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Proustian? Maybe At One Time…

In college, my writing professor suggested that my prose were Proustian. I am embarrassed to admit that, at the time, I had no real idea who Proust was, other than “a writer.” To this day, I have not read Proust.

But who cares? Here are my answers to Vanity Fair’s version of the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? “Happiness is the emotional reaction to the performing of actions that bring you closer to what or where you want to be.” ~ Commander Johnson

What is your greatest fear? Irrelevance. Actually, I don’t know if that’s my greatest fear, but right now it is.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? I don’t.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? A tendency towards “all or nothing” thinking.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Hypocrisy/martyrdom.

What is your greatest extravagance? The freedom to pursue my passion and a flexible schedule.

What is your favorite journey? The one I’m on. My life.

What do you dislike most about your appearance? Right this minute? My bloated abdomen. Although I am really trying to accept it so I can view it more objectively and not through a lens of desperation.

What words or phrases do you most overuse? I don’t know. (That’s not the phase I most overuse…I really don’t know. You tell me.)

What is your greatest regret? Having rushed certain things/processes that should not have been rushed.

Who or what is the greatest love(s) of your life? My husband.

When or where were you happiest? See the answer to the question above, “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” and add to that, I am happy at home (and home is not a specific place, it’s a feeling).

What talent would you most like to have? I would like to be able to sing so as to give others goose bumps. In a good way.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My marriage.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be? A beloved and spoiled house cat.

What is your most treasured possession? My confidence.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Bitterness/resentment.

Where would you like to live? Somewhere warmer, sunnier, and with longer daylight hours year-round. Preferably by an ocean.

What is your favorite occupation? Writing.

What is your most marked characteristic? Transparency and/or the ability to relate.

What is the quality you most like in a man? Timness. This is a quality my sister came up with to describe my husband.

What do you most value in your friends? Transparency and/or the ability to relate.

Who are your favorite writers? John Irving, Wally Lamb, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ayn Rand, James Michener…

Who is your favorite hero in fiction? Dolores Price from She’s Come Undone

Who are your heroes in real life? Pretty much everyone I know.

What are your favorite names? I don’t have any.

What is it that you most dislike? Conflict. Liver and lima beans.

How would you like to die? Fearlessly, but also quickly and with no warning. Is that a contradiction?

What is your motto? I have three: 1) Be for, not against. 2) It’s not mine to fix. 3) Practice, don’t preach.


  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I always love to read other people’s answers to proust questions.

    What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? A tendency towards “all or nothing” thinking.

    All or nothing thinking drives me crazy. It’s so ingrained and hard to let go. But it is so much more pleasant to think in terms of a sliding scale now, less perfect…

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted April 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes…or as I like to call it, “both/and” thinking :-)

  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s an interesting little exercise. As for the abdomen… see the post I just put up, then you can laugh at it.

  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Fun! And I admit I know nothing about Proust.

  • Maureen Kilgour
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Being called Proustian is what I think would be quite the compliment. Do yourself a favor and if you don’t want to delve into Proust by reading the books, listen to them on audio. I have Rememberance of Things Past on 39 discs (and that is abridged — I don’t think you can find unabridged) that I listen to all the time. There are such beautifully constructed phrases that you wonder how a genius like that ever existed and make you thankful that he wrote down his words. The site for the discs I have is — one of the best purchases I have ever made. You will not regret it!

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted April 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Ha! Thanks for the tip. And it was Brother Belanger who said it! Do you remember him?

      • Maureen Kilgour
        Posted April 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        I remember him very well as I worked closely with him when I did events and was alumni director at Marist. That is quite the compliment coming from him!

  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    LOVED this Karen! So interesting!!!! I admit I had no idea what Proustian was although I have heard of the author. I found myself answering along!!!!

    The one that I recall from the beginning – what is you idea of perfect happiness – to me, it would be not even having to think about that question – I would just be happy….. :-)

  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad you only included lima beans and liver on your dislike list and NOT mashed potato… :-)

    I love the positivity that comes through with your answers: enjoying the journey you’re on, your confidence etc.

    I’ve never seen this questionnaire before… it’s an unusual one – a mix of the ‘mundane’ (sort of) and the existential! I don’t think I’d be able to answer many of the questions… would require way too much thinking.

    PS. I can’t think of any phrase you overuse.


    • KCLAnderson
      Posted April 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      The first time I saw these questions I felt the same way. I saw them quite a while ago and decided to let my answers develop slowly, over time. Try it :-)

  • Posted April 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Martyrdom — Oh, how I detest this too. You know the Jungians suggest that the things we detest most in others points to something we ignore in ourselves but should probably strive to embrace or develop. For example, those who detest people who are extremely needy and dependent often need to allow themselves to open up to being slightly less self-sufficient at times. Just one example —- there are MANY. So maybe detesting martyrdom and a fear of irrelevance perhaps go together a bit… hmm, can’t stand those who behave like they’re irreplaceable and they have to sacrifice themselves for others to go on… and yet fearing being irrelevant or not mattering in this world. I’m only writing all of this because it’s something we have in common — both things. I’m going to think on this more.

    Hmm, the last one about dying. Although I don’t want to suffer or be a burden, I think my spirit would be very sad if I didn’t have the chance to process that it was happening… opportunities to say goodbye to people, to my life, to the self that I have known… leaving for a different existence. I want to die with grace and elegance. Working with Hospice for a while, I know the end is not always elegant, but my attitude and behavior in the previous time could be. Yes, I want the chance to bid my life farewell.

    • KCLAnderson
      Posted April 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      I so totally get that Michele…that what we don’t like in others we must search out in ourselves. You are so wise :-)

      As for dying…I can’t help but think about my Dad who died so suddenly versus seeing friends who’s fathers died long, slow, painful deaths. And thinking about those who end up in nursing homes, totally dependent on others. I don’t want that for me or for those who will be left behind. Although it was a shock to lose my Dad, I am grateful that I remember him as very much alive and vibrant, “normal,” and not in pain or incapacitated.

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I too am an all or nothing person and can relate to that. I love that the greatest love of your life is your hubby – you are blessed Karen.

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    What an interesting questionnaire! I’m bookmarking this one for sure.

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Great questionnaire! I will also probably use it sometime. The questions are very interesting, and so are your very honest responses. As for Proust, I only knew that he was a novelist, and something of an intellectual, but I am not at all familiar with his work. But then I am not that well educated in so many ways.

    And I second your dislike of liver–and lima beans. It made me think of Anthony Hopkins’ character and his love of fava beans and liver in the “Silence of the Lambs.” That character can still scare me!! Anyway, I’m digressing a bit here. Great post!

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I would agree that confidence is something I would consider to be a wonderful gift. You exude confidence in such a positive way, and it shows in your writing. Love learning new things about you!

  • Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    What’s with the question, ‘what is you favorite journey?’!? How many journeys are we supposed to be on? Thinking about it a little more, I realize that when I compartmentalize myself (this is my writing journey, this is my healthy-living journey, this is my go-to-the-beach journey) it furthers the tendency to push out the bad. PART of my journey is to really embrace myself wholey, not forget about the despair when I’m in joy, and try not to forget about the joy when I’m in despair. xo.