the Proust questionnaire

I feel like this picture – a little bit distracted – I am sorry

I’ve fallen back on questionnaires before, when inspiration fails me.  This is the Vanity Fair Proust questionnaire, which I always love.  I’m not alone: they recently published a book of them.  I particularly enjoy thinking about my favorite characters in fiction and who my heroes and heroines are.  I’d love to hear any of your answers to these questions – just link to them in the comments!

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Insomnia. Lonely, full of ghosts, and I panic about being tired the next day (preemptive anxiety being a specialty of mine).

Where would you like to live?
Cambridge is pretty good. Other candidates include on campus at Princeton and Palo Alto.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Empty hours, in bed alone with a book and my laptop.  Watching my sleeping children.  A glass of white wine on the rocks on my parents’ back porch in Marion with friends at the end of a long day in the sun.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
The faults of people unsure of their own strength and of their own path.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
The Velveteen Rabbit, many of Raymond Carver’s stoic, hardworking heroes, Phineas in A Separate Peace, Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, the butler in The Remains of the Day.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Joan of Arc, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Georgia O’Keeffe, MLK Jr, June Carter Cash

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
Oprah, Ina May Gaskin, Anne Lamott, anyone engaged in the struggle to live authentically

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Mamah Cheney (Loving Frank), Charity Lang (Crossing to Safety), Lyra (His Dark Materials), Eve (Paradise Lost), Mrs Ramsay (To the Lighthouse), Irina (Three Sisters)

Your favorite painter?
Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe

Your favorite musician?
James Taylor

The qualities you most admire in a man?
Intelligence, strength, and humility. And the ineffable (and rare) ability to make me feel safe.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?
A sense of humor. Not taking her life too seriously. Fearless intelligence, even when it is contrarian. Physical courage & risktaking.

Your favorite virtue?
Patience.  Courage.  Constancy.

Your favorite occupation?
Definitely TBD. Am hopeful I will someday know!  Midwifery, writing, surgery, retailer, magazine editor, and headhunter have all been things I’ve considered.

Who would you have liked to be?
Pretty much anyone more centered and confident than I am!

8 thoughts on “the Proust questionnaire”

  1. I love the characters Stegner creates in Çrossing to Safety’ and ‘Angle of Repose.’ I find myself thinking about them, fictional characters, from time to time.

    I can totally relate on your faults list.

  2. It’s been years since I thought of A Separate Peace, which is weird because I used to teach it all the time. Of all the novels I taught at high school level, I’ve never had students react so viscerally as as they did with ASP. There’s something there–I don’t know if it’s the crushing loss of innocence or the realization that even the finest of us have dark corners, or the betrayal of trust–something about that book just resonates. Very cool glimpse into you, that survey. And now I want a madeline.

  3. I think I would like to live in a house on a very remote beach – some place warm, but not too hot.

    As for fictional heroes – I say Grace from the TV show Saving Grace as well as Brenda Lee Johnson from The Closer. I know, TV not books but these women are real. They have faults and know them but still rise above to be very strong women.

  4. I love this questionaire. I find myself saying “oohhh,” “ahhh,” and “oh yeah, I forgot about them.”

    Phineas, Ina May Gaskin, Mrs. Ramsay, James Taylor, Mark Rothko. Albus Dumbledore. (and I think our husbands much be very similar).

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