October 23, 2009
Proust Questionnaire (via Vanity Fair)
The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A rambling house in the mountains with a giant kitchen, all of the people I love living within walking distance, kids playing in the backyard, piles of food to cook and eat, time enough to write but not so much time that I lose my motivation.
2. What is your greatest fear?
That I will never be able to express every single, soaring emotion and desire.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Quickness to judge, defensiveness.
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Condescension, especially when directed at children. Arrogance.
5. Which living person do you most admire?
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Food and wine budget, of course!
7. What is your current state of mind?
Nostalgic and peaceful.
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. On what occasion do you lie?
When I’m sick, I don’t tell my mom. (hi Amma!) I used to lie a lot, regularly, about little things and big things, so I’m kind of a stickler with myself now.
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Mah tummy (see #6)
11. Which living person do you most despise?
I can’t name names here, but you’d be appalled at the behaviors of some of the privileged, “educated” parents I’ve met.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Generosity, sense of humor, the ability to be flirtatious without being cheesy.
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Sense of self, intelligence, the ability to wink well.
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I am a verbal tic sponge, so there are dozens I’ve culled from friends & students. The most popular:
That’s so junky!
Oh yes ma’m!
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16. When and where were you happiest?
There are many, many moments I could list—those glowing evenings when you know you are three thousand degrees alive and the world is a gut-wrenchingly, achingly beautiful place.
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
I really wish I had inherited my father’s lovely singing voice.
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
It would be nice if I could be better at relaxing & letting things go.
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My relationships with Jill and my mother. This blog.
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A creature with wings, please.
21. Where would you most like to live?
Pretty happy where I am, but would love to do a stint abroad someday.
22. What is your most treasured possession?
the ring Jill gave me, my Kitchen Aid mixer, all of my books, recordings of my Dad’s voice
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Betraying the ones I love, living a listless life
24. What is your favorite occupation?
Cooking, writing, & teaching all tie.
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m a real big flirt.
26. What do you most value in your friends?
A willingness to reach across the table and eat off my plate. Cheek kisses. Radical honesty and trust. The ability to transform sitting in the same room without talking into the most intimate time of all.
27. Who are your favorite writers?
Dang, this one is the hardest. Philip Pullman, Annie Dillard, Jhumpa Lahiri, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Aimee Bender, Mary Oliver, Anne Carson, George Eliot
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Jo March (Little Women) and Jane Eyre
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
These are my “blender people”—if I could combine them, they’d be some rough approximation of the person I’d like to be:
31. What are your favorite names?
Jill and I once saw a tombstone in Arkansas with the name “Alabama Vaughan” and I have been obsessed ever since.
32. What is it that you most dislike?
Half-hugs. Cockroaches. A sense of entitlement.
33. What is your greatest regret?
That I didn’t tell my dad a million more times how much I love him.
34. How would you like to die?
I don’t care, as long as I die after my mother does.