Over at the CAC website, paintergirl wrote about Marcel Proust and his history with self-questionnaires. I never actually answer the weekly questions there, though I always plan to--but, in honor of Proust, whose writing has always floored me, I will gladly play along. Proust is a writer readers either love or hate--very little in between. I can clearly remember the first time I read "the episode of the madeleine" introducing In Search of Lost Time as an undergrad...let's just say that from the very beginning I fell in with the former readers. I return to this book often to access the daydreaming, saturated qualities I so admire as a writer. One of his quotes is inked on the cover of several of my manuscript notebooks, "Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself."
The Infamous Proust Questionnaire
* Your most marked characteristic?
* The quality you most like in a man?
* The quality you most like in a woman?
* What do you most value in your friends?
Laughter and Openness
* What is your principle defect?
* What is your favorite occupation?
* What is your dream of happiness?
This changes--but, at its very center--my dream of happiness is to live as I am living and be able to make a career out of my creative work. In my dreams of happiness, I am with M. and our children, living in a modest house on a generous plot of land--closely linked to the natural world, writing my heart out.
* What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
To lose a loved one (too superstitious to give it much space here)
* What would you like to be?
* In what country would you like to live?
For a girl who lives in the house she grew up in, the idea of moving across state lines is exotic...but I would love to live by the sea in Italy, in the endless green of Ireland, in the rain forests of Costa Rica, in the wilds of Australia, or, frankly, just about anywhere the world would have me for a while.
* What is your favorite color?
* What is your favorite flower?
Hard to choose just one...sunflowers bobbing their heavy heads speak to me and the lavender I planted in the yard is a constant summer delight...I am a little bit in love with flowering things.
* What is your favorite bird?
Sparrow (though I have a fondness for magpies as well)
* Who are your favorite prose writers?
Reading is my great passion--so, this list is too long to write out. A few favorite prose writers? Okay...Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, Julia Alvarez, Brenda Miller, Margaret Atwood, Isak Dinesen, Louise Erdrich, Alice Walker, Tom Spanbauer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barbara Kingsolver, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham, and (obviously) Natalie Goldberg. *though there are so many others leaping out at me right now as well!*
* Who are your favorite poets?
(see above disclaimer) A few...Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Linda Pastan, Mary Oliver, Renee Gregorio, James Wright, Ruth Stone, Basho, Wislawa Szymborska, and Jimmy Santiago Baca *plus more, more, more*.
* Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
(sigh) I'll go with Holden Caulfield because he was the first fiction character who leapt out and grabbed me by the throat at fourteen and made me realize that my own small life could possibly be a subject worthy enough to write down.
* Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
To respond as I did above, in childhood, my favorite heroine of fiction was definitely Jo March from Little Women--then and now, I admired her for being so outspoken, for defying conventions, and for her passion for writing.
* Who are your favorite composers?
I have to admit to a profound ignorance of classical music here...but, in my senior year of high school I landed in a "Music Appreciation" class and the teacher had a soft-spot for Chopin--which was contagious. I especially appreciated some of his Nocturnes.
* Who are your favorite painters?
Modigliani, Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt
* Who are your heroes in real life?
Those who promote a greener, more peaceful world for all of us--not just a select few.
* Who are your favorite heroines of history?
Peace Pilgrim, Mildred Lisette Norman...Rachel Carson...Georgia O'Keeffe
* What are your favorite names?
Aside from the three I've already used for my children...Willa, Juliet, Eoin, Finnian
* What is it you most dislike?
Violence of any kind
* What historical figures do you most despise?
This would also be a long list...but, I will say that I dislike any leader who goes against what would help to make the world "a greener, more peaceful place for ALL of us, not just a select few."
* What event in military history do you most admire?
I cannot really say I have an answer here...in terms of historical protest I could say the Boston Tea Party--because it was a peaceful protest and got the point across, besides...it involved tea and I can get into just about anything related to that.
* What reform do you most admire?
The process leading up to the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution...which was, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex." Come on, ladies--your vote, your voice matters deeply and this was only permanently ratified in 1920!
* What natural gift would you most like to possess?
The ability to not care what others think of me
* How would you like to die?
In my bed as I am sleeping, when I am 99 years old--with a world of travel, love, and life experiences to leave behind.
* What is your present state of mind?
* To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Self-criticism, Worry, Not speaking up for myself
* What is your motto?
Coincidentally, today it happens to be what I plan to do in just a minute: BREATHE, LAUGH, GO OUTSIDE and PLAY.