Proust Questionnaire

I’ve come across reference to the Proust Questionnaire from time to time and wondered about it. It’s something Vanity Fair magazine uses as an interview tool, borrowed apparently from a parlor-game questionnaire that Marcel Proust answered twice in his life, at age 13 and at 20.

Some of the responses to the VF questionnaire over the years that I really like or find interesting follow. Jasper Johns‘ responses are consistently very inspiring, perfectly articulated!

What is your current state of mind? something like very slow panic (Jasper Johns)

What is the trait you most deplore in others? the tendency toward self-description (Jasper Johns)

If you could change one thing about your family,what would it be?
no one thing would do the trick (Jasper Johns)

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Humility, unless you really need it. (Neil Simon)

Which living person do you most despise? He knows who he is. ( Neil Simon)

What is your greatest extravagance? None. A Scottish upbringing is still in control. (John Kenneth Galbraith)

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A lime tree.  (Catherine Deneuve)

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “He’s a big dog, but he’s very friendly.” (David Steinberg)

What is the quality you most like in a woman? Sense of humor and weight problems. (Penny Marshall)

On what occasion do you lie? Who needs an occasion? (Bette Midler)

Who are your favorite writers? T. S. Eliot, Yeats, Joyce—the list goes on. Ayn Rand is not on it. (Donald Sutherland)

What is your current state of mind? Lazy, anxious, and distracted. But I’ve learned to live with it. (Margaret Atwood)

Which talent would you most like to have? The talent I would most like to have is the ability to cloud men’s minds. This was possessed by Lamont Cranston (The Shadow) and various East European stage directors. (David Mamet)

How would you like to die? I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword. (Olivia de Havilland)

How would you like to die? By the river, in Scotland, clutching a good bottle of wine. (Emma Thompson)

What is your motto?: “Always have a good motto.” (George Carlin)

I noticed that most people who aren’t musicians wish they had musical talent.  Both Mia Farrow and Shirley MacLaine want to come back as men.  Both Karl Rove and Mia Farrow say that ‘patience’ is the most over-rated virtue. Both Eric Clapton and Julie Andrews  feel they overuse the same phrase: “Do you know what I mean?”

I thought I’d like to tackle the questions. My responses will appear soon, in another post.

Oct 2009 update: Martha Stewart’s Proust Questionnaire from Nov. 2009 Vanity Fair


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