Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Charles Wilkins

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Charles Wilkins

Charles Wilkins is a storyteller explorer. In fact, he?s the guy you hope sends you an invitation to his vacation slide show. Whether he?s walking from Thunder Bay to New York City, traveling with the Wallendas or communing with Canada?s great wilderness, he possesses a remarkable ability to fully experience the moment and then artfully and entertainingly recount his adventures.

In his latest book, Little Ship of Fools (Greystone Books), Wilkins once again invites readers on a nail-biting journey, this time from Morocco to Barbados on an experimental rowboat — seven weeks of food rationing, sharks, sleep deprivation and being pushed to a body?s physical and mental limits.

In his answers to Proust Questionnaire, Charles Wilkins reveals his influences and preferences and where he believes he may be less well-rounded in his life.

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?
Big water, lots of time, a good fire.

What is your idea of misery?
The absence of dream... imagination? art.

Where would you like to live?
On a boat.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Generosity. Humour. A sense of adventure.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Sincerity. Empathy. Imagination.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
I am a wee bit flat in the ass.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My kids.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Their neediness. Their ridiculous cosmologies. Their bad choices.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their affection and forgiveness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My perpetual dalliance with laziness? ill-preparedness? untruth.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
A whale.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?
Storm petrel.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Shakespeare? followed closely by Poundmaker (of the Cree), Sitting Bull (of the Sioux), the astronomer and mapmaker David Thompson, Ghandi, Joan of Arc, The Peace Pilgrim, Mohamed Ali, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed)? and more.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Mr. Werner, my Grade 6 teacher.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Harry Crews. George Orwell. Fred Exley. Jake MacDonald. James Elroy. Clark Blaise (for Lunar Attractions). Annie Proulx. Joe Fiorito. Robert Lannon and Lauren Carter.

Who are your favourite poets?
George Amabile. George Morrissette. Mary Frost. T.S. Eliot. King David. Jeanette Lynes. Cathy Hunter. Claude Liman. W.H. Auden. Christina Rossetti? and many more.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Kilgour Trout. James Riggin. Heinrich Boll?s the Clown, Oliver Twist, Sal Paradise and so on.

Who are your heroes in real life?
More or less anybody courageous enough to tell the truth amidst the wretched falsities of the culture. I also have a very high regard for my kids and friends.

Who is your favourite painter?
Toulouse Lautrec, Egon Schiele, Mark Chagall, Debbie Metzler, Diego Rivera? others.

Who is your favourite musician?
Wolfe Wall, followed closely by J.S. Bach, Sam Roberts and Danny Johnson.

What is your favourite food?
Atlantic salmon. Wild turkey. Cranberry sauce? and rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.

What is your favourite drink?
Ginger tea.

What are your favourite names?
Leo Lepard? plus, I am a great fan of the names Eden, Georgia and Matthew.

What is it you most dislike?
Sleeplessness. Management. Violence.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

How do you want to die?

What is your current state of mind?
Lightly fricasseed.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
That at 65 I am more than ever an ornery, semi-subversive writer, who did what I wanted to do, wrote what I wanted to write and am still doing it.

What is your motto?
Ne pas actionner la chasse quand le train est en gare.

Charles Wilkins is the award-winning author of several books of non-fiction, including Paddle to the Amazon (McClelland and Stewart), with Don Starkell, In the Land of Long Fingernails (Greystone Books) and The Circus at the Edge of the Earth (McClelland and Stewart). He divides his time between Thunder Bay and Muskoka, Ontario.

For more information about Little Ship of Fools please visit the Greystone 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 Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

1 comment

If only the favourite authors were favourite human beings.

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