Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Stephanie Bolster

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Stephanie Bolster

The author of A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth (Brick Books), Stephanie Bolster is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet. She has published three other collections prior to A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth and has been awarded the Archibald Lampman and Gerald Lampert Awards.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Stephanie Bolster tells Open Book her perfect bouquet, her views on heroes and much more.

You can listen to Stephanie Bolster read from A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth via Audioboo (with special thanks to Brick Books and Julie Wilson).

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.


Stephanie Bolster reads What Art from A Page From the Wonders of Life on Earth (mp3)

What is your dream of happiness?
To have all that I have now, but with more time to enjoy it.

What is your idea of misery?
Loneliness and extreme poverty.

Where would you like to live?
I’d divide my time between my present home (Pointe-Claire), Vancouver (preferably Kitsilano), New York (preferably Greenwich Village), New Orleans (I’d take either the French Quarter or the Garden District), Paris (arrondissement uncertain), London (neighbourhood even more uncertain), Delft (anywhere near a canal), and a leafy retreat on Kauai. Not sure if I’d try a month in each place or a few years — serial stability?

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Intelligence, creativity, sensitivity.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Intelligence, creativity, sensitivity.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
Self-discipline. And being highly strung.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Believing in art for art’s sake.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Lateness and self-centredness.

What do you value most about your friends?
Understanding and generosity.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My tendency to judge the glass half empty.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
A painter, of course.

What is your favourite colour?
Green, preferably sage, or that golden green of early spring.

What is your favourite flower?
Sweet pea, fuchsia, cherry blossom, lisianthus, love-in-a-mist.

What is your favourite bird?
Victoria crowned pigeon, bowerbird.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I can’t narrow this down to even a few. Probably someone who didn’t make it into the history books.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler would seem an obvious choice.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
W.G. Sebald. Annie Dillard. Paul Auster. And on and on and on.

Who are your favourite poets?
Robert Hass. Don Coles. Anne Carson. Elizabeth Bishop. John Ashbery. Cole Swensen. And on and on and on.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I’m not sure I believe in heroes. But my favourite characters include, still, those adolescent pals Holden Caulfield and Ponyboy Curtis, as well as Margaret Laurence’s Morag, A.S. Byatt’s Frederica and, more recently, Emma Donoghue’s Jack.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I don’t believe in heroes, just in heroic actions, so anyone I name would be obvious.

Who is your favourite painter?
It varies. At this particular instant, Pierre Bonnard.

Who is your favourite musician?
Scott Miller, of Game Theory and Loud Family fame. May he outlive his relative obscurity.

What is your favourite food?
Cheese fondue, boeuf bourguignon, roast turkey, salmon, sweet potatoes, arugula, raspberries, gâteau succès, macaron praliné. And egg salad sandwiches.

What is your favourite drink?
Espresso allongé (decaf). Or hot chocolate, the real thing, thick enough to use as a sauce.

What are your favourite names?
Those of my daughters, of course: Madeleine and Éloïse. Also Charlotte and, for boys, Nicholas, Julian and Raphael.

What is it you most dislike?
At this moment, having to make choices!

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to draw or paint things as they actually appear. And a good singing voice.

How do you want to die?
Old, but with my body and faculties as intact as possible, and happy, in a chair overlooking water.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My children, my books of poetry, my job.

What is your motto?
“Do not hurry; do not rest.” Thanks, Goethe.

For more information about A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth, please visit the Brick Books website.

Buy this book direct from Brick Books or at your local independent bookstore or online 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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