Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Alison Baggio

 
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Credit: Bianca Fera

Alison Baggio has recently released In the Body (ECW Press), a collection of 12 short stories and the novella ?As She Was.? Alison will be reading at the Starlight Lounge in Waterloo in November as part of the Indie Lit at the Starlight Lounge event. In her answers to Proust Questionnaire, Alison tells us her chief characteristic, where she'd like to live, her favourite virture 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" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness?
To have a mind that is calm and absent of rumination and doubt. To appreciate every day. To always be pursuing something that brings me joy.

What is your idea of misery?
A mind that won?t stop obsessing. The belief that I can?t get to where I want to be from where I am. Having to play beach volleyball in the blazing sun (hate team sports, sand on my feet and being hot).

Where would you like to live?
Muskoka cottage in the summer and Toronto condo in the winter, or, the island of Gozo in Malta.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Loyalty, honesty, unconditional love and the ability to laugh at life.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Sense of humour, down-to-earth and willing openly discuss and laugh at her fears and shortcomings. Someone who shows me her true self.

What is your chief characteristic?
Perfectionism (except when it comes to house-cleaning).

What is your principal fault?
I hang on to life events too tightly. I think about things too much.

What is your greatest extravagance?
The expenses that result from being spontaneous and following my heart (usually having to do with travelling, buying books or theatre tickets).

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Shyness. Untidiness. People who don?t know how to do any better than they?ve done.

What do you value most about your friends?
Kindness. Unselfishness. Lack of self-righteousness. The ability to be equally as excited when great things happen to others, as when they happen to themselves.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Pretentiousness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Insecurity.

What is your favourite virtue?
Patience. I believe that if you trust something better is coming, and you release all anxiety about it, then, it is coming. Peace comes from being about to do this.

What is your favourite occupation?
Novelist. Full-time. As in, get up, go to the computer and write all morning, then have most of the rest of the day off to revise my work and experience life. There is nothing that I would like to do more than that.

What would you like to be?
Person who writes without any worry about the success of the writing.

What is your favourite colour?
Orange. Especially in the fall, or when I?m trying to be creative

What is your favourite flower?
Lily — reminds me of my daughter.

What is your favourite bird?
Cardinal — reminds me of my copper-haired son.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Oh gosh, it?s cliché, but let?s say Mother Theresa. Anyone who embodies compassion of any sort should be admired, especially these days. So often, the compassion gets lost in our current culture.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler. Does anyone give another answer to this?

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Every prose author who follows his/her creative inspiration, creates original work and keeps writing even when it gets challenging.

Who are your favourite poets?
Every poet who follows his/her creative inspiration, creates original work and keeps writing even when it gets challenging.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I am fond of Katniss Everdeen for her confident, ego-less personality. When I was young it was probably Margaret from Are You There God, It?s Me Margaret. I will also say Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In the Rye — it was his voice that really turned me on to first-person prose. Also, Louise Kirk from Barbara Gowdy?s The Romantic has never left me. Nor has Susie Salmon from The Lovely Bones.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My mom. Never met a more genuine, kind and unselfish person. And, is it cheesy to say, Oprah? Okay then, never mind.

Who is your favourite painter?
When I was a young girl I used to love the work of Canadian artist James Lumbers. I was so intrigued by his paintings of regular scenes with an overlay of ghostly characters — so haunting. Love the paranormal in art.

Who is your favourite musician?
I?ve always loved Jann Arden; her songs got me through many a depressing, lonely time when I was younger. Nora Jones too. Lady Gaga is really growing on me. I love her descriptions of her creative process, how she knows that she has a project in her and then sets the intention for it to come out, and eventually it?s just there. The rest of my favourite musicians are probably all Broadway stars.

What is your favourite food?
I could live on baked goods.

What is your favourite drink?
Water with lemon. I know, boring right? Okay then, how about a Bellini with a tiny plastic monkey on top.

What are your favourite names?
Thomas, Lily and Noah.

What is it you most dislike?
People who try to say things without saying them.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
A beautiful singing voice. Definitely. If I did have that, I would for sure have pursued musical theatre as a career. Oh yeah.

How do you want to die?
In a sudden, but peaceful way. Fall asleep on the beach and never wake up? Something like that. And it would be at the exact point of my life when I realize that I have accomplished everything I was meant to accomplish this time around. I would be ready to go.

What is your current state of mind?
Frantic, scattered, hopeful, thankful.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Birthing two children. Birthing two books. Surviving both.

What is your motto?
Allow what is to be.

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Allison Baggio?s fiction and commentaries have appeared in publications all across Canada, including Room, subTerrain, Today?s Parent and the Toronto Star. She is a graduate of York University and the Humber School for Writers. Girl in Shades (ECW Press) is her first novel. She lives in Whitby, ON.

For more information about In The Body please visit the ECW press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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

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