Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Jennifer Quist

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Jennifer Quist

Jennifer Quist's first novel, Love Letters of the Angels of Death (Linda Leith Publishing), was released this weekend. Quist's beautifully written novel centres on a young, pregnant couple who must deal with the death of his mother and the complexities of marriage and parenthood.

Quist is a novelist, poet, columnist and short fiction writer. Nominated for the Writer?s Guild of Alberta?s Howard O?Hagan Award for her short fiction ?Fish Story,? she has had her work published in The Globe & Mail, National Post, Maclean?s and Today?s Parent and has written and voiced introspective personal essays for CBC Radio One?s Definitely Not The Opera and Tapestry programs. In her answers to The Proust Questionnaire, Quist tells us her dream of happiness, her favourite food and who helped her "rock a perfect score on the grade 12 provincial English essay exam."

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?
White curtains, crystal, no shoes and everyone.

What is your idea of misery?
Internet flame-war with everyone.

Where would you like to live?
Where I can see woods and water and all my boys — right here and now, in other words.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
An open heart, generous spirit, a fair mind and the ability to carry me around.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
See [above], including carrying me around.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
Love — think Joy Division.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Paying other people to cook food.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Any ?fault? related to physical appearance — I?m not really sure what anyone is supposed to look like.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their patience and tenacity.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
A dearth of self-awareness posing as hyper-self-awareness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
All the anger — all of it.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
I?m enjoying the occupation I have now. But if I was starting over again, I?d probably be an electrician.

What would you like to be?
With my sweetie more often.

What is your favourite colour?
Sometimes my kids say black is not a colour. Sometimes they say it?s all of the colours. So — black.

What is your favourite flower?
Maybe, an iris — or a zucchini blossom.

What is your favourite bird?
?Oedie, the little blue monster who lives in our kitchen and hops down to chase our vacuum cleaner.

What historical figure do you admire the most??

What character in history do you most dislike?
Aw, that?s not fair to the poor dead guys I?ve never met.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Clichéd, classic, manly stuff — Joseph Conrad, Tolstoy, Dickens?.

Who are your favourite poets?
?Still loving T.S. Eliot for helping me rock a perfect score on the grade 12 provincial English essay exam.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
?Miserable pre-revolution Russians.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Just about everyone I know well from my grandparents? generation — the WWII veterans and their sisters.

Who is your favourite painter?
More clichéd, classic, men.

Who is your favourite musician?
Whoever is playing live in the same space as me — my sister on the piano, my cousin on guitar, strangers playing bagpipes I can?t even see?.

What is your favourite food?
Ssamjang on a cucumber slice.

What is your favourite drink?
?Hot chocolate with an ice cube in it.

What are your favourite names?
Jonah, Samuel, Nathan, Micah, James and Honey-cat.

What is it you most dislike?

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The power to draw stuff that actually looks like the stuff I draw.

How do you want to die?
Traditionally, by which I mean inducing a heart attack by shoveling snow, chopping wood or chasing a garbage truck.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Keeping my mouth shut as often as I do.

What is your motto?
One of my old Scottish families? mottos is ?Fuimus.? And there?s no arguing with that.

For more information about Love Letters of the Angels of Death, please visit the Linda Leith Publishing website.

Visit Jennifer Quist's website, and follow her on Twitter at Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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