Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Sachiko Murakami

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Sachiko Murakami

Sachiko Murakami's first collection of poetry, The Invisibility Exhibit (Talonbooks 2008), was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She has been a literary worker for numerous journals and organizations and is a past member of the Kootenay School of Writing collective. She lives in Toronto where she co-hosts the Pivot reading series with Angela Hibbs.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Sachiko talks about the importance of being cozy (with hot buttered toast at your side), why she doesn't like picking favourites, what she values about her friends 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?
Ocean-side (Pacific). Sun-warmed pine sap scent on a breeze. Fresh, cold sheets. Hot buttered toast.

What is your idea of misery?
Underslept frantic rush to office.

Where would you like to live?
I lived for a year on Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands in BC. I am still kicking myself for leaving.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Sharp wit and gentle humility.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Sharp wit and gentle humility.

What is your chief characteristic?
How I see me? Ridiculousness. How others see me? No idea.

What is your principal fault?
Overworrying.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Conducting my business from bed. With toast.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
I delight in and encourage human faultiness. Well-adjusted people scare the hell out of me.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their willingness to laugh at my bad jokes. Long, comfortable silences.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Disregard for others.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Disregard for others.

What is your favourite virtue?
Coziness. The most overlooked virtue. To comfort and be comforted.

What is your favourite occupation?
If by “occupation” you mean “activity”: pirating with my toddler nephew. If by “occupation” you mean “work”: supporting my literary fellows.

What would you like to be?
Serene.

What is your favourite colour?
Mauve (Vancouver’s North Shore mountains at sunset: somehow mauve and gold at once).

What is your favourite flower?
Sweetpea! The most darling of plants. I like how it tends toward weediness, too.

What is your favourite bird?
Herons, probably; seeing them always feels like a treat. Monks on the shore.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Is the Dalai Lama historical yet?

What character in history do you most dislike?
Is “character in history” different than “historical figure”?

Who are your favourite prose authors?
I’m fickle. I spent the past week re-reading all the Nicola Barker novels I have. Surreal, creepy, deeply cozy.

Who are your favourite poets?
Agonizing! Impossible! For a start, a.rawlings, Angela Hibbs, Margaret Christakos, Sina Queyras, Daphne Marlatt, Rachel Zolf and hmm, a poet neither Canadian nor female: Ben Lerner.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
There are heroes in fiction?

Who are your heroes in real life?
Juniper (my dog). Kimiko (my sister). Judah (my nephew). They make me feel possible.

Who is your favourite painter?
What’s with this obsession with favourites? When I was little I’d have this fantasy. My special teddy bears (Magic Teddy and Tiny Tiny Teddy) would be on one pillar, and my immediate family on another, and the devil would make me choose which ones would be cast into the lake of fire. I’d lie in bed pleading not to be forced to make Sachi’s Choice. This questionnaire is bringing all these feelings back. I should probably mention this to my therapist.

Who is your favourite musician?
DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE! ...Okay, Morrissey.

What is your favourite food?
Oh, that’s easy. Hot buttered toast.

What is your favourite drink?
This is getting easier. Fizzy water. Phew.

What are your favourite names?
I’ve always said that if I were to have a girl, I’d name her Roxanne. I think Roxanne Murakami sounds awesome. A novelist’s name. Or an avant-garde stripper. I tried to change my name to Roxy (after the good Misfit from Jem and the Holograms) in second grade. (Around the time of the “don’t make me choose” fantasy).

What is it you most dislike?
Slow, foot-dragging walkers, somnambulating four abreast when I have Somewhere Important to Go.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Perfect pitch.

How do you want to die?
With a book left open on my lap and a cup of tea going slowly cold nearby.

What is your current state of mind?
Anxious (about more “favourite” questions).

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Managing to keep a pet alive for nine years.

What is your motto?
“Stop judging me!”

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For more information about The Invisibility Exhibit, please visit the Talon Books 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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