In reading Josie's post about this questionnaire on her blog C'est La Vie, I decided to fill out my own answers to the Proust Questionnaire. Apparently this has become a frequent back pages feature in the magazine Vanity Fair, always the answers of a famous person. You can read Normal Mailer's answers here, for example. The "Proust" part refers to the French writer Marcel Proust, who began answering these questionnaires in his teens. The elite in his society enjoyed answering these questionnaires as a way to express their personalities and tastes. Are we much different now? I can tell you that I learned a few things about myself while trying to fill this out.
If you're of a mind to, fill it out yourself, and link back to my post. Cheers! D
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Freedom from worry.
What is your greatest fear?
Dying without accomplishing anything lasting.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
It sounds strange, but I feel an affinity for Metacomet (aka King Phillip), the son of Massasoit (the Wampanoag sachem who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims). He lost everything, but he fought hard to keep the sanctity and culture of his people sound in the face of the onslaught of the white invasion. Someday I'll finish the book I'm working on about him.
Which living person do you most admire?
The Dalai Lama.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My neurotic anxiety. The inability to let things go (much as I try to).
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Restaurants (including Starbucks!)
What is your favorite journey?
Any one that takes me home.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
To spare someone's feelings.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My sagging chin, the result of heredity and weight loss.
Which living person do you most despise?
Wow, it's hard for me to pin that down. I would say any sanctimonious, religious right, Republican who wants to take away the civil rights of the people I love. If I had to name someone, it would be a tie between Dub-Yuh and Cheney.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"You think?" and "you know" – that's all I can think of.
What is your greatest regret?
Not going to college when I was young. But I still finished at age 44.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Paul, my husband of 25 years.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to play the piano the way it sounds in my mind, but I never got that good. I would also have loved to be an athlete, but I never had the stamina or coordination.
What is your current state of mind?
Tense. Waiting for things to go back to normal in my household.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My parents would have loved each other without violence.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Graduating from college, though I was a little tardy in doing so.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Someone's beloved pet. No worries, always living in the present, completely pampered. Another choice would be to come back as a dolphin. They're smart, beautiful, and strong enough to fight a shark.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
This seems like a repeat of the previous question, but I'd have to say a Buddhist monk. Imagine spending your days and nights in serenity, meditating and furthering world peace.
What is your most treasured possession?
It's probably a tie between the pearls my husband gave me or the lovely scarf of my mother's that still smells of her, two years after she has gone.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Once upon a time I was homeless. The wee hours of the morning in which you feel unloved, displaced, cold, hungry, and despondent are the absolute worst. I didn't know what would happen to me, and I was desperately afraid.
Where would you like to live?
Though I've not been there yet, the Mediterranean coast sounds lovely. I'd like to live there in a little villa or on a sailboat.
What is your favorite occupation?
Writer. I wish I could just write and write and write, all the time. It also makes one a keen observer.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Physically, it would have to be my eyes. They are blue/green and change colors depending on what color I'm wearing.
What are the qualities you most like in a man?
Honesty, a sense of humor, chivalry.
What are the qualities you most like in a woman?
A sense of humor, being non-judgmental, being a good listener.
What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty and honesty.
Who are your favorite writers?
John Steinbeck, Flannery O'Connor, Philippa Gregory, Lisa See, Amy Tan, Diana Gabaldon, Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Jane Austen. There are so many more. I am an avid reader.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Sydney Carton, in A Tale of Two Cities. He turns his otherwise worthless life into a supreme sacrifice. I love his final thoughts, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
Who are your heroes in real life?
Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, Abigail Thomas (the last two are very tough ladies, writers to boot)
What are your favorite names?
Ali, Stephanie, Sean, Kate, Joshua, Emilia, Madison.
What is it that you most dislike?
How would you like to die?
As painlessly and non-violently as possible. Bleeding to death or freezing to death let you just fall asleep. Not a bad way to go.
What is your motto?
I believe God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much. (a quote from Mother Teresa).