Playtime with Proust

April 12, 2014

Quizzes have long been a source of social entertainment, from parlour games in the times of Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde to present day airport lounge diversions in the pages of Cosmo. One, long-standing in popularity, has come to be known as the Proust Questionnaire and is determined to honestly reveal the character traits and interests of its participant. Though the questionnaire takes the name of Marcel Proust, he was an enthusiastic and witty test-taker rather than the actual creator.

The Proust Questionnaire has come to be used in modern times by a number of talk show hosts, famously by James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio who asks each guest to complete an adapted version at the end of his or her interview. CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter also poses a few of the questions to its guest Writers.

Since 1993, the last page of each issue of Vanity Fair magazine has been devoted to The Proust Questionnaire featuring a different celebrity’s responses each time. The best of these pages were collected into a book by VF editor Graydon Carter. Great reading entertainment! You can also link to the magazine’s Proust page here and read a few samples.

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So are you intrigued enough now to want to answer your own Proust Questionnaire? Here it is!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

Busy Brat-Packers

October 23, 2012

If the movies Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire or Pretty in Pink resonate with you, you likely know of the Brat-Pack actors that starred within. Three of those actors, who arguably defined an era, have recently appeared on the bookshelves as writers.

Molly Ringwald explored writing in her 2010 Memoir/Lifestyle Guide called Getting the Pretty Back- Friendships, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick. She clearly has a sense of humour. Now she has written an ambitious “novel in stories”, When It Happens to You. Released in August, this collection has received many positive reviews:

Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors as they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life — revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.”

Rob Lowe’s memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, was apparently considered by the publishers to be so well-written that he’s been extended a contract for a new memoir to continue the story.

“A wryly funny and surprisingly moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye. Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.”

Andrew McCarthy, of the three, has most significantly reinvented himself as a writer, a multi award-winning travel writer in fact. He is presently an Editor-at-Large of National Geographic Traveler magazine. This one makes the cut for me; I’ve put it on my to-read list.

This is a perfectly balanced combination of travel diary and documented introspection. While he travels the world, visiting destinations from the Amazon to Mount Kilimanjaro, McCarthy is wondering what in him leads him to keep the people he loves at a distance. That’s the short version. Set against exotic backdrops most of us will never visit, this is a man trying to figure himself out, and having the courage to write it down; that the man is famous is of no consequence.

Beyond his book, I encourage you to visit McCarthy’s website and sample some of the articles he’s written. He is certainly a gifted writer. This excerpt is from “Courting Vienna”, an article in The National Geographic Traveler.

“Despite her sensible shoes, her granite-stern features reveal a constant, low-level strain. She is well past 50— perhaps well past 60. Her arms sag under the weight of her burden; each tray she carries threatens to be her last. But when she breaks into a rare smile, her face lights up with unguarded delight. Her name is Annelies, and she, not Mozart, nor Beethoven, nor even Empress Sissi, has come to embody Vienna for me.

Annelies works as a waitress at Café Sperl, on Gumpendorfer Strasse. The Sperl has become my base, Annelies my anchor.” 

          

The delightfully engaging Matchbook Magazine (on-line and a MUST read) reliably fills its pages with charm and wit and inspiration and essential conversation-fillers every month.  Fashion, decor, nostalgia, trivia, art and creativity, and entrepreneurism … if it existed in paper form it would be dog-eared, water warped, and have sueded pages from so much reading. There is often a List (see below) and always a May We Recommend feature with spot-on book, film and music suggestions. I read the issues on my laptop but I know there are many of you with fancy ipads and other E-readers who’d enjoy it in that format. As the calendar braces for a flip, get ready to savour an April issue soon I expect. Meanwhile, there is a healthy archive of past issues; I envy newcomers to Matchbook who can visit all those pages for the first time. Click on some of the back copies shown above or click here to get started:   Matchbook Magazine

The Matchbook Girls – those who are the creative genius behind its existence – are big readers so you’ll find plenty of bookish charm throughout:

Jane Lilly Warren and Katie Armour

And how wonderful is this list?! How many have you knocked off (Nabokov?!)?  (From the February 2012 edition – click to make larger) I adore that Heidi and Madame Bovary appear together. I’m finding myself assessing women characters in my reading as to whether they’d be considered a “Matchbook Girl” or not. Recently finished Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and believe Katey Kontent may just qualify.

Each month the issue begins with a description of The Matchbook Girl – this one from April 2011 is especially fun:

Matchbook Magazine feels like a Spring Day unto itself – hope you can make time to become acquainted as your Spring arrives.

For more on-line magazine reading visit an earlier post: Reading Magazines … on the web

And you may recall an earlier reference to Matchbook Girl in the post: Personal Manifestos

The September Issues

August 23, 2011

The days may be sunny and warm but in the next few weeks a chill will settle in the evenings and thoughts will lead to sweater weather again. An end of summer ritual for many is spending time with the September issues. Traditionally, the September issues of fashion magazines, appearing in mid-August, have the greatest sales and the most significant heft of the year.  The record breaking edition was September 2007’s American Vogue magazine at some 840 pages, weighing in at over 5 pounds. Advertisers have been a bit harder to come by in recent years but Vogue’s 758 pages this year is still impressive. Understandably, the cover model is an important decision for these issues. September 2011 will see the following:

Vogue (US edition) – Kate Moss

In Style – Beyonce

Elle (US)– Gwyneth Paltrow

Harper’s Bazaar – Lea Michele

Vanity Fair – Jennifer Lopez

For entertaining insight into the behind the scenes development of not only a magazine, but one of these iconic issues, view The September Issue. This documentary follows Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, during the entire process. View the trailer here and then plan to hoist a big September issue onto your lap and snuggle up to watch the DVD on a cool late summer evening.

Magazines, as we’ve discussed before, are another form of reading entertainment many of us enjoy. I’ve always appreciated magazines for the dose of colour and creativity – it’s fun to be inspired by the work of others be it in home or fashion design, travel, art, writing, philanthropy or even sport.  I’ve not gone the way of an e-reader (yet) but those I know who’ve braved that world are particularly fond of the way magazines can be read on the device. (It appears the ipad dominates this market.) I’ve recently discovered a growing number of magazines that are available free of charge or by donation for reading primarily on-line, some without any print presence at all. These work quite well on a computer screen and seem to be the new direction for magazines in general. A unique feature of on-line magazine reading is that should you be interested in learning more about a product, service or person shown, a link is often embedded so you can be taken straight to the specific webpage.

Hints as you get underway: Full Screen mode viewing is best – just select that option from the task bar. If the print is too fine or small, enlarge the text.  Subscribe to receive the newest edition when it’s available or Bookmark the site. Don’t forget to check the archives for back-issues as well. Just think – no teetering piles of slippery outdated magazines vying for space with your precious books! Have fun and let us know if you’re a convert to reading magazines on-line.

Click on the photos of each magazine cover below to be taken to their site where you can try reading on-line.

  Lonny Magazine – Lon(don) N(ew)Y (ork) is THICK.  Gorgeous photography and really fun vibe throughout. Has connections to the late but beloved Domino magazine. “At Lonny, we believe in making design choices that lead to personal happiness. We value individual style and independent thinking, and are convinced that inspired design can be achieved anywhere—from the smallest studio apartment to the grandest estate.”

 Rue Magazine – Rue believes: “That every colour can be your favourite colour… That inspiration is everywhere… That everyone has the talent and drive to design their most beautiful life–we all just need a little nudge in the right direction…”

  Covet Garden –  Inspiration Grows Here. ” We started Covet Garden because we wanted to see a magazine that made us feel as though we were invited into someone’s home. And then, once they let us in, we started snooping around and got to know them a bit better.” Canadian and unique in that it features one creative person or team each month. Short and sweet and “inspiring – not aspiring“!

And two from Australia … when you need a little spring inspiration during our dreary autumn!

 Adore Home – Another youthful, colourful and fun magazine, featuring design, decor and travel.

  Ivy & Piper “Their collaboration is quirky, fun and truly unique,  aiming to inspire their clientele to embrace a sense of fun in their interiors and add a touch of glamour to every day life…it’s Fashion for the Home!”