Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionaire, with Christine McNair

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Christine McNair

Christine McNair?s work has appeared in sundry literary journals including CV2, The Antigonish Review, Prairie Fire, Arc, Descant, and Poetry is Dead. She won second prize in the Atlantic Canadian Writing Competition, an honourable mention in the Eden Mills Literary Competition, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She is one of the hosts of CKCU?s Literary Landscapes program and works as a book conservator in Ottawa. Conflict is her first book.

Christine will be reading in St. Catharines on Friday, June 15. For more details, please visit our Events page.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Christine tells us her faults, her admirations, her greatest extravagances, 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?
Pale warmth, light blue water, fingers trailing. Excerpts of annihilating joy. Quiet spilled onto a wooden deck in Ste. Adele. Thumbing a book with bright trees humming.

What is your idea of misery?
Ubiquity. A mouth stapled shut. Tyranny. Endless repetition of the same faults. A life spent without purpose. Boredom. A life trapped with an abusive partner. Grief. Helplessness.

Where would you like to live?
A house with my fella and cat that is filled with many books (library cave o?mysteries pool o?knowledge smell of old paper) with a room of my own (pen pencil picture oak desk window) as well as a workshop of my own (knife marble skin watermark window metal type silk). A pretty little space — preferably in the vicinity of water (fast moving blue deep shoreline) and green (shuddering growing monstrous ecstatic) things. A lilac bush in the back and lavender planted at the door.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kindness. Agility.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Agility. Kindness.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
Overextension. Partially proven by my inability to answer most of these questions in the singular.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Likely, the tools of my other bookish trade: dyed Harmatan goatskin, Chiyogami paper, bone folders, knives, cast-iron equipment. Or else: bubbly, fascinators, oysters.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

What do you value most about your friends?
Discretion, intelligence, loyalty, kindness, a sense of humour, a voracious appetite for possibilities. My friends consistently surprise me with their beauty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Deliberate cruelty, insular vision, hypocrisy. Fear and/or stupidity filmed with arrogance. The stink of cronyism disguised as "taste." A shut door always makes me want to pound my fists.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Shyness. Self-derision. Lack of concentration. Laziness. My inability to "do the math" without technical assistance.

What is your favourite virtue?
Compassion. Bravery.

What is your favourite occupation?
Aviatrix. Astronaut. Cosmonaut. Writer.

What would you like to be?
The better parts of myself on a more consistent basis. Mindful. I'd like to be a good person though I'm not always sure what that means. I want to write till I fry my circuits. Till arthritis takes my hands and I have to write with a pen in my mouth.

What is your favourite colour?
Lapis. The border between bright blue and deep purple.

What is your favourite flower?
Lilac, freesia, iris, dahlia, orchids, peach rose, passionflower.

What is your favourite bird?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I can't answer this in the singular. Those who resist while retaining their humanity.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Too many. Ignoring the obvious bastards — Thomas Edison. Thief, opportunist, elephant murderer. I love the early silent films produced by his company but he was a horrible man. Poor Tesla. Poor Topsy.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
I really hate this type of question. It should be easy to answer. But I end up mouthing names that float in terrible isolation. I like all kinds of things. Slew thereof: Gustave Flaubert, Salman Rushdie, Nicole Brossard, Margaret Laurence, Vladimir Nabokov, Elizabeth Smart, Lisa Moore.

Who are your favourite poets?
Again: an awkward rumbling and growling in my head. Second slew of names that tumble out: Paul Celan, natalie stephens, Sandra Ridley, Elizabeth Bishop, bpNichol, Anne Sexton, Robert Kroetsch, Phil Hall, Anne Carson, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Old English and pagan fragments without clear authorial data.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
There are no heroes in fiction. Not really. I like strong wilful characters.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My aunt Trish. Several of my valkyric pals. My conservation colleagues. My mother.

Who is your favourite painter?
Hrmmm. Working backwards through time: Margaret Kilgallen, Greg Curnoe, Edward Hopper, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Lempicka, José Clemente Orozco, Johannes Vermeer, Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, depraved medieval manuscript illuminators. I lean towards those who play with light or line. I have a weakness for the anonymous artist, particularly those of the medieval period in all their ghastly horror and grace tipped with shell gold.

Who is your favourite musician?
Neko Case, maybe. I admire the pitch and the fervour.

What is your favourite food?
Garlic scapes. Rainier cherries. Real guacamole. Chocolate covered strawberries. Green curry. Crab with garlic butter. Raw oysters. Key lime pie. Chocolate with sea salt. Slices of dried mango dipped in white chocolate with chili and lime.

What is your favourite drink?
Lovely extra dry sparkling wine be it champagne, cava, or prosecco.

What are your favourite names?
Mare Crisium. Mare Nectaris. Mare Vaporum. Mare Nubium. Mare Humorum.

What is it you most dislike?
Zombies. I get absurdly rageful on the topic. Flying, which I simultaneously love.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Grace. Also, mechanical skills. The ability to understand how a machine works and build an automaton.

How do you want to die?
Suddenly. When I?m not paying attention and I don?t have time to worry about it. Preferably after a reasonably long and happy life.

What is your current state of mind?
Liquid and semi-lucid. Occasional hamster on the wheel of wedding details.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Survival in the face of.

What is your motto?
There is always a choice. Always.

For more information about Conflict, visit BookThug.

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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