Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire

Tuesday 14 June 2011, 4.57pm HKT

Updated 08 Oct 2012

I’ve always been a big sucker for questionnaires. Even for those perverse (and perverted) questionnaires that are put out by linguists (as in linguistics), sociologists and psychotics psychologists.

After reading a post by Wabi Wabi down in Oz, I just couldn’t resist doing the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire.

Proust Questionnaire on Facebook:

Proust Questionnaire on Vanity Fair:

Vanity Fair stories using the Proust Questionnaire:

Facebook version is faster and therefore recommended.

* * *

MY ANSWERS (plus riders)

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Hanging out with all manners of friends and acquaintances on weekends, doing whatever sensible or mad on a whim, and then be ready for work on Monday morning.”

Rider: I’m kind of old-fashioned in this: we’re not supposed to be whimmy (= whimsical) on workdays. They’re there to allow us to earn enough to be whimsical for the non-workdays. Of course, my workdays are reversed compared with most other people’s.

2. What is your greatest fear?

“To lose the ability to enjoy work, rest and play and make a living as I hit those pre-retirement years.”

Rider: You can tell I’m old enough to remember the Mars Bar commercial.

3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

“I always identify with all historical figures and none of them at the same time.”

Rider: How could I identify with any of them? They’re historical figures. I’m nowhere near as good (or evil) as they were. Apart from that, they’re mostly dead people. I’m very much alive — I checked this morning, thank you very much.

Trivia/semi-self-plug: Grabbitas-Thring, educational consultants in UK independent education for gifted children (hah!), put me down as closest to J. Edgar Hoover and Harry S. Truman. Go figure, saps.

4. Which living person do you most admire?

“I admire anything that’s living. Sometimes I’m surprised at some of those who continue to live, and be let to continue to live, but all the same, anything that lives has to be admired.”

5. Which is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Complacency. It’s very, very easy to become complacent, even self-satisfied, especially in the company of those who are just a wee bit too clever by half.”

Rider: The truth is, I find it deplorable that there isn’t much deplorable in me. The truth is also, my vices are a bit too virtuous and my virtues look a bit like vices.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

“Pretentiousness and being too clever by half, especially those who carry off their ‘soloing techniques‘ like the best thing since sliced bread on the strength of either schooling or some other academic paperwork or just on experience. We’re all old enough to know better.”

Rider: Honestly speaking, I don’t find anything much to deplore in others. They have their lives and I have mine. Why deplore? Why not just walk away? Peace, bro.

7. What is your greatest extravagance?

“I am extravagant in everything, in a most thrifty of ways. But I have to admit I’m pretty extravagant with accessories, if you’re asking me this on a crass level.”

8. On what occasion do you lie?

“I lie under all possible circumstances and in any possible occasion, and then I never lie under any circumstances at the same time. It’s a balance between make-believe and beliefs-in-the-making.”

9. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

“I’ve done everything under the sun to be less skinny and scrawny, which is probably the only thing I could think of disliking about myself. Other than that, I would probably liked to have been taller. I could go on steroids for both of them, but I’m too chickenshit.”

Rider: As a biker reared on a 1300cc motorbike, I’m the type who can take things to ‘the next level,’ if you know what I mean (i.e. I’m a ‘next-level sort of guy’). At the same time, I’m pretty chickenshit scared of most things.

10. When and where were you happiest?

“I’m happiest anywhere I find myself, making do with what I have at hand. If you press me hard enough, I’d say back in London, Paris and Rome way way back in the 70s and 80s. Fabulous.”

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

“Wouldn’t it be nice, now that I’m older, to pack a little more meat on my skin-and-bones frame? Or perhaps a little more hair on the head as much as a teeny bit more facial hair?”

Rider: Actually, in hindsight, all things being equal, I’d rather change my school grades and get into archaeology (my first love) or medicine (my second). Then again, I failed my Classical Greek (no good for archaeology) and resat my physics (not good for shamanism medicine).

12. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

“To have children earlier. It’s much nicer and easier to go through that madness at an earlier age than smack bang in the middle of your your middle years, when you’re thoroughly worn out and pissed off with everything.”

Rider: What I meant was, to have my parents either have more children, at a younger age, or be washed of their hands in this sordid business altogether.

13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

“To not end up like a bowl of tasteless, liquefying jelly like most people tend to end up. But that’s a matter of opinion. Setting things in plain language should’ve been an achievement, seeing how so much of my career had been wasted on unmangling the language of others.”

Shameless self-plug/name-dropping: Edited two seminal works:

  • “Vietnam Opportunities” (Longman, 1989), which was the world’s first-ever company directory for Vietnam, and
  • “Investment Law and Practice in Vietnam: by Jerome Alan Cohen (Longman, 1990).

Well chuffed with those two.

14. If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

“To be reborn as me again would be nice, since I have a few ideas about redoing and undoing certain things in the past in a second round.”

Rider: I am not a person. I am considered a ‘thing’ by most who know me.

15. What is your most treasured possession?

“Everything is a treasured possession with me. I try hard to keep my worldly possessions to 100 items, but heaven knows I’ve got much, much more than that.”

16. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

“Nothing compares to the daily grind and suffering of being near (let alone live with) a sullen person whose family and friends imagine they are ‘putting up with’ you.”

Rider: When in fact they’re the ones whom you’re putting up with.

17. Who are your heroes in real life?

“Everyone is a hero or heroine in real life. Living and dying are heroic acts, never to be repeated. It takes a hero or heroine just to pay enough attention to what’s happening around you.”

18. What is it that you most dislike?

“Like, bloodyminded people who act as if you’ve got to ask for their permission when they themselves are more of a bunch of criticasters than you are.”

19. How would you like to die?

“Life is slowly shutting down for all of us, so why bother thinking about it? It’s scary enough to know that it will happen. What are we, death junkies now?”

20. What is your motto?

“ ‘Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.’ But then again, everyone who knows me knows it’s ‘Question your answer’ or ‘F*ck it, it ain’t worth the stretch.’ ”

* * *


The Naked Listener is matched to:

89.94% Joan Didion (author, b. 1934)

81.61% Karl Lagerfeld (fashion designer, b. 1933)

70.74% Julia Child (chef and TV personality, 1912-2004)

60.72% David Mamet (playwright, b. 1947)

36.93% Nora Ephron (film director, b. 1941)

18.18% Donald Trump (business magnate, b. 1946)

18.18% Sonny Rollins (jazz saxophonist, b. 1930)

All the rest don’t count (apparently)

* * *

I reckon the results are damned accurate.

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011. Images shopped from questionnaire.
Updated 08 Oct 2012 (formatting fixes)

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