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23 March 2009 @ 05:08 pm
The Proust Questionnaire  

This one comes from Vanity Fair (www.vanityfair.com/magazine/archive/proust_questionnaire) via frescadp . Possibly the most exhaustive meme ever: 35 questions, the answers to which - according to Marcel Proust himself - reveals a person's true nature. This will be a long-time project that I'll hack away at, one or a few questions at a time. The whole set can be found at the end of this post, in case anybody else wants to join the game!

For my first installment, a couple of quick and easy ones.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Lush (http://lush.com/). I'm not the least interested in cosmetics or expensive hygiene products, but the shops of this chain are little pieces of heaven. They're demonstratively against animal testing and conscious about the environment, but channel this attitude (which, I admit, can get a little forced, even though I'm so inclined myself) into the most breathtaking luxury. Just reading about their various soaps and bubble baths gives me an endorphine rush, and visiting one of their shops (which I do very rarely, because the nearest one is an hour away by bus) is an occurrence I look forward to for weeks before I go.
Also, I did something I've been talking about for years and celebrated my passed exam in January by buying myself a tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. They're incredibly expensive compared to the other brands of ice cream offered in supermarket, so I'd never bought one before, just gazed longingly at them while picking up a tub of the budget alternative. Still, when you think about it, a tub of Ben & Jerry's costs less than a pint of good beer, and I've downed both two and three of them in an evening, and a Ben & Jerry's contains two servings. This thought sort of broke the dams, and now I have a constant craving for Chunky Monkey or one of the chocolatey ones...it still feel like an extravagance, though. 

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

This one is so obvious, it took quite a while before it struck me. All that unwanted hair! Having a head full of thick, dark hair is great, but if you're hairy, then you're hairy, and if it's dark, it's dark. I fight a daily battle against it, plucking, epilating, shaving, waxing (that last one is new: I've developed an impressive moustache since I turned thirty and have resorted to waxing my upper lip). I'd love to be free-thinking enough to feel OK about having hairy legs and do something more interesting with my time than tearing hairs out with their roots, but I simply don't.

27. Who are your favourite writers?

Umberto Eco, who writes intricate, nerdy humour, and J K Rowling. I wish she'll take to writing crime novels for adults, set in the wizarding world. Maybe about a police officer who is secretly a wizard or witch, like a crossover between the cosy, British crime genre and The X-files. I'd love to read that!

The full questionnaire:

 What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2. What is your greatest fear?
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5. Which living person do you most admire?
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
7. What is your current state of mind?
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. On what occasion do you lie?
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
11. Which living person do you most despise?
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16. When and where were you happiest?
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
21. Where would you most like to live?
22. What is your most treasured possession?
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
24. What is your favorite occupation?
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
26. What do you most value in your friends?
27. Who are your favorite writers?
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
31. What are your favorite names?
32. What is it that you most dislike?
33. What is your greatest regret?
34. How would you like to die?
35. What is your motto?
Kelpiekelpie667 on March 23rd, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
I've already seen this questionnaire at some other places, but so far, I was too lazy (and in some ways to insecure about myself) to try and answer it.

I like the principle of the Lush shops, but I can't stand to spend longer than five minutes in one, because the combined smell of all the different soaps just kills my nose.

Oh, and now that you mention him, I have to read more Umberto Eco - so far I've really enjoyed the Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum (read both of them twice), but I have still two more of his books in my shelf, which I bought somewhere at the flea market but somehow I never found the time to read.
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on March 24th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
I see what you mean about the explosion of smells in the Lush shops! They used to have a big sign in one of the London units saying "No, we do NOT get a headache from working here", because they were tired of the customers asking that. :D Somehow it's part of the experience for me, it's a strong smell but not the artificial, headache-inducing kind. Then, on the other hand, I don't have a very acute sense of smell.

For me, Eco's books are very time-consuming and it takes a lot of concentration to keep up with the plots, so I haven't read any of his books more than twice. If you have Baudolino, I recommend that! It's somewhat lighter, more of an adventure tale with silly (but still very learned) middle ages humour.
mortmeremortmere on March 23rd, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
Ha, the epic (and absurd) battle against unwanted hair! That's all too familiar to me, too. Not that I trouble myself with it that much these days; one of the big pros of being single is not having to worry about someone discovering that they're in a relationship with a wookie.

Nothing more constructive to say, I'm afraid... This is a great meme and I look forward to the next installment, but I'd never dare answering it myself. It'd take me an entire a year.
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on March 24th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
And you have fair hair! Being a blonde wookiee is OK in my opinion.

I'm planning on taking around a year to answer this, actually...
Frescafrescadp on March 24th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Ooooh! Thanks! I love that people are answering these amazing questions, and your choice to do it piecemeal is very wise. I answered them all at one blow, very quickly, so I didn't give them much thought. If I were to answer them again, I'm sure my answers would be different. Hmmmm.... maybe I will do that--answer them every birthday.

Your hair challenge reminds me of a funny scene in a silly movie I just watched on DVD: "The 40 year old Virgin." (I love Steve Carell as the suicidal, gay Proust scholar uncle in "Little Miss Sunshine" so am watching his other movies, but none are quite as intelligent...)
Anyway, Carell's character goes to get his very hairy chest waxed and it's really awful and painful and FUNNY to watch--I read that they truly did wax Carell's chest hair, so his responses to the pain were real....

I don't know Lush, but I indulge in the guilty pleasure of going to the cosmetics section of the "whole foods" co-op and using their free Test samples.... Their organic "no living thing was harmed except for plants, which don't count" lotions and potions cost so much, I would never buy them, but I love this little treat.

Umberto Eco! I must read "The Name of the Rose" again. I read it while I was biking through Ireland and staying in remote youth hostels in abandoned monasteries and the like, and it really freaked me out! It remains my example of what a "historical novel" should be--unlike, say, the execrable "DaVinci Code" (did the author do ANY research???).

mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on March 25th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
I was impressed at how interesting and thoughtful youre answers were, even though you seemed to have come up with them on the spot! I read some of the celebrity answers at VF's webpage, and they were quite hurried and not that interesting (not even Umberto Eco's, which I'd had high hopes about).

The 40 Year Old Virgin seems like exactly the kind of movie I avoid at all costs :D contemporary, mainstream comedies, especially if they seem to draw on cultural conventions that ought to be rethought, not reinforced. On the other hand, during my Brokeback Mountain phase I watched 10 Things I Hate About You - multiple times. It's a high school comedy starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, but in my defense I must say that as high school comedies go, it's not that stupid.

One of the things I dream of doing once I start receiving a monthly salary is to go into the expensive whole foods shop, which stocks funny, strange and luxurious vegetarian foods (from British soya sausages with herbs to Chinese frozen, fake whole lobsters moulded from tofu and painted bright red), grab a cart and load it with ONE OF EACH. Of EVERYTHING. The vegetarian lobster is so bizarre, I tend to stand and gaze reverently at it every time I shop there. Normally I think one of the charms of vegetarian food is to know what I'm eating, but fake meat products are quite amusing once in a while.

That trip through Ireland sounds like a perfect vacation! Monasteries have always attracted me, and I'd love to stay in one, abandoned or not. The Name of the Rose is definitely enerything that The da Vinci Code isn't...but I must admit I found the latter entertaining on an Indiana Jones level.