Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Sarah Tsiang

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April 1, 2012 - Sarah Tsiang is Open Book: Toronto's April 2012 writer in residence. In her answers to The Proust Questionnaire, Sarah tells us her her dream of happiness, her idea of misery 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?
Spending time with people I like. Grass, sun. Hot dogs.

What is your idea of misery?
A cubicle, a cold egg sandwich with too much mayo, a stalled clock.

Where would you like to live?
In my house, minus the leaky roof and plus the other bits that keep falling off it.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Feminism. A sense of humour and whimsicality.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Down-to-earthness. And being able to wear a scarf without looking terrified that it might fall off.

What is your chief characteristic?
Awesomeness and/or modesty.

What is your principal fault?
Total and complete lack of a short term memory

What is your greatest extravagance?
Fending off well-paid jobs so I can spend more time at home writing

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Emotional drama.

What do you value most about your friends?
How they’re always there, being funny and eating with me.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Humourless and entitled arrogance.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My laziness.

What is your favourite virtue?
I find it easy to love.

What is your favourite occupation?
Being a mom and a writer. Playing in the sandbox and then writing about it.

What would you like to be?
Financially solvent.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?
Squirrels. But if it has be a real bird, then sparrows.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Issa Kobayashi.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler fairly leaps to mind.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Richard B. Wright, Lisa Moore, Diane Schoemperlen, Alice Munro

Who are your favourite poets?
Sheri Benning, Sue McLeod, Sue Goyette, Susan Musgrave, Julie Bruck, Lorna Crozier, Jason Heroux, Helen Humphreys, Bronwen Wallace, Issa Kobayashi, W.H. Auden, Dave Hickey, Beth Ann Fennelly, Rachel Rose, it really just depends on the month.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I really don’t know.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Wow, I don’t know for this one either. Apparently I’m not much for heroes. I’m more into regular people.

Who is your favourite painter?
I’m too woefully ignorant to answer that question. But my favorite artist is Heather Benning (mainly sculptures).

Who is your favourite musician?
The Coup, with emcees Raymond "Boots" Riley and E-Roc along with DJ Pam the Funkstress

What is your favourite food?
I couldn’t possibly limit it to a food. I am a certified gourmand.

What is your favourite drink?
Gin and club soda with a twist of lime. But I like it a little too much.

What are your favourite names?
Abby tops the list. I guess it depends on who for? Names kind of grow into their people, don’t they?

What is it you most dislike?
The rhetoric of the religious right. It gives me rage-headaches.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could draw.

How do you want to die?
Very, very old, and ideally, not at all.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I’d like to say being a good mom, but there are still so many years to potentially screw that up.

What is your motto?
Live in the moment

Sarah Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010), Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books, 2011), Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (Annick Press, 2011) and Warriors and Wailers: 100 Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled (Annick Press, 2012). Her latest picture book, Stone Hatchlings, will be released in fall, 2012.

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with great Canadian writers.

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