The Ultimate Meme: Messr Proust’s Questionnaire

Marcel Proust answered questionnaires twice in his storied life, at ages 13 and 20. I answered this a few years ago, and I can’t remember what I put. Life is odd that way. Anyway, herewith my answers to the two Questionnaires.

Questionnaire #1:
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Other people. That’s a paraphrasing of Sartre’s l’enfer, c’est les autres (“Hell is other people”), from No Exit. I think it’s absolutely true. Nothing can cause more misery than other people. That being said, nothing can produce more joy than other people. For the agony caused when a loved one dies, we have the joy of a new birth. For every breakup horror, there’s that giddy feeling from a new love. Other people cause the lowest lows, but also the highest highs.

That, or bad serotonin levels.

Where would you like to live?
Atop a mountain, or along the sea. Not a big city, though.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I watched Spiderman 2 whilst hooked up to a Dilaudid pump, so I think that set the bar kinda high, no pun intended. Also, I saw the fabled Flash of Green once. That was awesome, although it would have been even more awesome with the Dilaudid pump.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Laziness, self-doubt, fear.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
I like Pete Bondurant from James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid” and “The Cold 6000.” He occupies a mean place in the world, but he does so with a certain honor. He kills people, but he limits it to bad people. When possible. Also, Signor Ferrari in “Casablanca,” mainly for the same reason: he knows he’s the “leader of all criminal activities in Casablanca,” and it’s a role he carries off with panache and pride. Something about decent people who end up in bad situations.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
I’m fascinated by World War 2 leaders on both sides. The Nazis took a country that was eviscerated by the Treaty of Versailles, and rebuilt it to a superpower within two decades. They created a cult of personality, and inspired a nation to do things both great and horrible. Conversely, Churchill and Roosevelt–along with Eisenhower, et al–managed to fight back and ultimately prevail.

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
My grandmothers and my mother. Both of my grandmothers earned their bachelor’s degrees in nursing, and worked full-time at a time when that was a rarity, this in addition to raising great kids (aka, my parents). My mom is just amazing, as a mother, a wife, a nurse, and a steward of her faith.
Also, all three of them show(ed) serious cooking game.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
I like Agnes Salter from “Paradise Postponed.” She’s challenging, but she doesn’t mean to be. Her mother was killed when she was young, and she found that she was afraid to embrace anything overly nice. She took pleasure in horrible food, etc.
Also, Evie Hammond in “V for Vendetta.”

Your favorite painter?
Caravaggio or Dali.

Your favorite musician?
Jeff Beck. I don’t like everything he’s done, but he can play anything on guitar and make it count. Also, Grover Washington, Jr, for the mournful tone he can get out of a soprano sax.


The quality you most admire in a man?
Humbleness. I don’t like “humility” here, but humbleness. I loathe loud braggadocio.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Low alcohol tolerance? 😉 Just kidding. I love women who are comfortable as they are, now, not when they lose 20 more lbs or make more money, or learn to knit blankets. I admire women who are at peace with who they are NOW.

Your favorite virtue?
Kindness-tempered honesty.

Your favorite occupation?
Newspaper columnist.

Who would you have liked to be?
Doc Holliday as played by Val Kilmer, only without the coughing up blood thing.

Questionnaire #2:
Your most marked characteristic?
Crippling insecurity welded to amazing megalomania.

What do you most value in your friends?
Patience and loyalty–I’m not always an easy friend to have.

What is your principle defect?
Low expectations of life and myself.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Being conscious, but unable to communicate. Even if I couldn’t speak, as long as I could type, I could interact with others. Hell, I prefer NOT talking most of the time.

What would you like to be?
Better.

In what country would you like to live?
I’m pretty happy here. Canada, Wales, New Zealand, Germany, Iceland. These would be okay, too.

What is your favorite color?
It depends on who’s wearing it or what it’s doing. I like teal shirts on some people, but I wouldn’t want teal breakfast cereal.

What is your favorite flower?
Orange blossom. When I drove home from college for Spring Break, I had to drive down a road surrounded by orange groves. It was like driving through heaven. (Originally, I typed “like driving through angel farts,” but that seemed a bit crass)

What is your favorite bird?
whippoorwill

Who are your favorite prose writers?
Joyce Carol Oates, P.J. O’Rourke, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Who are your favorite poets?
T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas

What are your favorite names?
Aedes fulvus-pallens is a nice name. It’s a mosquito, and a nice mosquito at that.

What is it you most dislike?
Noise. Not loud sound–loud sound can be good–but cacophonous noise annoys me infinitely.

What historical figures do you most despise?
It’s not my job to despise anyone.

What event in military history do you most admire?
The Christmas Truce of 1914 (see: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/truce.asp)

What reform do you most admire?
A lot of “reforms” are simply cessations of bad ideas, and they will be seen that way in the future. For example, I grew up in the South, and it seems utterly ridiculous that there were once “White Only” and “Colored Only” water fountains. Seriously, how stupid is that? But my friend George grew up in Tampa a couple of decades before me, and he had to drink out of those “Colored Only” water fountains. I imagine Shortstop & Princess’ kids will probably think it was nuts that there was no universal health care, or that gay marriage was mostly illegal.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Innate confidence.

How would you like to die?
Quickly. (note: meaning not in a protracted, painful way; not “quickly,” meaning “Next Tuesday.”)

What is your present state of mind?
Stressed to an appropriate degree, and a trifle contemplative. Life is fine.

What is your motto?
A motto? What’s the motto with you. Hahahaha.
Sorry. I don’t really have one. I just try and show up, and I don’t even do that sometimes. I guess just try and make it count. Or don’t. No big whoop.

Thanks, Marcel.

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3 Responses to “The Ultimate Meme: Messr Proust’s Questionnaire”

  1. I looked up “Flash of Green” and now I think I’m a little jealous. I wanna see a green sun!

    Also, I think if people were capable of a Christmas Truce, we should all be capable of a much longer, much cooler truce in which no one purposely kills another person ever again. THAT would be pretty damn awesome.

  2. James Lipton smiles.

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