Proust Questionnaire – My Responses

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Walking on the beach at Jekyll Island. Leisurely train travel. Photographing plants. No worries.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Suffering a long and painful death. Violent death. Dying away from home and my dog not being found for days and giving up hope. Violent death for my dog or other loved ones. Having the choice of killing someone else or being killed.  Rape. Dental work. Physical pain, violence and horror in general. And so on.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Cowardice. Ambivalence. Rivalry. Defensiveness. Self-Justification.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cruelty. Defensiveness. Dismissiveness.  Contempt. Disdain. Advice-giving. Subtle aggression.

5. Which living person do you most admire?

I rather admire what I know of Tyne Daly. And, bits of lots of people.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Not working for money.

7. What is your current state of mind?

Anxious, agitated, tired.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Being busy and productive.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

When I think it’s useful, sometimes.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My stomach, since I was a child.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

No one.  There are behaviours and attitudes I wish were extinct: anything deriving from groupthink and mob behaviour, animal cruelty and neglect, the urge to revenge, appropriated grief, manufactured drama.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Knows how to fix things. Resourceful. Resilient.  Makes me laugh.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Knows how to fix things. Resourceful. Resilient.  Makes me laugh.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Good dog!” and I hope to continue to overuse it.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

What:  Maybe sunlight. Also rain.

16. When and where were you happiest?

One instance: Cartwheeling in the street at 2 a.m.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

Spacial reasoning.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d know 5 or 10 languages fluently.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being loving, when I have been.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I hope this won’t happen, but if it does, maybe a grain of sand.

21. Where would you most like to live?

By the ocean, in London, some place exotic, in the southwest U.S., on an island, in a meadow, in a garden, in a beautiful minimalist dwelling, in the Hotel Carlyle — almost any place.

22. What is your most treasured possession?


23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Intolerable suffering, oneself, and witnessing the same in other beings.

24. What is your favorite occupation?

Listening. Noticing. Learning.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

Intellectual and emotional curiosity and intensity.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

Indifference to ego, casual affection, not easily offended or hurt, forgiveness, attentiveness.

27. Who are your favorite writers?

Wallace Stevens, May Sarton, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, James Alison, Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson, PD James, Agatha Christie, Patricia Cornwell.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Melrose Plant. Not a hero but someone I recognise and like.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Possibly Agatha Christie, if she was anything like Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot or both: “There was no unkindness in Miss Marple, she just did not trust people.  Though she expected the worst, she often accepted people kindly in spite of what they were.”  Agatha Christie – An Autobiography

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

Heroes don’t appeal to me.

31. What are your favorite names?

Gemma, Maggie, Sallie, Lucy, Hayden, Nick.

32. What is it that you most dislike?

Weird foods.  Clutter. “Antiques Roadshow.”

33. What is your greatest regret?

Not living in Europe when I was younger and less encumbered.

34. How would you like to die?

Painlessly, happily, with a feeling of peace and well-being. Or: “I’d rather die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers.”

35. What is your motto?

“Recognise what is in your sight, and what is hidden will become clear to you.” (Gospel of Thomas)  I’m also fond of this: “If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.” (John Wheeler)


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