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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Proust Questionnaire

The only place I splurge without guilt is the grocery store. This time I bought the expensive Dulcinea watermelon and Vanity Fair. I ate the watermelon while I read the last page of the magazine, where Margaret Atwood answered the Proust Questionnaire. Here are my answers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being curled in the most comfortable chair in the world on a winter day, with a large mug of tea at my side, a very thick book on my lap, and nothing to do all day.

What is your greatest fear?
It vacillates between being raped and the death of my husband.

Which living person do you most admire?
Alice Munro, as a writer, not as a person. I don't know anything about her as a person.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Writing instead of having a job.

What is your favorite journey?
Coming home.

On what occasion do you lie?
To avoid hurting my parents.

Which living person do you most despise?
Liars and -- I'm going to steal Atwood's answer here -- major polluters.

What is your greatest regret?
Making decisions based on the fear of what other people would think about me.

When and where were you happiest?
There isn't a specific moment, and anyway I'm wary of happiness. But a lot of the most wonderful moments of my life have been spent in conversations with my husband.

What is your current state of mind?
Reflective, indecisive, worried.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn't be embarrassed to be who I am.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I don't have one yet.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A bee.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

What is your most treasured possession?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Complete self-absorption.

Where would you like to live?
A very green place with lots of rain.

What is your favorite occupation?
Reading. Reading and eating is such a close second it might as well be first.

What is your most marked characteristic?

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intellectual curiosity and politeness.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Intellectual curiosity and self-possession.

Who are your favorite writers?
They change all the time.

What is your favorite hero of fiction?
I take issue with the word hero. It's too loaded. Two of my favorite fictional characters are Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch and Mitya from The Brothers Karamazov.

Who are your heroes in real life?
There are no heroes in real life.

What is it that you most dislike?

How would you like to die?
Unafraid of death.

What is your motto?
Lighten up.

I like Atwood's a lot: nolite te bastardes carborundorum. The amazing world wide web tells me that it means: don't let the bastards get you down. Sounds like Atwood all right.


Anonymous Maven said...

Dorothea Brooke is my number one heroine of fiction too.

September 22, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

Liars are underrated. For many people, lying is how they "do" life and preserve relationships. When a child has to say "I love you" to an abusive mother whom she hates, that child is a liar. When a man has to say "I want this job" to a tyrannical boss who's asked him why he should not fire him, that man is a liar. When a teenager has to tell his parents that he likes girls when in fact he likes boys, he, too, is a liar. Would you condemn these liars to the outer darkness? I think too much purity and clarity can be a liability.

You might try Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, by Sissela Bok.

September 24, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

I didn't condemn anyone to the outer darkness. But I'm afraid that by choosing not to write elaborate answers to some questions I slipped inadvertently into black-and-white territory. I don't believe that lying is always bad and that telling the truth is always good. The liars I referred to are people who lie because it's easier to do so for reasons of pure self-interest and advancement and who know that this is what they're doing and have no qualms about it. I don't deny that lying can be useful, but in very limited and specific situations and as a short-term solution. I don't think it ever works in the long term.

September 25, 2006  

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