Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Bill Douglas

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Bill Douglas

Bill Douglas is a graphic designer and artist and founder of his multi-disciplinary (and recently renamed) studio, The Farm, specializing in book and publication design. Bill has created close to 1,000 cover and book designs for authors from Sheila Heti and Kathleen Winter to Ronald Wright and Margaret Atwood. He recently collaborated with food photographer Edward Pond creating and publishing the book I travelled to India, got bitten by a dog, went back home and got a bunch of rabies shots, then flew back to India and ate the country. Bill is currently working on another visuals driven book project on the seminal Toronto Punk institution The Bunchofuckingoofs. He also art directs the internationally acclaimed visual culture magazine Coupe. Bill, along with his wife and 22-month-old son, recently moved from Toronto to a century farmhouse in Bobcaygeon, Ontario where he’s considering branching out into the exciting field of pumpkin farming. Or perhaps rhubarb. Read about Bill's "work and ramblings" at his blog, Cover Love Etcetera.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Bill lets us in on his greatest extravagance, his dream of happiness, his idea of misery and much more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" personality.


What is your dream of happiness?
Hanging out with with my girl and the boy on a beautiful spring day.

What is your idea of misery?
Besides the real stuff that’s too scary to think about? Tax time and anything related to taxes.

Where would you like to live?
In an old stone farmhouse on a 9.5 acre plot of land with a creek running through it and old stands of wild apple trees in its midst. In other words, I’m pretty happy where I am.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
I like stand-up guys. Guys I can always count on. And a biting sense of humour.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Kindness. And a great sense of humour. A great sense of fun.

What is your chief characteristic?
I’m the wrong person to ask.

What is your principal fault?
I’m most definitely the wrong person to ask.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My Husqvarna Lawn tractor. It’s beaut.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

What do you value most about your friends?

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
At times I can struggle with letting things go.

What is your favourite virtue?
Kindness. Can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned kindness.

What is your favourite occupation?
Cancer curer.

What would you like to be?
I’m pretty happy being what I am.

What is your favourite colour?
If it’s considered a colour, white. If it isn’t, then I’ll go with green.

What is your favourite flower?
Good question. Haven’t a clue.

What is your favourite bird?
The duck-billed platypus. The bird part anyway.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
This might sound odd but that’s too personal a question.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Besides the glaringly obvious choices, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Today? Steinbeck, McCarthy, Roth…. Tomorrow?

Who are your favourite poets?
I don’t know much about poetry but I do know a bunch of poets. Of them my favourite is Ken.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I guess I tend to gravitate to the anti-heroes.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My Dad. And anyone who, despite massive obstacles, is still getting out there.

Who is your favourite painter?
Maybe Robert Rauschenberg. But probably not.

Who is your favourite musician?
Ian Curtis.

What is your favourite food?
Because I never get tired of it, and because of all its incarnations and styles, I would have to say pizza. Plus I could go for a slice right now.

What is your favourite drink?
Water. It’s the first thing I want when I get up and the last thing I want before I go to sleep. And beer is 95 per cent water.

What are your favourite names?
McRae. And Thurston.

What is it you most dislike?
Again, gotta stick with weaselosity.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I’d love to be a natural piano player. Not a pianist. A piano player.

How do you want to die?
In a blaze of glory. A long, long time from now.

What is your current state of mind?
It’s pretty darn good.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The boy.

What is your motto?
“Mottos are for suckers.”


Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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