislike most in others?


What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

Shyness and how it causes me to be unable to articulate. I would like my spirit to be more generous.

What would you like to be?

A wildlife biologist studying animal communication.

What is your favourite flower?


What is your favourite bird?

Birds of paradise and cuckoos for interesting evolutionary adaptations; hornbills, weavers.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

A few are Lorrie Moore, Ray Carver, Toni Morrison, Mavis Gallant, Ethan Canin, Rebecca Brown, Lidia Yuknavitch.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Beverly McLaughlin, Jane Goodall, Malala Yousafzai and the youngsters who are inventing things that will better our world.

Who are your favourite painters?

Suzanne Valadon, Romaine Brooks, Amadeo Modigliani, Egon Shiele.

What is it you most dislike?

Religious fundamentalism of any stripe. Cruelty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

To be able to sing.

How do you want to die?

At home.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Having a small part in changing Canada’s constitution, my books and my kids. [Editor's note: Jane was a litigant in Canada's landmark same sex marriage case]

What is your motto?

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle..." Einstein

Jane Eaton Hamilton is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry. Her book July Nights was shortlisted for the BC Book Prizes and Hunger was shortlisted for the Ferro Grumley Award. Body Rain, her first book of poetry, was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award, and her chapbook, Going Santa Fe, won the League of Canadian Poets Poetry Chapbook Award. She has published in the New York Times, Seventeen magazine, Salon, Numero Cinq, Macleans, the Globe and Mail, The Missouri Review, Ms blog, the Alaska Quarterly Review and many other places.

Jane is also a photographer and visual artist and was a litigant in Canada’s same-sex marriage case. She lives in Vancouver.

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