Writer in Residence

The Proust Questionnaire, with Carey Toane

By Grace

Journalist, poet and librarian-in-training Carey Toane is our May 2015 writer-in-residence! She has lived all over the world and returned to Canada shortly before the publication of her first poetry collection The Crystal Palace with Mansfield Press under the imprint of venerable poet and editor Stuart Ross.

An active force in the literary community, Carey is the founding director of the Pivot Reading Series at the Press Club, as well as the co-founder of Toronto Poetry Vendors, a program which distributes poetry around the city in reclaimed vending machines.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Carey tells Open Book about post-geographic neighbourhoods, Polish chickens and the importance of a good pair of boots.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" personality.


What is your dream of happiness?
Breakfast in bed for everybody.

What is your idea of misery?
No breakfast, no bed.

Where would you like to live?
In a fantastic, post-geographic place where all the people I love are within Sunday dinner-distance.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Honesty, grace, a quick wit.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Honesty, grace, a quick wit — and a good pair of boots.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?
I’m kinda bossy.

What is your greatest extravagance?

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

What do you value most about your friends?
Their fierce resilience.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
An overblown sense of entitlement.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
An inability to say no.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
Master chef.

What would you like to be?
A damn good librarian.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?

What is your favourite bird?
The common crow. Or my friends’ wonderful Polish chickens.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
The frontierswoman.

What character in history do you most dislike?
The colonizer.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Zsuzsi Gartner does what Franzen does, only better. Jonathan Lethem. Time travelling with Haruki Murakami. Dostoevsky. I’ll always have a soft spot for Tom Robbins. I also read a lot of non-fiction, so shout-outs to Diane Ackerman, Jonah Lehrer, Adam Gopnik—anybody who can wield complexity with ease and make me feel smarter in the process.

Who are your favourite poets?
Elisabeth Bishop, Lisa Jarnot, Lucia Perillo, Dara Weir. I think Jacob McArthur Mooney and Nick Thran will go very, very far. I have a lot of favourite poems. “Prufrock” is still probably my all-time fave. Although Sarah Lindsay’s “Cheese Penguin” is a close second.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
I tend to go for the Annes, Frannys and Hermiones.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Fourteen year olds who come out of the closet in small towns or small-minded families. I think about Aimee Mullins when I run.

Who is your favourite painter?
All time: Rousseau. Right now: Kiki Smith, Florine Stettheimer and Walton Ford.

Who is your favourite musician?
Tribe. Bowie. Neko Case.

What is your favourite food?
My mom’s pickled beans.

What is your favourite drink?

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I was really good at a sport. Maybe basketball.

How do you want to die?
Like I was born: at home. And before I lose my mind.

What is your current state of mind?
Just getting warmed up.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I’m 33 and I’ve been married for almost 10 years. I learned to speak Finnish. Also, I just wrote this book…

What is your motto?
“We’re all just ants at the picnic.”


For more information about The Crystal Palace, please visit the Mansfield website.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.