Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Natalee Caple

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Natalee Caple is the author of four books of fiction and two books of poetry, including the novels The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World (Anansi) and Mackerel Sky (Thomas Allen/St. Martin's). Her short story collection The Heart is its Own Reason (Insomniac) was positively reviewed by the New York Times and has been optioned for film, and her poetry collection A More Tender Ocean (Coach House) was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Calgary. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Natalee tells us her greatest accomplishment, her principal fault, her idea of happiness and more.

Natalee Caple's newest book, How I Came to Haunt my Parents, was recently published in an electronic edition with Joyland/ECW Press. She will be in Toronto this week for a conversation with Andrew Pyper at Joyland's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" Fundraiser, which takes place at Supermarket on Thursday, May 19th. You'll also have a chance to meet authors Chris Eaton and Carl Wilson. Visit our Events page for more information.

How I Came to Haunt my Parents, Jim Hanas's Why They Cried and Chris Eaton's Letters to Thomas Pynchon are now available to be purchased at a special trio price. Click here for more details.


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?
Me, the kids and Jeremy in Maui in a little white house where I have a writing office. Me working, working, working and then us, on a boat, watching the whales. And then returning home. Or . . . us taking a year off and traveling the country, home-schooling the kids and linking every lesson to where we are.

What is your idea of misery?
Being without my family.

Where would you like to live?
In many places at once: Paris, Maui, Toronto, Cardiff, Peterborough, Montreal.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
His Jeremy-ness.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Her ability to face down the present.

What is your chief characteristic?
I am intensely loving and loyal.

What is your principal fault?
I am driven and I cannot let go of my failures.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Dresses for my daughter, dinosaurs for my son, photo books, art supplies, wine.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Their obsessions.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their intelligence, kindness, talent and goodness.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Intolerance, which leads to cruelty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My self-consciousness. My insecurity about the future.

What is your favourite virtue?
Kindness. I would rather be kind than smart, thin or rich.

What is your favourite occupation?
Writing. Nothing feels good when I am not writing and feels fantastic when the writing is going well.

What would you like to be?
What? Hmm, happy? Or — a unicorn?

What is your favourite colour?
I love them all.

What is your favourite bird?
The hummingbird, for its touch.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
If by historical you mean someone dead, I guess my cousin Heather.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
How much time do you have? Milan Kundera, Flannery O’Connor, Fay Weldon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Albert Camus, Susan Swan, Marion Engel, Maria Campbell, Alice Munro, Michelle Berry, Catherine Bush, Cathy Ostlere, Suzette Mayr, Nicole Markotic, Philip Roth, Andrew Pyper, Joe Hill — I can’t stop.

Who are your favourite poets?
Same problem — I love the Surrealists, especially Paul Éluard. But I read mostly Canadian poetry: Erin Moure, Dionne Brand, Jonathan Ball, ryan fitzpatrick, derek beaulieu, Sina Queyras, George Murray, Jonathan Bennett, Di Brandt, Nicole Markotic, angela rawlings . . .

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Martine from my book Mackerel Sky, Theresa from The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera), Winnie the Pooh.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Oliver Sacks, Helene Cixous, my grandmother.

Who is your favourite painter?
Liz Phillips, Lynn Donoghue, Cy Twombly, Cheryl Donegan and Klimt (for his pine trees).

Who is your favourite musician?
Tom Waits, Amelia Curran.

What is your favourite food?
Sushi and / or peaches.

What is your favourite drink?
Red wine.

What is it you most dislike?
Money; because it isn’t real and it still messes with everything.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Physical grace.

How do you want to die?
Please don’t kill me.

What is your current state of mind?
I’m nervous and overworked and happy.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My daughter Imogen and my son Cassius.

What is your motto?
My family motto is: This hand is against tyranny.

Don't miss Natalee Caple's recent Questionless Books Interview.

For more information about How I Came to Haunt my Parents please visit the Joyland website.

Buy the Joyland trio at the ECW Press website or purchase How I Came to Haunt my Parents from

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