Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Tamas Dobozy

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Tamas Dobozy is a Waterloo author who has just released a collection of thirteen linked stories called Siege 13 with Thomas Allen Publishers, which has recently been shortlisted for the Writer's Trust Award for fiction and for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. In his answers to Proust Questionnaire, Tamas tells us what kind of rally would be misery itself to sit front row in, what part of Canada is home to his dream of happiness, who the anonymous historical figures he admires are, the significance of "Caw!," and much more.

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?
Savary Island, British Columbia in the winter, the water taxi broken down, no cell phone coverage or Internet access, but with enough electricity for a computer. As well, music, books, and movies, not to mention propane, firewood, food and booze to last from October to April. No need for other people.

What is your idea of misery?
Being gagged and tied to a chair, my eyes and ears forced to stay open, in the front row of a Conservative Party rally.

Where would you like to live?
My house.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Gut-busting hilarity. Ease of manner. Self-consciousness and -deprecation. Empathy. Enough knowledge and wisdom to avoid the doctrinaire.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
See above.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
See above.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Impulse shopping, more books than I can read, more music than I can listen to, the endless accumulation of very specific kinds of stuff, and way too much time reading newspapers on the internet.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Aggression and hostility.

What do you value most about your friends?
Doing as they say. Keeping in touch. Actually caring in deed as well as word. Just making a genuine effort, I guess.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
That would be a neck-and-neck tie between intolerance and arrogance.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
See number six.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
A manager of one's independent wealth.

What would you like to be?
A manager of my independent wealth.

What is your favourite colour?
I guess it would be Phthalo blue, or maybe skobeloff. It's hard to decide between these two. I really wouldn't want to choose.

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?
Vulture. Actually, that's my wife's favorite bird, but there is no better pick than that. If I had to pick which kind of vulture, it would definitely be the condor. It would be fantastic to be a condor.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I really like those totally anonymous gravestones you see in cemetaries, the words and dates almost worn blank, tilting over, grass and weeds growing up and around, no sense at all of who these people were, just a season or two short of vanishing entirely, all record of their lives gone. These are the historical figures I most admire, and wish to emulate, for their tenacity and courage and blind faith.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Lately, I gotta say I'm really disliking Barry Goldwater. But this changes depending on which moment in history I'm thinking about, so it's endless, really. I hate so many of them?the living and the dead.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Mikhail Bulgakov, Thomas Pynchon, Alvaro Mutis, Stuart Dybek, Mavis Gallant, Eudora Welty, Gilbert Sorrentino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Camilo Jose Cela (yes, yes, I know), Paul Bowles, Bohumil Hrabal, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Samuel Beckett, J.M.G. Le Clezio. I also really like Stan Lee.

Who are your favourite poets?
I have only one: Rod McKuen. Woefully underappreciated.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The Unnameable, Slothrop, Maqrol, Bartleby, and Conan the Barbarian.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The people who invented antibiotics and anaesthesia. There's so much I could live without?the Bible, Shakespeare, Dante, Picasso, etc.?but I absolutely would not want to live in a world without anaesthesia. God bless those people.

Who is your favourite painter?
Cy Twombly.

Who is your favourite musician?
Domenico Scarlatti. Well, he's my favorite composer. But I hear he was a pretty good musician, too.

What is your favourite food?

What is your favourite drink?
Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 year old.

What are your favourite names?
Benjamin, Henry, Molly, and Lucy.

What is it you most dislike?
The inevitability of human stupidity, greed and violence.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

How do you want to die?
Assumed body and soul directly into Heaven.

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Raising four kids. Hands down. Though I'm not nearly done yet, so it's not quite accomplished. Perhaps it's having raised four kids this far and having survived.

What is your motto?
"Caw!" My father used to yell this to scare crows out of his garden. It's a bulletproof motto.


Tamas Dobozy was born in Nanaimo, BC. After receiving his Ph.D. in English from the University of British Columbia, he taught at Memorial University. His work has been published in journals throughout North America, and in 1995 he won the annual subTerrain short fiction contest. When X Equals Marylou, his first collection of short fiction, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award. Tamas Dobozy now teaches in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

For more information about Siege 13 please visit the Thomas Allen Publishers website.

Buy this book 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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