Sunday, September 30, 2007

Proust Questionnaire

Proust Questionnaire and for your characters too

The young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he simply responded to the questionnaires. At the birthday party of Antoinette Felix-Faure, the 13-year-old Marcel was asked to answer the following questions in the birthday book, and here's what he said:

  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
      To be separated from Mama
  • Where would you like to live?
      In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal
  • What is your idea of earthly happiness?
      To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater
  • To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
      To a life deprived of the works of genius
  • Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
      Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real
  • Who are your favorite characters in history?
      A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry
  • Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
      A woman of genius leading an ordinary life
  • Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
      Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful
  • Your favorite painter?
  • Your favorite musician?
  • The quality you most admire in a man?
      Intelligence, moral sense
  • The quality you most admire in a woman?
      Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence
  • Your favorite virtue?
      All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues
  • Your favorite occupation?
      Reading, dreaming, and writing verse
  • Who would you have liked to be?
      Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.

Seven years after the first questionnaire, Proust was asked, at another social event, to fill out another; the questions are much the same, but the answers somewhat different, indicative of his traits at 20:
  • Your most marked characteristic?
      A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
  • The quality you most like in a man?
      Feminine charm
  • The quality you most like in a woman?
      A man's virtues, and frankness in friendship
  • What do you most value in your friends?
      Tenderness - provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having
  • What is your principle defect?
      Lack of understanding; weakness of will
  • What is your favorite occupation?
  • What is your dream of happiness?
      Not, I fear, a very elevated one. I really haven't the courage to say what it is, and if I did I should probably destroy it by the mere fact of putting it into words.
  • What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
      Never to have known my mother or my grandmother
  • What would you like to be?
      Myself - as those whom I admire would like me to be
  • In what country would you like to live?
      One where certain things that I want would be realized - and where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated. [Proust's underlining]
  • What is your favorite color?
      Beauty lies not in colors but in thier harmony
  • What is your favorite flower?
      Hers - but apart from that, all
  • What is your favorite bird?
      The swallow
  • Who are your favorite prose writers?
      At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti
  • Who are your favorite poets?
      Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny
  • Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
  • Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
      Phedre (crossed out) Berenice
  • Who are your favorite composers?
      Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann
  • Who are your favorite painters?
      Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt
  • Who are your heroes in real life?
      Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors)
  • Who are your favorite heroines of history?
  • What are your favorite names?
      I only have one at a time
  • What is it you most dislike?
      My own worst qualities
  • What historical figures do you most despise?
      I am not sufficiently educated to say
  • What event in military history do you most admire?
      My own enlistment as a volunteer!
  • What reform do you most admire?
      (no response)
  • What natural gift would you most like to possess?
      Will power and irresistible charm
  • How would you like to die?
      A better man than I am, and much beloved
  • What is your present state of mind?
      Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
  • To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
      Those that I understand
  • What is your motto?
and my thanks to:-

Personal site of Stephane Chabrieres: my literary translations, wood sculptures, favorite books, rock albums, movies, paintings, existentialism:


Saturday, September 22, 2007

BBC - Food - Recipes - Faggots

BBC - Food - Recipes - Faggots:

1 pigs caul
500g/1lb pigs fry (liver, heart and lights)
250g/8oz pork belly
500g/1lb onions
75g/3oz breadcrumbs
15g/½oz fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, freshly ground

1. Soak the caul in tepid water for 1 hour, then drain and dry.
2. Cover the pigs fry, pork belly and onions with water and simmer for 1 hour. Drain off the liquid and reserve.
3. Mince the pigs fry, pork and onions and add to the breadcrumbs. Add the sage, season with salt and pepper and stir well, adding approximately 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid to the mixture.
4. Cut the caul into 10cm/4in squares. Shape the mixture into balls and cover each with a piece of caul. Place in a baking tin and cook in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6 until brown.
5. Serve with thick, rich gravy made from the reserved cooking liquid and the juices from the tin in which the faggots were cooked.

Keith Floyd

Chris Baty says

from my email:-
Dear NaNoWriMo author,

You know what time it is? Time for a novel-length email about things afoot at NaNoWriMo!


We'll be opening sign-ups for another noveling season late at night on October 1. Between now and then, all of the content on the current site will be archived, and the forums will be wiped clean for the 2007 event. All active NaNo accounts from last November will stay active, and Script Frenzy log-ins will work as well.

We'll be turning off sign-ins this Monday so we can have a week of thing-resetting and something-migration that Russ swears is very important we do without anyone hanging around the site watching us. We will miss you that week, but we'll be reunited in October, and we can share stories of our time apart then.

At the end of the last NaNo, I invited everyone to join me in publicly posting a couple big, fun, scary goals for the new year. Then we went after those goals like otters on lutefisk, and kept a progress log of it all in the NaNo forums.

You can see what kinds of amazingly scary goals people set for themselves (and pulled off!) here:

Officially the YoBFSA comes to a close when NaNoWriMo 2007 begins. If you are a YoBFSA participant who has achieved one of your goals by then, please let us know by sending an email to with the subject line: BFS Winner. We'll email you a certificate in October to commemorate your achievement.

My big, fun, scary adventure? I set out to learn basic Spanish and work on my radio production skills. Did I earn the certificate? You better believe it---I'm even a proud graduate of Piedmont Adult School's Spanish 1A class. My radio production skills: still ailing. But it's a start!


We're going to be implementing a bunch of new things this year to help get the site ready for a freakishly superpowered future. These include an entirely new back-end system, a new server, and new Author Profile pages (more on this below). Some or all of these things will break spectacularly and immediately upon launch. We will hurry to fix them. They will break in different ways. We will fix them again. This will last most of October.


So you know those beautiful gray book-like author profile pages with the turning pages we've had on the site for the past three years? We're saying goodbye to them this week.

I know, I know. The design was so beautiful and sleek it made us weep. But as nice as it looked, it caused us a lot of problems, financial and otherwise. The system was built by a genius designer/programmer who created it in such a complicated way that most professional Flash programmers wouldn't touch it. Which meant every time something broke or needed an update, we had to hire a Flash Yoda who charged us Jedi-level hourly rates. Last year, adding a "Winner 2006" image to the winners' photos, changing a few text labels, and adding a European character set cost us $2000.

That made us weep too, but for different reasons. The other problem was that the tidy, magical books are very hard to slip new features into without a major overhaul. Which is bad because we receive dozens of great Author Profile page feature suggestions from participants every year, and we also have tons of our own ideas for new things we want to integrate into the pages.

We'd like comment-able novel excerpts, customizable participant blogs with room for audio and video, in-dash Twittering, an "encouragement capsule" where friends and family can upload morale-boosting messages to be released to writers when they hit certain word-count goals, and a billion more things.

As a first step towards a future where we can easily add new modules to the AP pages, we'll be launching a much more expandable system on October 1. It's clean and pretty, and over the course of the next year---knock on fundraising wood---we'll be able to add the exciting new features and powers you've been requesting. Once in place, those cool new functions will make the current Author Profile pages look gray and lifeless by comparison.

In case you missed the announcement in the last newsletter, we're going to have some extraordinary help writing the pep talks we email out to participants in November. In the last email, I revealed that NaNo 2007 authors would be receiving a pep talk from none other than novelist Sue Grafton.

Now I'm here to unveil the identities of three more of this year's NaNoWriMo pep talkers. They are...drum roll please...the ferocious Garth Nix! The fantastic Naomi Novik! And the awesome Neil Gaiman!

Yep. These writers have all answered the no-pressure-at-all call to inspire 100,000 authors in various states of noveling exaltation and despair with their kind words. We actually have eight pep talkers signed on for this year, but Tavia has asked me to wait until the site relaunches to share the identities of the other four. Which I've agreed to do. But one of them is Tom Robbins.


See? This is why I shouldn't be in charge of these things.


Did you know we run two events in November? There's NaNoWriMo, which you're already familiar with. And then there's the completely separate Young Writers Program, over at Where kids 12-and-under and K-12 classrooms taking part as a group enjoy their own private creative mayhem. Authors in the YWP get to pick their own word counts, and they receive extensive curriculum, activities, games, YWP participant and winner certificates, private forums, and a VIP lounge for teachers. We also mail a free poster, progress chart, button pack, and sticker bundle to the classrooms to help incite noveling in the students.

The whole thing has gone a little bonkers in the last couple years, growth-wise. Last year, we had 15,000 kids and teens take part. That number will likely double this year.

That’s the very good news. The bad news is that we don't have enough money to host NaNoWriMo and the Young Writers Program and continue our Libraries in Southeast Asia project.

Donating 50% of our net proceeds from donations and merchandise sales so Room to Read can build libraries on our behalf has given thousands of kids in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam the chance to fall in love with reading. But now we want to take the next step, and help kids around the world fall in love with writing. And to do that, we need to start putting 100% of our resources into our own programs.

Happily, Room to Read is doing great. They were a tiny start-up when we first met them, but they've since mushroomed into a global philanthropic powerhouse, raising over $1,000,000 per month in donations. Go Room to Read!

Since becoming a nonprofit ourselves last year, we've struggled to find the funds we need to keep the doors open and servers humming year-round for NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, Young Writers Programs. With every dollar as precious as it is, we want to focus the donations we receive on what we do best: Hosting life-changing writing adventures for kids and adults.

We hope you'll join us in that goal by making a donation to NaNoWriMo when the site opens in October. We also hope that those who loved our Libraries in Southeast Asia project will continue to support Room to Read directly through their website,


So true. So true.

See you on the site in October!


Friday, September 21, 2007