Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Proust Questionnaire

Christopher Hitchens brings up the subject of The Proust Questionnaire towards the end of Hitch 22, and divulges his answers to same.  I found his answers most interesting, as he no doubt intended.  I shall not reveal those answers for a couple of reasons:  First and foremost... the questionnaire is lengthy and secondly... well, read the book.  I've already quoted extensively... mayhap too extensively... from this book.  I don't want to add to that abuse, sorely tempted as I might be, in service of the further bending and twisting of the Fair Use Doctrine.  Which I might still do, in future.  But for now...

Googling The Proust Questionnaire brings up MANY results, almost all of which are fascinating.  I decided to post the questions (as I found them... you might wanna hit that Wiki link, above) and my responses, which are MUCH more pedestrian than those I found in my googling.  So here goes... my responses are in italics directly underneath the questions.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being satisfied with what you have and not being consumed with envy over that which others have.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Alzheimer's Disease, or otherwise losing my mind.  Closely coupled: being totally dependent on others for my basic needs.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Sloth, of the mental variety.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Dishonesty.  Hubris is a VERY close second and probably irritates me more than anything else, given I tolerate hubris... to a certain extent...
but do NOT tolerate dishonesty. (I added the last bits after thinking on this for a while.)
5. Which living person do you most admire?

Wow.  This one's tough.  My two adult sons, if one wants to cut close to the bone.  Maggie Thatcher, if one considers historical personages.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Cigars and pricey booze.  We are simple people.

7. What is your current state of mind?

Generally satisfied; somewhat wistful.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Virginity, both literal and intellectual.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

I'm cribbing this from my source of this questionnaire: "When the truth would be too mean, or when the other person’s reaction would be detrimental to me. You know, same as most people."

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My frame.  I'm entirely too skinny.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

Another toughie.  Castro?  Ahmadinejad?  Benoit?  There are many...

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Titties.  Just KIDDING!  If I HAD to name one: honesty tempered with tenderness.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

The f-bomb, verbally.  In writing?  The elipsis.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I will be completely honest:  The Second Mrs. Pennington.

16. When and where were you happiest?

From 1975 - 1997.  In various countries on three continents.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

Musical talent, specifically the guitar.  But any instrument would do.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd like to be able to forgive and forget.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

This might be trite, but my military service.  Or mebbe cultivating a damned fine marriage for at least 18 years.

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

I'd want to be The Second Mrs. Pennington's dog.  You have NO ideer how well that being lives, Gentle Reader.

21. Where would you most like to live?

How long do you have?  London.  The Oregon coast.  Pattaya.  There are many more.
22. What is your most treasured possession?

The Green Hornet.  I suppose.  At the moment.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


24. What is your favorite occupation?

Of the ones I've had: the Air Force, specifically being a programs management guy.
25. What is your most marked characteristic?

My eyes.  Which is completely subjective, of course.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty and honesty.  And a wicked sense of humor.

27. Who are your favorite writers?

Many and varied, depending on mood.  And who I read last.  Tom Robbins, if you must.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?


29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Charlemagne, if sheer admiration and impact on Western Civilization are the objectives. 
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
The First and Second Mrs. Penningtons, coz each saved my life in their own particular way.  I'm forever freakin' grateful for that.  Steve Yzerman, on a completely different and admittedly superficial level.

Feel like playing?  Be my guest.  Please!


  1. 12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


    13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?


    This is one of many reasons why people find it easy to appreciate you. You have, at least, the baseline ability to like yourself. Your answers to just these two questions say all that need to be said. I pity the poor wretches who lack this basic quality.

  2. Dear Lord in Heaven, Buck!

    I couldn't even tell a therapist the answers to all those questions, let alone just let them out in casual conversation.

    Perhaps that is my biggest fear then, that someone knowing too much about me will not help me, only hurt me.

  3. I'll echo what Morgan said. On that same vein, I would suspect that, as we age, we either begin to like ourselves more, or like ourselves less.

    I think it would have been interesting to answer these questions at various intervals when I was younger, and compare them to today's answer, as a witness to my evolution.

    Now, I'm not sure I care enough to start the exercise.

  4. BR: Yeah, it would be interesting if we had this sort of stuff in a diary somewhere, wouldn't it? I KNOW my answers would have been radically different at 20, 30, yadda, yadda. They'd prolly be different next week, too. But not all that much. ;-)

    Kath: So I'm not your Man O' Mystery, then? ;-)

    That said... I've known a lot of women who hold their cards close to the vest.

  5. I may come back to this -- it is intriguing, and I do like attention . . . .

    But, for right now, I think I must commend you on one of the most spectacular turns of a phrase I've ever encountered -- intellectual virginity. How many volumes of Wiki could that generate!

  6. How many volumes of Wiki could that generate!

    Yeah, and on how many levels? Heh.

    Thanks for the kind words, Moogie.

  7. I read through your answers the other night and thought, “I knew that…I didn’t know that…” After following your blog for five years (wow, has it been that long?) I am always amazed at the honesty in your answers.

  8. Yeah... it's been that long... or will be come the 15th of this month. Amazing, innit? That goes BOTH ways, Lou.

  9. I'm on the fence. On one hand I'm with Kath - I am a work-in-progress for so many reasons and even considering my answers to those questions, if only in my head, made my palms sweat.

    On the other hand - everything and anything is blog-fodder and this is a damned great list of questions.

    Your answer to #4 is right up my alley as well.

  10. It's a fascinating bunch of questions. With my general wordiness, I'd kill the entire readership of my blog by #14.

  11. On the other hand - everything and anything is blog-fodder and this is a damned great list of questions.

    It IS a great set of questions. I'm still working my way through the VF articles. Some are light, some are waaay too heavy for me and some are just pretty danged funny.

    Jim: I think you'd do wonders with this if you approached it in your inimitable way.


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