Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Proust Questionaire.

"Despite her journal sketches, she no longer really believed in characters. They were quaint devices that belonged to the nineteenth century. The very concept of character was founded on errors that modern psychology had exposed. Plots too were like rusted machinery whose wheels would no longer turn. A modern novelist could no more write characters and plots than a modern composer could a Mozart symphony. It was thought, perception, sensations that interested her, the conscious mind as a river through time, and how to represent its onward roll, as well as all the tributaries that would swell it, and the obstacles that would divert it. If only she could reproduce the clear light of a summer's morning, the sensations of a child standing at a window, the curve and dip of a swallow's flight over a pool of water. The novel of the future would be unlike anything in the past."

Ian McEwan, Atonement (New York: Anchor, 2001), p. 265.

"I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess. Clad only in a garter belt and one dress shield, I held off the entire elite of the Trobriand Islanders, a race who possess no words for 'why' or 'because.' Wielding a stone ax, I broke the arms, the limbs, the balls of their finest warriors, my beauty blinding them, as it does all men, unmanning them in the way that King Kong was reduced to a mere simian whimper by beauteous Fay Wray whom I resemble left three-quarter profile if the key light is no more than five feet high during the close shot."

Gore Vidal, Myra Breckinridge (New York: Bantam, 1968), p. 1.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Not what, but who.

What is your current state of mind?

Determined.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Every love is the greatest love of my life.

Which living person do you most admire?

With the death of Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky is my preferred person.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Loyalty.

What is the quality you most like in a woman

Grace.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Books. Movies. Music.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cruelty.

What is your greatest fear?

A growing withdrawal of love and compassion from human societies.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Social adjustment.

Which living person do you most despise?

Feel anger, struggle for justice, demand a confrontation with evil, but do not "despise" anyone. Pity them. It is not easy, I know, because hatred combined with disgust are overwhelming emotions sometimes. Still, pity them. Evil persons are dead and do not know it.

When and where were you happiest

In Paris, with two women. (Interpretation required.) And in Rome with friends and someone I love very deeply.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

"Happily," I refrain from overusing words -- like "mad cool"! -- and others "too." (I am also reluctant to use quotation "marks" or exclamations!!!)

Which talent would you most like to have?

I am torn between singing Otello and writing like Vidal, then I recognize that they are the same talent -- communication.

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

I would be six feet tall.

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

You mean, again?

What is your most treasured possession

Photographs of people I love, and an imagined picture of someone that I keep in my mind. I only keep the picture in my mind. The person is and always will be, FREE. I hope that you will be ...

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery

One of America's worst prisons, including an emotional cell that I sometimes inhabit.

What do you value most in your friends?

Loyalty.

Who are your favorite writers?

Shakespeare, Byron, Marti, Hugo, Dickens, Austen, Hemingway, Mailer, Vidal, Styron, Jacobson, McCarthy, Parker, Chandler, Fowles, Amis, Hitchens, Maugham, McEwan, Burgess, Fuentes, Borges, Barnes, Lively, Byatt, Murdoch, Jong, Baldwin, Davis, Hughes, Roth, Rushdie, Roy, West and many more, to say nothing of other philosophers, historians, scientists, painters and film makers, whose works must be "read." And someone named "Gore Vidal." Did I mention him?

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Myra Breckinridge and/or "as" Gore Vidal.

Who are your heros in real life?

In alphabetical order: Hilda, Isabel, Marilyn, Silvia, ... Alas, I don't know many people in real life.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

Baruch Spinoza. On July 27, 1656, this was the anathema pronounced on the "unethical and evil" Baruch Spinoza

" ... having long known of the evil opinions and deeds of Baruch de Spinoza, [we] have endeavored by various ways to turn him from his evil ways. But having been unable to reform him, but rather, on the contrary, daily receiving more information about the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught and about the monstrous deeds he did, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and born witness to this effect in the presence of said Espinoza" -- that's better than the OAE! -- "[we] ... have decided ... that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel. ... Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven."

Mathew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 2006), pp. 33-34.

"What matters is not what others think of us but what we think of them." (Gore Vidal)

How would you like to die

On a high note after my 101st birthday.

What is your greatest regret?

Missing, aching for someone dearly loved.

What is your motto?

Struggle.

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