News and Interviews

Glenn Gould biographer Peter Goddard takes our Proust Questionnaire


There are few artists who have remained in the hearts of Canadians quite like Glenn Gould. The virtuoso pianist's recording of Bach's The Goldberg Variations still stands as one of the most influential classical recordings to date, and Gould's famously eccentric demands and performances, in addition to his savant-like talent, cemented him as a Canadian icon.

It's a big task to add to the literature on Gould, but there is no one more suited than music, film, and art critic Peter Goddard, whose background also included training as an ethnomusicologist.

The Great Gould (Dundurn Press), Goddard's new book, includes never-before-seen material on Gould. With the support of the Glenn Gould Estate, Goddard uses his own interviews with Gould as well as previously unutilized sources to reveal a deeply human portrait of the artist. From Gould's shocking decision to stop concertizing to his feelings on Elvis, the Beatles, and other artists, Goddard's accounts are revelatory for Gould fans. 

Today we welcome Goddard to Open Book to take on our version of the famous Proust Questionnaire and get to know the man who helped us get to know Gould.

He gives a very mysterious answer to the question of where he would most like to live, a very sweet answer about his real life hero, and a great chain of answers to our final three questions (hint: it includes a very useful motto).  

What is your dream of happiness?

To live happily.

What is your idea of misery?

To live the "American Dream."

Where would you like to live?

Exactly where I am now. (Not telling.)

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

An caring understanding of women.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

An caring understanding of men.

What is your chief characteristic?

Unfettered caution.

What is your principal fault?

Self pity.

What is your greatest extravagance? 

Self pity.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

All that makes them happy.

What do you value most about your friends?

Their silence.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Their need to make their happiness mine. 

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?


What is your favourite virtue?


What is your favourite occupation?

Playing blues piano.

What would you like to be?

A sailor on a tall mast schooner.

What is your favourite colour?

The colour of French roadside ferns in early autumn.

What is your favourite flower?


What is your favourite bird?


What historical figure do you admire the most?

Lucky Garnett (as played by Fred Astaire) in Swing Time of 1936.

What character in history do you most dislike?

The last Republican American President.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Genet, Waugh, Flaubert, Hemingway, Balzac, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Who are your favourite poets?

Shakespeare, Cole Porter, Randy Newman.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

Winnie the Pooh, Jeeves, The Thin Man.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Michael, my younger brother.

Who is your favourite painter?

Nicolas Poussin.

Who is your favourite musician?


What is your favourite food?

A whole wheat baguette.

What is your favourite drink?

Chateauneuf du Pape.

What are your favourite names?

Abigail, "hey, you, handsome," Peter.

What is it you most dislike?

Time poorly wasted.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

A classical singing voice.

How do you want to die?

With consummate grace.

What is your current state of mind?

Almost grown up.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Growing up.

What is your motto?

Grow up!


Peter Goddard is a music, film, and visual arts critic for the Toronto Star (and a winner of a National Newspaper Award), and has written for radio and TV and a good many magazines. He is the author of The Sounding, a novel, and multiple musical biographies, including those on Ronnie Hawkins, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones. Trained as an ethnomusicologist, Peter played piano for rock and blues bands. He divides his time between Toronto and the Limousin area of France.

Buy the Book

The Great Gould

A startling new portrait of Gould, including never-before-seen material.

Considered one of the most influential musicians and cultural figures of his time, Glenn Gould remains a fascinating figure. With the support of the Glenn Gould Estate, Peter Goddard has drawn on Gould’s unpublished writings, interviews, and never-before-seen photographs to present a startling new portrait of Gould, the man and the musician.

Goddard presents a deep and nuanced study of Gould’s life with unmatched candour and clarity.The Great Gould includes a love letter Gould wrote but never sent (he later revised it again and again); the text of a speech that Gould gave to a group of children about life and childhood; and portions of Glenn Gould: Hysteric Return, a never-before-seen radio script in which Gould imagines his return to the concert stage and all it would have entailed.

All of this and more makes The Great Gould the perfect gift for the Gould fan, or for anyone interested in Canadian music.