In the back pages of Vanity Fair each month, readers find The Proust Questionnaire, a series of questions posed to famous subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experience. Apparantly the reason it is called "The Proust Questionnaire" is that the young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he is simply the most extraordinary person to respond to them.
You can take the Proust Questionnaire here and compare your answers with others on Facebook (mine most compared with Donna Karan and Walter Cronkite).
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I can’t improve on Proust’s answer! To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater, except I’d add "a good theatre."
2. What is your greatest fear?
I've already experienced my greatest fear--twice (the death of a child). Now my greatest fear is being incapacitated and dependent on someone for everything, being unable to write.
3. What word or phrase do you most overuse?
Cool. (and a couple of 4-letter words)
4. Which living person do you most admire?
"Most" is dependent on a number of things, but today I saw Jane Goodall on Bill Moyers and I realized how much I admire the things she has done to make people aware of the plight of animal species and how she has changed the world.
5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A toss-up between sloth and gluttony!
6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Unkindness. This takes in a host of things such as discrimination, judgmentalism, intolerance, etc.
7. What is your greatest extravagance?
8. On what occasion do you lie?
When to tell the truth would either be unkind to someone or embarrassing to myself.
9. What do you dislike most about yourself?
Duhhh. My weight.
10. When and where were you the happiest?
Wow. 67 years of memories and when/where was I the happiest? Maybe arriving at home from the hospital with newborn Jeri in my arms, to an apartment filled with pink flowers and the sound of music box music playing.
11. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My attitude about food and exercise.
12. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
That's easy--I'd bring Paul and David back.
13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Writing Book 2 of The Lamplighters history. I never thought I could actually write a whole book...but I did.
14. If you died and came back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?
I don't know what I think it would be, but I'd like it to be my mother's (or Peggy's) dog.
15. What is your most treasured possession.
I've answered this question before. It would have to be "Delicate Pooh," a Pooh bear that had originally been a gift to Jeri when she was a year old, but who had been passed along to each of the kids, and loved until he had very little fur left, not enough stuffing to give his body any shape and then that year the dog ate his face. Jeri made a new face for him and it was my Christmas present that year. I think that was the best present I ever received. (I wrote a whole entry about Delicate Pooh, which was lost in the Yahoo purge!)
16. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The death of a child.
17. The quality you most admire in a man?
Intelligence, compassion, a sense of humor, and the ability to communicate.
18. Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
"Little Women's" Jo was my first heroine. She's still a good one, though my favorite heroine these days might be Kay Scarpetta.
19. How would you like to die?
In my sleep. I'd like to awake to a bright light with Paul and David in it saying 'Hi, Mom--welcome home!"
20. What is your motto?
You can only make a difference when you care.