Proust-like answers

I hate it when honesty is done nastily, and people say, “I’m just being honest.”

proustBlame Dustbury; I do. He posted about the Proust Questionnaire. And because I apparently have ADHD, I decided to tackle the questions Marcel Proust reportedly answered at gatherings when he was 13 and 20. Some are duplicated, but of course, I didn’t copy them.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

The lack of a moral compass.

Where would you like to live?

In a compassionate land. Someplace near flowing water.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

To live in contact with interesting people, listening to a wealth of music, and have access to a good cinema and a good Internet connection.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

To too much curiosity.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Any of those folks who help the oppressed: Zorro, Robin Hood, for two. And Spider-Man.

Who are your favorite characters in history?

Thomas Jefferson, Mohandas K. Gandhi

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?

Currently: Elizabeth Warren. Clara Barton, Margaret Sanger, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Gloria Steinhem (I had a subscription to Ms. Magazine when it was brand new), lots more

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Amelia Louise McBride. Or Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Your favorite painter?

Gaughin or Van Gogh

Your favorite musician?

The Beatles, if that’s a singular entity, John Lennon if not.

The quality you most admire in a man?

Intelligence, moral sense, common sense, compassion

The quality you most admire in a woman?

Intelligence, moral sense, common sense, compassion

Your favorite virtue?

An honesty honed by compassion

Your favorite occupation?

Singing, looking up stuff

Who would you have liked to be?

Methuselah – saw a lot of history.
Your most marked characteristic?

A desire to be loved, and especially, understood

What do you most value in your friends?


What is your principal defect?


What is your dream of happiness?

I don’t dream of happiness. I live my life in hope that happiness arises; sometimes, it does.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

To be mistreated as a child.

What would you like to be?

Another year older and less in debt.

In what country would you like to live?

This one (United States), necessarily idealized.

What is your favorite color?

Aquamarine – oh, something on the green-blue spectrum.

What is your favorite flower?

The lily.

What is your favorite bird?

The cardinal, which I have seen more often in my yard in recent years.
Who are your favorite prose writers?

Russell Baker, Garrison Keillor, Paul Grondahl

Who are your favorite poets?

Frost, Whitman, Shafarzek

Who are your favorite composers?

Mozart, Beethoven, Lennon-McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan

What are your favorite names?

Isabella. Surnames, almost anything long and Italian or Polish or Russian or French.

What is it you most dislike?

Arrogance, especially when it’s unwarranted.

What historical figures do you most despise?

Joseph Stalin; I’m terribly pleased that he died just before I was born. Josef Mengele, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann and sure, Hitler. Kim Il Sung, and his descendants. Idi Amin.

What event in military history do you most admire?

The US/UN control of Iraq in January 2003, with inspectors on the ground looking for those “weapons of mass destruction.” And then we had to spoil it all by saying something stupid like, “Let’s go to war.”

What reform do you most admire?

Much of FDR’s New Deal.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?


How would you like to die?

In my sleep. Failing that, saving someone.

What is your present state of mind?

No more muddled than usual.

What is your motto?

To quote the great philosopher Kenneth Ray Rogers:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

There’s a “modern” version, questions found here.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A daily massage to soothing music.

What is your most marked characteristic?


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being married 15 years.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing people.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

Frederick Douglass

Which living person do you most admire?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Who are your heroes in real life?

People who see wrongs and try to right them.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Being prone to melancholy

What is your favorite journey?

Riding on a boat up and down the Hudson River.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Honesty, when it’s done nastily, and people say, “I’m just being honest.”

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

“Well,” when I’m formulating an idea.

What is your greatest regret?

Failure in marriage.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Maybe a little more play before work, now and then.

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s this very incomplete family tree of my maternal grandmother’s family.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Suicidal despair.

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