Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Jack Bootle

Jack Bootle

Jack Bootle lives in London, England, where he writes and works as a TV producer. Over the past few years, he?s devised and produced a reality show about hot teens stranded on a desert island, a wildlife documentary about homeless badgers, a series about adult illiteracy and a film set inside a maximum security prison in the Philippines (way more fun than it sounds). When he?s not busy writing and making television, he runs a strange quiz night in a basement in London's East End. He has four webbed toes.

His short story ?Psalm 77? appeared in Have We Become Extraordinary Yet?, digital publisher Found Press? Spring 2011 edition. Click here to read more about Have We Become Extraordinary Yet?.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Jack Bootle tells us about the best kind of blue, the appeal of the puffin and real life heroes.

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?
It?s been the same since I was fourteen: I?m in a room, or a car, or a pub, with my closest friends, and suddenly a song that we all love comes on the radio, and everyone smiles and sings the chorus together. It?s a very simple dream, and it comes true surprisingly rarely.

What is your idea of misery?
Facing death in the knowledge that I?ve achieved nothing of any value or significance. I used to date someone who described this feeling as ?the panic of an unevolved soul?. I agreed. We broke up.

Where would you like to live?
London, England. In a huge, rambling house with all the people I love living in different rooms.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kindness, curiosity and a capacity for wonder.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Exactly the same ones I admire most in a man. I bet everyone says that, don?t they? OK, I guess I?d probably look more closely at a man?s arms and a woman?s hair.

What is your chief characteristic?
An overwhelming need for the love and approval of everyone, at all times. It often makes me unlovable, of course.

What is your principal fault?

What is your greatest extravagance?
iTunes and taxis.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Fecklessness and heavy drinking. The pointless analysis of failed love affairs.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their ability to listen as well as they talk.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
Activity? Reading in bed. Job? Astronaut.

What would you like to be?
More industrious. More generous. More engaged in politics. An astronaut.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue, blue, electric blue.

What is your favourite flower?
The blossom on a horse chestnut tree.

What is your favourite bird?
I will go anywhere that I can see a puffin. Even the name is perfect.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Am I allowed to say Shakespeare? And I love George Orwell: social conscience, vision, modesty and a refusal to toe the line, topped off with irresistible prose.

What character in history do you most dislike?
I don?t feel I?m educated enough to answer these history questions with any conviction, but I?ve never much cared for a chap called Ingram Frizer. He murdered Christopher Marlowe in Deptford in 1593. And I really like Christopher Marlowe.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Pathological obsession with Alice Munro. Also, right now: Muriel Spark, Christopher Isherwood, Joan Didion, Ali Smith and Antal Szerb (through the translation of Len Rix).

Who are your favourite poets?
The ones that make me feel like my head is about to explode. To name a few biggies: Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, CP Cavafy.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Sherlock Holmes because he?s brilliant and flawed. Margaret Schlegel because of her profound capacity for sympathy. Frodo Baggins because he must lose the world he saves (and we share a birthday).

Who are your heroes in real life?
He?s going to be horrified by this, but I think my friend Barney is pretty heroic. He was run over and beaten half-to-death by a street gang and instead of being traumatised he just, well, got over it. He?s fine. I?m in awe.

Who is your favourite painter?
Caravaggio. I was exposed to The Conversion of Saint Paul at an early age and it did weird, sexy things to my young mind.

Who is your favourite musician?
Too hard, too much, too many! Um, Morrissey? (collapses)

What is your favourite food?
My life is a quest for the perfect roast potato.

What is your favourite drink?
That first, cold pint.

What are your favourite names?
Isambard. I?ve never met one I didn?t like. And Sigourney, to say thanks for Alien.

What is it you most dislike?
Insomnia. Acne flare-ups. People who possess absolute certainty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
A beautiful singing voice. And I?d like to be better at sex.

How do you want to die?
Instantly, in London - struck by lightning, walking along the South Bank on a summer?s evening after enjoying a fine play at the National Theatre. At a ripe old age, if possible.

What is your current state of mind?
Anxious. A guy I?ve been dating didn?t get back to my last text. Do you think he?s gone off me?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Getting out of bed on those days when you wake up and think that you just can?t do it anymore. Also, I found this really amazing hair product a couple of years ago. It makes me look about twenty times hotter, honestly.

What is your motto?
It?s an old Smiths? lyrics: Don?t forget the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life. I?m not sure if it quite works as a motto, but it has run through my head on repeat since adolescence, so I?m sticking with it.


For more information about Psalm 77 please visit the Found Press website.

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

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


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