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Getting to Know You--The Proust Questionnaire
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Every month, after I tear out all the blow-ins, heavy-stock pages, and perfume strips, the first page I flip to in my new issue of Vanity Fair is The Proust Questionnaire at the back of the magazine.  For some reason, I am drawn to the series of questions asked of well-known people to draw them out and reveal some of their innermost thoughts.

Several years ago, I took a crack at the questionnaire, though I can no longer locate my responses.  So I shall make an attempt in this blog, and invite everyone else to complete as much or as little of it as you'd like and share it with the rest of us.  I'll include a blank copy of the questionnaire after this completed one, so you may cut and paste it for your own use.

OK.  Here goes.  From the brain of Ellen.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Cleanliness, empathy, sensitivity.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Generosity of spirit and intelligence in all its forms, including emotional intelligence.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
The same. . .generosity and intelligence.

What do you most value in your friends?
Good judgment, loyalty, steadfastness.

What is your principle defect?
My tendency to give people too many chances.

What is your favorite occupation?
Reading, traveling, daydreaming.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Peace in all its forms.  Self actualization.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Spiritual poverty, an ugly heart.

What would you like to be?
I am reasonably content with who I am, but if I couldn't be me, I'd like to be one of Oprah's puppies.

In what country would you like to live?
Other than my own, France, bien sur.

What is your favorite color?
Blue.

What is your favorite flower?
Any wildflower.

What is your favorite bird?
The eagle.

Who are your favorite prose writers?
In addition to those in the RR, Khaled Hosseini, Frank McCourt*, and my late Aussie friend Pamela Bone, who always gave me the giggles.

Who are your favorite poets?
In addition to those in the RR, Khalil Gibran, Omar Khayyam, Rumi, and some of the other Sufi poets.
 
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Robin Hood.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Jo from Little Women and The Little Engine That Could.

Who are your favorite composers?
Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky.

Who are your favorite painters?
Cassatt, Cezanne, Da Vinci, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Morisot, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh, and some of the pointillists.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Stand-up people.  Those who act in the interests of the greater good.  Those who refuse to sell their souls.  Those with personal integrity.

What are your favorite names?
Those of the people I love.

What is it you most dislike?
Cruelty, duplicitousness, greed, gutlessness, mendacity, rudeness, selfishness, sense of entitlement, sycophantism, unbridled ambition, red meat.

What historical figures do you most despise?
Despots, dictators, anyone who has oppressed others, and anyone who has aided and abetted them, either through commission or omission.

What event in military history do you most admire?
The defeat of the Nazis in World War II comes to mind.

What reform do you most admire?
Duh.  Equality and universal human rights, but we are not even close yet.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
The ability to right wrongs and the ability to assuage the pain of others.  The ability to eat whatever I want and still fit into my skinny jeans.

How would you like to die?
I wouldn't.

What is your present state of mind?
World weary.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Impatience, though I have done better with age.

What is your motto?
Karma's a bitch.  (No offense to bitches!)

 

*  July 16, 2009 update:  Oh, no-o-o-o-o!!!  Frank McCourt is terribly ill!  :-(

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And here's the template to

And here's the template to cut and paste and complete:

What is your most marked characteristic?

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?

What is your principle defect?

What is your favorite occupation?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

What would you like to be?

In what country would you like to live?

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite flower?

What is your favorite bird?

Who are your favorite prose writers?

Who are your favorite poets?

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Who are your favorite composers?

Who are your favorite painters?

Who are your heroes in real life?

What are your favorite names?

What is it you most dislike?

What historical figures do you most despise?

What event in military history do you most admire?

What reform do you most admire?

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

How would you like to die?

What is your present state of mind?

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

What is your motto?

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Ellen, I love doing

 

Ellen, I love doing this...earlier I often ignored such surveys...Here goes:

What is your most marked characteristic?

Indecisiveness and over-sensitivity

What is the quality you most like in a man?

The ability to take risks (that would be me!), can cook, politically and socially observant and pro-active. A good voice will help make me listen a bit more...

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

The ability to take risks, feminity, tenacity, politically and socially observant and pro-active. And a great sense of aesthetics.

What do you most value in your friends?

Their friendship.

What is your principle defect?

A short temper and blind trust.

What is your favorite occupation?

Doodling, humming, taking pictures, sitting in the dark and meditating...

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I'd be too afraid if it were perfect, but watching the sunset by the sea and not wanting anything more would be close.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

The misery of those who do not have basic essentials and the dignity of a decent life and livelihood

What would you like to be?

Ambitious!

In what country would you like to live?

Where I am, but would love to take temporary residence anywhere near the sea or a tea estate.

What is your favorite color?

Blue

What is your favorite flower?

Magnolia

What is your favorite bird?

The crow

Who are your favorite prose writers?

Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, Norman Mailer, Chekhov, Saadat Hassan Manto, Ismat Chugtai

Who are your favorite poets?

Ahmed Faraz, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Bahadurshah Zafar, Neruda, Shelley, Sylvia Plath

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Meursault in Camus' ‘The Outsider'

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Madame Bovary, Blanche DuBois

Who are your favorite composers?

More into Indian music, so... Salil Chaudhary, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, S.D. Burman...

Who are your favorite painters?

Jamini Roy, Amrita Shergil, Picasso, Modigliani, Degas, Frida Kahlo, Dali, Titian

Who are your heroes in real life?

My mother is and her mother was, and people who make every obstacle into an opportunity and transform every sorrow into resolve

What are your favorite names?

Anything that sounds musical

What is it you most dislike?

High society parties, double standards and people flashing brands, back-biting, back-stabbing, turncoats...

What historical figures do you most despise?

They are history, so I won't waste my hate on them

What event in military history do you most admire?

I do not like wars

What reform do you most admire?

On paper, in India it was widow remarriage.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

To fly and keep my mouth shut

How would you like to die?

Don't get me going on this...

What is your present state of mind?

Confused

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

The inability to be able to say the good things I feel about people...I am always so held back and now I have resigned myself to it

What is your motto?

All illusions are real

~F

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Who are your favorite

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Blanche DuBois

Farzana, isn't she the sister who always relied on the kindness of strangers?  When I lived in New Orleans, I lived on a streetcar line.

What is it you most dislike?
High society parties, double standards and people flashing brands, back-biting, back-stabbing, turncoats...

Have to agree.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
To fly

I almost said this, too, Farzana, because one of my recurring dreams is that I can fly or float in the air, and it's always crushing to wake up and realize I can't.

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Yes, she is...and yet I find

Yes, she is...and yet I find her completely fascinating. In some ways she did fly and come crashing down.

It is nice to dream of being able to fly...sometimes, for me, it is to fly away.

~F

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That was fun, Ellen. Thank you.

What is your most marked characteristic?

- My most marked feature would have to be my wrist: it gets stamped with ink whenever I enter a nightclub.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

- I like a man who is about my size, has a great wardrobe, and likes to share.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

- See above.

What do you most value in your friends?

- Their wit and their forgiveness.

What is your principle defect?

- Insecurity and impatience.

What is your favorite occupation?

- Editorial Director of Red Room, of course.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

- Content in the knowledge that all the people I love are well and happy, I'm sitting in a luxurious seat aboard an airplane on its way to an exotic place I've never been to before. I'm engrossed a good book. The flight attendant (who is, oddly, Jamie Bamber, the actor who played Captain Apollo on the new "Battlestar Galactica" series) is approaching with champagne -- because the cockpit has just gotten word that there has been a spontaneous worldwide eruption of peace and human rights, and it's time to celebrate.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

- Lucky me, I am the wrong person to ask. I probably can't even imagine the lowest depth of misery. Sadly, there are far too many people in the world who could tell you from experience.

What would you like to be?

- About two inches taller.

In what country would you like to live?

- A United States that is living up to its ideals and principles.

What is your favorite color?

- Navy blue.

What is your favorite flower?

- Sunflower.

What is your favorite bird?

- Duck.

Who are your favorite prose writers?

- George Orwell, W. Somerset Maugham, Ann Patchett, Christopher Isherwood, and Edith Wharton.

Who are your favorite poets?

- W.H. Auden.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

- The first that came to mind was Cal Stephanides (of "Middlesex"). This is sort of a surprise to me, though I did love that book.

Who is your favorite heroine of fiction?

- Jane Eyre ... and poor, doomed Lily Bart.

Who are your favorite composers?

- My taste in music is pretty lowbrow: it tends toward '80s Synth Pop, schmaltzy show tunes, and TV theme songs.

Who are your heroes in real life?

- People who are good and brave, even when they don't have to be, and even when they may be punished for it: I am thinking right now of Miep Gies and the other people who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

What are your favorite names?

- Leonardo and Margaret.

What is it you most dislike?

- Injustice, intolerance, and canned peas.

What historical figures do you most despise?

- Hypocritical tyrants.

What event in military history do you most admire?

- The trouble with military events is that they all somehow cause, avenge, celebrate, or foreshadow the death of innocent people. It's hard to find an "event" to admire; however, I am awestruck by the bravery of countless individual military servicepeople who have fought and died to protect their countries and their loved ones.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

- Fantastic hair.

How would you like to die?

- I would not like that at all.

What is your present state of mind?

- Hopeful.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

- Those caused by social awkardness and shyness.

What is your motto?

- Life is too complicated for mottoes.

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What is your most marked

What is your most marked characteristic?
- My most marked feature would have to be my wrist: it gets stamped with ink whenever I enter a nightclub.

:-D 

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- See above.

@@ 

In what country would you like to live?
- A United States that is living up to its ideals and principles.

Great answer!

What is your favorite bird?
- Duck.

Did you attend uni in Oregon?

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No, I have only visited Oregon a few times....

I just like ducks. They're such handsome, homey birds. :)

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One of my ex beaux (wow. .

One of my ex beaux (wow. . .I sound promiscuous!) attended the uni in Eugene, Oregon.  The team's name is the Oregon Ducks.  The first time he told me that, I laughed until I was creased in half.  Doesn't sound very menacing.  :-D

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Ellen, I want to do your

Ellen, I want to do your survey but I am distressed to read about Frank McCourt being terribly ill. Mp

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Me, too, dear.  I'd always

Me, too, dear.  I'd always hoped one day to meet him, to tell him what Angela's Ashes has meant to me, and to ask him to sign my copy of that and 'Tis.  I've met his brother Malachy, so I thought it would be possible one day to meet Frank.  I didn't even know he was sick.

Sending prayers and love out to this man whose writing touched me so. 

 

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For those who haven't yet

For those who haven't yet heard, Frank McCourt passed away yesterday.  :-(

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Ellen, this is fun!Hummm,

Ellen, this is fun!Hummm, let´s see. :-)

What is your most marked characteristic?

An honest smile.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Experience, reliability, honest eyes and, I agree with Farzana, a good voice helps.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Empathy, reliability, and good humor.

What do you most value in your friends?

Their existence.

What is your principle defect?

I´m obstinate (ok, stubborn).

What is your favorite occupation?

It´s not exactly an occupation, but I love to be a mother.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Realizing that it doesn´t exist and being able to live with that realization.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Besides the physical ones, hunger, pain etc I´d say that spiritual shallowness is really sad.

What would you like to be?

I´m pretty comfortable with myself, but in another life I think I´d like to be a wild animal, like a jaguar or a wolf.:-D

In what country would you like to live?

Any non-violent country where I could still be myself.

What is your favorite color?

I like earth tones.

What is your favorite flower?

Rose

What is your favorite bird?

Humming-bird

Who are your favorite prose writers?

Borges, Erico Verissimo, Kate Chopin, the Russian novelists.

Who are your favorite poets?

Now, this list is endless. A few of them: Mario Quintana, Fernando Pessoa, Drummond. Here at Red Room, I love the poetry of Kathryn Byer, Aberjhani and Mary Wilkinson. :-)

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Classical: Odysseus. I simply love the guy.
Modern: Atticus Finch.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Classical: Penelope
Modern: Ana Terra (by Brazilian author Erico Verissimo)

Who are your favorite composers?

Villa-Lobos, Bach, Tchaikovsky...

Who are your favorite painters?

Portinari, the impressionists, Dalí, and I love the sensuality in Waterhouse.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I don´t expect real people to meet hero standards, but I have a great admiration for people brave enough to do the right thing facing the worst obstacles.

What are your favorite names?

Ana and Pedro.

What is it you most dislike?

Hypocrisy.

What historical figures do you most despise?

Unfortunately, I think there´s one for each letter of the alphabet, but I´ll stick with the letter H - Hitler.

What event in military history do you most admire?

The end of war (any war to date).

What reform do you most admire?

The 1940´s labor reform in Brazil.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

The ability to play music by ear.

How would you like to die?

Peacefully

What is your present state of mind?

I feel fine.:-)

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

Eating too much candy and speaking more than I should sometimes. But I´m learning...

What is your motto?

Of course it´s not mine, but I adopted it: Live and let live.

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Ellen, this is fun!

Ellen, this is fun!

It is, but it takes some thinking, doesn't it?  One reason why I'm so addicted to it in Vanity Fair is because it reveals so much about the well-known people who respond.  Some are more intelligent than one might think, others are just terribly clever and witty, and others don't seem to have much brain circuitry or depth.

What is your principle defect?
I´m obstinate (ok, stubborn).

Would've never guessed.  But this can be turned into an asset, too.  Call it tenacity.  :-D

What is your favorite occupation?
It´s not exactly an occupation, but I love to be a mother.

I think this question is meant in its broadest sense. . .in terms of how you like to occupy your time.  And motherhood definitely counts!

What would you like to be?
I´m pretty comfortable with myself, but in another life I think I´d like to be a wild animal, like a jaguar or a wolf.:-D

The seringueiros told me the most feared jungle animal is the jaguar. 

Who are your favorite painters?
Portinari, the impressionists, Dalí, and I love the sensuality in Waterhouse.

Luciana, have you heard of a Brazilian painter named Helio Melo?  He lives in Rio Branco, and he is beloved in Acre state because he paints seringuerios and their world.  He has had exhibitions at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the world.  And, as I was preparing to leave Brazil and noodling what to take home with me as a memento (apart from the ones others gave me), I visited his tiny gallery in Rio Branco.  I saw a painting of a seringueira (i.e., female rubber tapper, to those who don't know Portuguese). . .the only female I'd ever seen in his work.  I couldn't get it off my mind, so I returned a few days later to buy it.  That day, Helio was in the gallery, and we had a beautiful exchange, even though he speaks no English and Portuguese is not exactly my strong suit.  But I was so happy to meet him after seeing his work throughout that part of Brazil.  When I got home, I had the painting professionally framed, and I display it proudly in my home.  It's one of my favorite possessions. 

What are your favorite names?
Ana and Pedro.

The names of your children, no?

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Eating too much candy

But you are slim, Luciana!

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Sugar levels in the

Sugar levels in the blood...
Ellen, I didn´t know Hélio Melo. I looked up his biography in the Internet, and I really liked his paintings. Thanks so much for this information! It says he was a seringueiro, himself.
Oui,those are my kids´ names.
As for the jaguar, I was once told by a friend it was my "animal spirit"...I have no idea how she got to that.Go figure! :-D

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In Chico Mendez Park in Rio

In Chico Mendez Park in Rio Branco, there was a live jaguar in a cage.  Unlike American zoos, which would have something unbreakable around the cage and fencing and huge ravines and all kinds of obstacles between the viewer and the animal, at this park you could pretty much walk within a few feet of him.  I went as close as I dared, and I'm telling you, he was a thing of beauty.  Aerodynamic.  Gorgeous fur.  Sinewy body.  Looked like he could knock your head off with just a playful swat of one paw.  You would be one fierce kitty, Luciana.  :-)