News and Interviews

The Proust Questionnaire, with Bruce Meyer

b_meyer_2016 - Photo Credit - Doug Crawford

Countless Canadian writers have created memorable characters in the pages of their books, but in Bruce Meyer's Portraits of Canadian Writers (Porcupine's Quill), the writers are the characters. From Atwood and Cohen to the brilliant and often unappreciated Bronwen Wallace, Meyer captures dozens of our favourites, presenting their portraits alongside personal anecdotes of each author. These character studies are revealing and intimate, and make up a unique visual and textual archive of Canadian literature. 

We're thrilled to welcome Bruce to Open Book today, where it is his turn to get personal. He takes our version of the famous Proust Questionnaire, telling us about a memorable compliment, his staggering book collection (which we'd like to peek through!), and the historical figure he admires but would pass on meeting.

Where would you like to live?

Toronto—part of my heart still lives there. If not there, then Linares, Mexico, which is a quiet, warm place, or the Marylebone district of London. Of course, I love Barrie, where I live now.

What is your chief characteristic?

Determination. Barry Callaghan once called me ‘indefatigable’.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Books. I have 24,000 books in my basement library, most of them autographed.

What do you value most about your friends?

Honesty. They can tell me when I’ve gone too far.

What is your favourite occupation?

I love teaching. I am extremely comfortable in the classroom. I also love restoring old furniture—it’s very therapeutic.

What is your favourite colour?


What historical figure do you admire the most?

Dante—although I think he’d be a pill to spend an hour with.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Graham Greene by far. Julian Barnes. Toni Morrison.

Who is your favourite musician?

Too many to mention, but I’ll try. For opera, it’s Puccini. For classical, Vasily Kalinnikov. Jazz is Miles Davis. Rock is U2. Aly Bain (the Scottish fiddler) is brilliant.

What is your favourite drink?

Strait reposado tequila.

What is it you most dislike?

Dunderheadedness, which Aristotle called a ‘bovine existence’.

What is your motto?

What I’d like to have on my tombstone, and what happens to be the last line of my book, The Seasons: “To be is to live and to live is to love”.


Bruce Meyer is the author of 49 books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, literary journalism and pedagogy. As a poet, he won the E.J. Pratt Gold Medal twice, the Gwendolyn MacEwen Prize for Poetry, and the IP Prize in the United States, and was runner-up for the Indie Fab Award, and the Cogswell Prize. As a broadcaster at CBC, he worked on The Great BooksA Novel Idea, and Great Poetry: Poetry is Life and Vice Versa. Meyer is professor of Creative Writing and Communications at Georgian College in Barrie, and an Associate at Victoria College in the University of Toronto where he teaches in the prestigious Vic One Program. He was the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Barrie, and lives there with his wife, Kerry, and daughter, Katie.

Buy the Book

Portraits of Canadian Writers

Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Ray Robertson, Bronwen Wallace—these are just a few authors whose unforgettable words have made them icons of Canadian literary expression. In Portraits of Canadian Writers, Bruce Meyer presents his own personal experience of these and many more seminal Canadian authors, sharing their portraits alongside amusing anecdotes that reveal personality, creativity, and humour.

Meyer’s snapshots, both visual and textual, reveal far more than just physical appearance. He captures tantalizing glimpses into the creative lives of writers, from contextual information of place and time to more intangible details that reveal persona, personality and sources of imaginative inspiration. Through these portraits, Meyer has amassed a visual archive of CanLit that illustrates and celebrates an unparalleled generation of Canadian authorship.