Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Amanda Earl

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Amanda Earl (photo credit: Charles Earl)

Poet, small press publisher and pornographer Amanda Earl is an exuberant Ottawa enthusiast, her home now for a quarter century. Sex First & Then A Sandwich, her latest chapbook, will be launched at the 19th anniversary celebration of above/ground press at Ottawa's Mercury Lounge on August 9. She'll be joined by Cameron Anstee, Marilyn Irwin and Stephen Brockwell. Visit our Events Page for more details.

In Amanda's delightful and honest response to the Proust Questionnaire, she tells us about leather and cheesecake, synaesthesia and near-death experiences.

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?
Good health for myself and all my loved ones, and time together punctuated by solitary interludes with a big box of acrylic paints and an infinite roll of canvas.

What is your idea of misery?
Being hospitalized, sick, helpless and alone while sedated on morphine and Delauden, and experiencing nightmare delusions that I cannot distinguish from reality; the blank moments that signify oblivion. Being unable to come up with anything but clichés.

Where would you like to live?
On the 19th floor of my apartment building in Ottawa, exactly where I live now, but with better elevators and a rooftop garden (and a houseboy).

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
His ability to make strong coffee and a decadent New York style cheesecake.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Her availability for tea chats in the afternoons, impromptu dinners at Indian restaurants, or long walks on shady days.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
Stock imagery.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Leather and charming men.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Confabulation, punsterism, cats.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their concern and empathy.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Their use of dangling modifiers.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My inability to come up with le mot juste.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?

What is your favourite colour?
A difficult question for a synaesthete. In bed and around the house, I have to wear white or light grey because they are the least heavy colours. When painting, I enjoy all the primaries, secondaries and tertiaries. But never pastels.

What is your favourite flower?
Tiger lily.

What is your favourite bird?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Kiki of Montparnasse and all her Surrealist & Dadaist pals for their unbridled creativity and joie de vivre.

What character in history do you most dislike?
So many evil dictators, so little time.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Anaïs Nin, Victor Hugo, Robertson Davies, John Lavery, Kurt Vonnegut, Michelle Tea, Ivan E. Coyote, Pauline Réage, Eugène Ionesco

Who are your favourite poets?
Anne Carson, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Robert Kroetsch, Nathanaël, Dennis Cooley, and all the poets I've published through AngelHousePress.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Curious George, Quasimodo, O, the Bald Soprano.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The woman who stood in front of the barricades & sang during la Semaine sanglante (Paris, 1871); Dr. Éric Poulin, the head of surgery at the Ottawa Hospital; my husband, Charles.

Who is your favourite painter?
Mark Rothko.

Who is your favourite musician?
Ron Sexsmith and Bob Dylan are tied for first.

What is your favourite food?
Figs, pistachios and anything on small plates (except heroin & hemlock).

What is your favourite drink?
Lapsang souchong tea, but I'll settle for Irish Breakfast.

What are your favourite names?
"Magdalena Hagdalena Ookatalka Walkatalka Oka Poka Noka," "John Jacob JingleHeimer Schmidt" and " Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo."

What is it you most dislike?
Summer / but also mechanical contraptions, including elevators, escalators, revolving doors, planes, ships and autos.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Walking without getting sore feet.

How do you want to die?
Not the way I almost did.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Surviving against all odds despite the pronouncement of the angel of death.

What is your motto?
Expect the unexpected.


In addition to Sex First & Then A Sandwich, Amanda Earl's chapbooks with above/ground press include Eleanor (2007) and The Sad Phoenician's Other Woman (2008). Publishers BookThug (Toronto), Laurel Reed Books (Mt. Pleasant) and Puddles of Sky Press (Kingston) have indulged Earl's obsessions with the body, aliens and bohemians by publishing additional chapbooks of her poetry and visual poetry.

Earl's creative work has been published and/or exhibited in Australia, Canada, England, France, Russia and the USA. She has received funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa. Her manuscripts have been shortlisted for Snare Books' Robert Kroetsch Innovative Poetry Award and a piece of plunder made the 2011 Geist Erasure Poetry Contest shortlist. She's the managing editor of and The Bywords Quarterly Journal, and the (fallen) angel of AngelHousePress. Please visit for more information or follow Amanda on Twitter @KikiFolle.

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

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