Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Christian McPherson

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Christian McPherson

Ottawa writer Christian McPherson is the author of four books of short stories and poetry, but it was in his 2010 debut novel Cube People (Nightwood Editions) that he introduced us to would-be writer/government office worker Colin MacDonald. The often hilarious and occasionally terrifying misadventures of Colin continue in Christian?s follow-up, Cube Squared (Nightwood Editions), in which Colin faces off against middle age, an enemy far more threatening and volatile than the slow smothering of bureaucratic and domestic ennui.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Christian McPherson coins a useful phrase, explains his beverage schedule and reveals a soft spot for little plastic bricks.

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?

Being a full time writer and not having to worry about money.

What is your idea of misery?

Never having the time to be creative.

Where would you like to live?

As much as I want to say a warm place by the ocean, it?s just not true. I?m a city boy. I love my bars, movie theatres, restaurants, arty farty poetry readings, etc. So I am living in exactly the place I want to be, I just wish it was warmer in the winter.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

I fail to understand this question and the next one. Why would having a penis or a vagina give a person a quality which is distinct to admire? What about levels of estrogen and/or levels of testosterone, do these levels play into admirable qualities? I believe there are only qualities to admire in people, regardless of sex. Intelligence, empathy, understanding, patience and persistence would be on the top of my list.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

See question above.

What is your chief characteristic?

In accordance with this questionnaire, it would be being male. After that I would say my sense of humour.

What is your principal fault?

My sense of humour — it gets me into all kinds of hot water.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Shoes. I?m a sucker for a nice pair of shoes or boots. Fluevog, London Fly, Camper.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?


What do you value most about your friends?

They get me, get my sense of humour. They are great to bounce ideas off of and they keep me honest, call me out when I?m acting like a douche-bag. I have different friends though, for different things. I have work friends, writer friends, childhood friends, parents I?ve met from my children?s school, etc. Each play a slightly different role. Honesty is the glue that binds them all.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

It?s something I like to call douche-bagness (which encompasses smugness, pessimism, overinflated egos and cruelty).

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

I tend to be a control freak. I?m trying not to be, but let?s face it; it?s my way or the highway. Kidding. Not really. Just do what I say. See, there I go again. Do want you want (I?ll just change it after you?re done).

What is your favourite virtue?


What is your favourite occupation?

Writer. Second place goes to Master Lego builder.

What would you like to be?

Full-time writer without a day job or a Master Lego builder.

What is your favourite colour?


What is your favourite flower?

Sunflower — so big and cool-looking and you can eat them!

What is your favourite bird?

Crow. There are literally thousands that live near my home in Ottawa and I see them every day flying about. I?ve grown to love them.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

Immanuel Kant — he sewed together Rationalism and Empiricism all from his armchair. Brilliant.

What character in history do you most dislike?

Hitler, douche-bag.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Thom Jones, Carl Hiaasen, Charles Bukowski, David Gilmour, Richard Brautigan, Paul Auster.

Who are your favourite poets?

Charles Bukowski, Al Purdy, Richard Brautigan, Irving Layton, Louise Glück, Michael Dennis.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

Holden Caulfield, Skink, Kilgore Trout, Henry Chinaski, Sherlock Holmes and Colin MacDonald.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Everyone who is doing real work — people bagging my groceries, the nurse handling my urine sample, the cable guy stringing my line outside, the roofer keeping me dry, the bus driver, etc.

Who is your favourite painter?

I can?t say just one. Here are some visual artists to check out: Mati Klarwein, Rick Griffin, Tomi Ungerer, H. R. Giger, M. C. Escher, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dalí and Gahan Wilson.

Who is your favourite musician?

Classical Composer: Bach, Jazz artist, three way tie between Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck. Rock Group,The Beatles. Favourite artist working today, Jack White — hands down.

What is your favourite food?

Indian. Northern, Southern, doesn?t matter, I love it all.

What is your favourite drink?

Night time: Cold beer, all types — IPAs, lagers, stouts, pilsners, ales, etc. Morning Time: I need my coffee — black. I drink it that way because you can taste the coffee. Drink it black for three weeks and you will never go back to cream or milk. Trust me, just do it.

What are your favourite names?

I love nicknames. A few friends call me Mic or MacDaddy. I like cool handles. Fast Eddie, Cool Hand Luke, Stick, Skink, Ponyboy, Fudge, Neckbone, Squid, Pussy Galore, Goldfinger, Cherry Pye, Chemo.

What is it you most dislike?

Besides from genocide, racism and rice pudding? Walking around in wet socks.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

I would love to be able to sing. I suck badly. Not a note can pass my lips without people screwing up their faces in pain.

How do you want to die?

Like they do in those Hellraiser movies with that sadistic box. Just kidding. Lethal injection I think would be nice, especially if I were full of painful cancer. I think in my sleep when I?m 100 would be best. Let?s face it, I don?t want to die. I really like being here on planet earth.

What is your current state of mind?

After that last question, joyful I?m alive.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Finishing this questionnaire. Kidding again. Marrying my wife and having the kids we had. Although that?s a shared accomplishment. Solo, I would say I?m pretty proud of the books I?ve managed to write.

What is your motto?

It?s this Italian proverb: At the end of the game the king and the pawn go back into the same box.

Christian McPherson is the author of six books: Cube Squared, My Life in Pictures, The Sun Has Forgotten Where I Live, The Cube People (shortlisted for the 2011 ReLit Awards), Poems that swim from my brain like rats leaving a sinking ship and Six Ways to Sunday (shortlisted for the 2008 ReLit Awards). He has a degree in philosophy from Carleton University and a computer programming diploma from Algonquin College. He is married to the beautiful Marty Carr. They have two kids, Molly and Henry. They all live together in Ottawa.

For more information about Cube Squared please visit the Nightwood Editions 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.

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