Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Amy Lavender Harris

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Amy Lavender

May 1, 2011 - Amy Lavender Harris is Open Book's May 2011 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, she tells us her dream of happiness, her greatest extravagance and 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" nature.


What is your dream of happiness?
A universe that opened and made room even for me [it did].

What is your idea of misery?

Where would you like to live?
Paris, but only so I could appreciate Toronto more.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Gentleness; the ability to make and use tools.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Ferocity; the ability to be creative and procreative.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
I have an excellent memory and vivid revenge fantasies (which, I should add, often come true).

What is your greatest extravagance?
Books, scarves, luxury lavender soap.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Curiosity; pride.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their indulgence.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Narcissism, bigotry.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Sloth, paralysis.

What is your favourite virtue?
Courage, faith in what can be understood or explored, love.

What is your favourite occupation?
Roaring through the city with my teeth bared, biting at the wind.

What would you like to be?

What is your favourite colour?
As a child I loved the colour blue; as a young woman I loved violet. I still love violet and organic shades of green but am increasingly partial to red.

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?
The unidentified Arctic bird that visits our back garden for two weeks in early spring and calls to the north in a high, pure voice.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

What character in history do you most dislike?
Not any individual so much as the populations who stood back and did nothing while atrocities were perpetuated all around them.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Diane Schoemperlen, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Rabindranath Maharaj, Neil Bissoondath. People with hard-to-spell names, evidently.

Who are your favourite poets?
William Butler Yeats, P.K. Page, Paul Vermeersch.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Harriet the Spy, Kip Flynn.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Survivors who do not narrate themselves as victims of history.

Who is your favourite painter?
Tom Thomson, or whoever will come in and redo our stairwell at home.

Who is your favourite musician?
Sarah Harmer.

What is your favourite food?
Empire apples.

What is your favourite drink?
Toronto tap water.

What are your favourite names?
Katherine Aurora.

What is it you most dislike?

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The capacity for flight.

How do you want to die?
Quickly but not soon.

What is your current state of mind?

What is your greatest discovery?
That evil is self-limiting (and so, sadly, is good, but at least therein lies the prospect of detente).

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I am happy to be an accomplished writer, am proud of having stood up for things I believe in and am grateful for the love of a good man — but I know with certainty that my daughter is the best thing I will ever produce.

What is your motto?
I will go further and see more things than anyone thought was possible.


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

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