Monday, January 16, 2012

The Proust Smackdown--Questions to Ponder

This month's Vanity Fair is a particularly good issue, with articles about an artist who fathered 14 children, died at the age of 88, is the grandson of Sigmund Freud, and whose last lover entered his life near the end and was a half-century his junior. It also publishes, with both pride and sadness, the last of Christopher Hitchens' columns for the magazine.

The three men on the cover--George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Daniel Craig--were, I won't lie, what made me pick it up. And the interview to which each submits seemed like a good idea for me, and maybe for you. So here are my answers to what is evidently a standard set of questions from Marcel Proust, whose work I've never read so apologies to those who have:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Warmth, fine conversation, good food and wine. All after a day of pleasant exertions. What is your greatest fear? Wasting my time on earth.
Who is the living person you admire most? My daughter.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I interrupt people while they are still speaking.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? The certainty they have everyone else's life figured out on the basis of their own experience.
What is the most overrated virtue? Modesty.
Which words and phrases do you most overuse? "Apparently." "Really?" "Shit."
Which talent would you most like to have? I'd be an actress. A good one.
What is your greatest extravagance? Skincare.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd stop worrying I don't measure up and just get on with it.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? We'd understand one another better.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My ability to adapt in foreign circumstances. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? An heiress with disinterested parents.
What is your most treasured possession? A photograph of my children when my youngest was four days old.
What is your favorite journey? The flight west across America at sunset.  The daylight is perpetually fading but never disappears.
When/where were you happiest? The first time I heard my children laugh together.
What quality do you admire most in a man? Curiousity.
What quality do you admire most in a woman? A complete disregard for the opinions of others.
What do you most value in your friends? The things they teach me.
Where would you most like to live? A place where I finally don't feel like an outsider. Though that might take a lot of fun out of my day.
Who are your favorite writers? Joan Didion, Julia Reed, Amy Bloom. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Inez Victor, from Didion's Democracy.
Who are your heroes in real life? Anyone who deals with the stuff the rest of us wish to avoid.  Cops, nurses, hospice workers, funeral directors, people who dive in searches for bodies.
What is it that you most dislike? People who are angry but haven't considered their real reasons for being so. How would you like to die? In a way that causes the people I love the least amount of pain.
What is your motto? To quote the Dixie Chicks, "I'm takin' the long way around."

If you are game, post your own answers in the comments section.