Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Jason Wilson

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Jason Wilson

Jason Wilson is an award-winning Canadian author and musician. He is a two-time Juno Award nominee and is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Guelph. Author of four books, including Lord Stanley: The Man Behind the Cup (2006), Wilson has published on various topics, including Canada and the First World War, hockey and music. His latest book, Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and Other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War, was recently published with Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Jason will be at Toronto's Hugh's Room on Saturday, June 15 along with Canadian storyteller Lorne Brown and his ?era-appropriate? band. Visit Open Book: Toronto's Events page for details.

In his answers to Proust Questionnaire, Jason tells us how dropping out of high school inspired his life-long love of reading, what his perfect afternoon in the backyard would look like and why the hockey dressing room might just be the most honest place to reveal one's feelings.

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?
Nursing a cuppa, devouring Wodehouse and listening to Monk, while my wife does the heavy lifting in the garden.

What is your idea of misery?
Nae cuppa, grieving through Foucault and suffering the offerings of some insipid singer-?songwriter,? in full knowledge that my wife has left said heavy lifting to me.

Where would you like to live?
On a sleepy road, with a lot that backs onto a marsh replete with ducks, geese, turtles and peepers?oh wait, already there!

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
An ability to freely admit that they love their mother?even in the uber-masculine environs of a hockey dressing room, or some such place.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
An imagination.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
A life-long struggle with the ?grammar of money.?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Music, in all manners of speaking.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Wanton silliness.

What do you value most about your friends?
Possessing a cosiness in their own person.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Championing a prescribed narrative when common sense and dry facts should dictate a change in course.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Surrendering too easily to a foul mood.

What is your favourite virtue?
Kindness?in fact, it?s number one with a bullet!

What is your favourite occupation?
Official Calligrapher.

What would you like to be?
Silent majority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What is your favourite colour?
Royal blue.

What is your favourite flower?
Artificially blue-dyed chrysanthemums.

What is your favourite bird?
The Northern Flicker.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
This changes fairly regularly, but this week it is Walter Jekyll. Jekyll was an English-born author, musician, ethnomusicologist, philanthropist and all-round good egg who moved to Jamaica and collected the folk songs of that country in the first decade of the 20th century. His sister was famed horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. Robert Louis Stevenson asked Walter if he could use his name for the former?s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (a word play on ?hide and seek?).

What character in history do you most dislike?
This obviously oscillates between Gandhi and the Beatles! In all seriousness though, it is the wrongful deification of historical characters more so than the actual characters themselves that I dislike. The two examples of mythology-construction above are, in my opinion, among the most egregious in this regard.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
I took to reading only after I had dropped out of high school for good. As taste is often dictated by income, I could only afford The War Cry and used books under a strict $5 threshold. My choices may therefore seem a bit staid for some; my usual suspects include Maugham, the Brontes, Stevenson, Conrad, Huxley, Wodehouse and Orwell (with an honourable nod given to the more obscure George Douglas Brown and Claude McKay).

Who are your favourite poets?
The three Rabs: Burns, Dylan and Marley.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Philip Carey; Chef Gusteau; Jeeves; Charlotte A. Cavatica; Odysseus.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Malala Yousafzai; Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Joffrey Lupul.

Who is your favourite painter?
Paul Gauguin; Lawren Harris; Dudley D. Watkins.

Who is your favourite musician?
Far too many to list, though I?d be lying if I didn?t confess that Marley was the most influential on my music career.

What is your favourite food?
Grilled salmon on a cedar plank.

What is your favourite drink?

What are your favourite names?
Morag; Hamish; Havelock; Zachary; Ariel; Mary.

What is it you most dislike?

Litterers and Terrorists.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Breathe underwater.

How do you want to die?
Regicide?or at home surrounded by loved ones?either is fine.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Ensnaring a smart and beautiful wife.

What is your motto?
If ye cannae help ony, who can?

For more information about Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and Other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War please visit the Wilfrid Laurier University Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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

1 comment

I enjoyed the CBC commentary about your work concerning The Dumbells. It so happens my father, Charlie Bryan, a veteran of WW1 left us some old records, one of which is the Dumbells. It was interesting to learn more about the group and seeing them receive some recognition for their "war efforts" to increase troop morale. I know my dad did appreciate and admire them very much. I will now appreciate them that much more when I play their record.
Regards, Bob Bryan

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