Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster
 is the author of fourteen poetry collections, a novel, two volumes of short stories and a children’s book. He teaches writing workshops from Banff, Alberta to Santiago, Chile. His most recent books include Love Outlandish (Brick Books), Ivan’s Birches (Pedlar Press), Blue Wherever (Signature Editions) and Dying a Little (Wolsak & Wynn).

This fall, we welcome the publication of two new books by Barry: A collection of poetry, Invisible Dogs, which has just been released with Brick Books, and a novel called The Outside World, forthcoming from Pedlar Press in November.

Invisible Dogs is both a hymn to and a condemnation of mortality, the body and its failures, the "difficult business of staying alive." It offers a piercing scrutiny of the self yet is so honest and richly metaphoric that anyone who has ever bowed the head in defeat — and then looked up again with fire in the eyes — will find redemption here.

Barry will launch Invisible Dogs along with Don Domanski, who launches Bite Down Little Whisper, at Toronto's Ben McNally Books on Thursday, September 16. Visit Open Book: Toronto's Events page for details.

In his answers to Proust Questionnaire, Barry tells us his dream of happiness, his present state of mind, his motto 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?
To be able to accept how arbitrarily it comes and goes.

What is your idea of misery? 
 To feel the need to be happy all the time.

Where would you like to live? 

New York City for a year with a free pass to all theatres, art galleries and jazz clubs.

What qualities do you admire most in a man? 

The strength to express feelings and be vulnerable, honest and compassionate.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman? 

The same.

What is your chief characteristic? 

Courage in the midst of ever present fear.

What is your principal fault? 


What is your greatest extravagance? 


What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Being human.

What do you value most about your friends? 


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? 

The life-changing power of a teacher.

What would you like to be?
A zoologist.

What is your favourite colour? 

A Miles Davis kind of blue.

What is your favourite flower? 


What is your favourite bird? 


What historical figure do you admire the most? 

Charles Darwin for his scholarship and his nerve.

What character in history do you most dislike? 

Any sort of dictator.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
 Paul Auster, Julian Barnes, Saul Bellow. Paul Bowles, Italo Calvino, Annie Dillard, Lawrence Durrell, Jonathan Franzen, Graham Greene, D.H. Lawrence, Lorrie Moorie, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf.

Who are your favourite poets?
 Don Domanski, Eliot, Jack Gilbert, Louise Glück, Bob Hicok, Philip Larkin, Don McKay, Neruda, Sharon Olds. Rilke, Wallace Stevens.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
 Lily Bart in The House of Mirth, Corrigan in Let the Great World Spin, Cosimo in The Baron in the Trees, Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway, T.S. Garp in The World According to Garp, Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers, Scobie in The Heart of the Matter.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Teachers, healers, artists.

Who is your favourite painter?
Mark Rothko.

Who is your favourite musician? 

Leonard Cohen.

What is your favourite food? 

Chocolate icing.

What is your favourite drink? 


What natural talent would you most like to possess? 

The voice of Otis Redding.

How do you want to die? 


What is your current state of mind? 

Hoping against hope.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? 


What is your motto? 
Paul Éluard’s “I must not mistake reality for being like myself.”

For more information about Inivisible Dogs please visit the Bricks Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore, online from the publisher or 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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