Answering Proust: a fun interview

My friend Sara Peyton at O’Reilly Media interviewed me in ’08 using questions from the famous Proust questionaire. Recently I stumbled across it again.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

An evening spent drunk as a loon, looking up at stars, sitting by a bonfire, laughing with friends.

What is your greatest fear?

Waiting to die with a mind full of regrets.

On what occasion do you lie?

This is the first lie I’ve ever told.

What is your favorite journey?

Wherever I’m going next that I haven’t been to before.

Which living person do you most despise?

It’s a tie between Bill O’Reilly and Dick Cheney.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

My friends would say its mother*****r. But I don’t think this word can be overused.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Mind-reading is hard to beat, but I’d settle for time-travel.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The willingness to let myself make more mistakes.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Open their eyes.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

If a thing, the most perfect object in NYC: The Chrysler Building. Or maybe Central Park (is it cheating to call that one thing? I like to cheat). If a person, I’d like to be me again.

What do your consider your greatest achievement?

Writing every day. Ok, that’s a lie. I don’t write every day. But just trying to write every day is hard enough.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind. I dont care much for material things. Besides, you never have to worry about someone breaking into your mansion and stealing your mind, you know? It’s the only thing than will always be only yours.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Watching someone innocent suffer for your own carelessness.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most admire in a woman?


What do you most value in your friends?

Brutal honesty, dark comedy, and trust under fire.

Who are your favorite writers?

George Orwell, Henry Miller, George Saunders, Raymond Carver, Bertrand Russell, Peter Drucker, Loren Eisley, John Gardner, Ray Bradbury, Hubert Selby Jr.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

How can you top Don Quixote? There’s no way.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Don Quixote isn’t real? Are you sure?

How would you like to die?

Drunk as a loon, looking up at stars, sitting by a bonfire, laughing with friends.

What is your motto?

Be amazed by everything.

9 Responses to “Answering Proust: a fun interview”

  1. Jack Dempsey

    That’s excellent Scott. If you’re ever in SF and need help with the drunken loon thing, gimme a ping.

  2. A woman

    What is the quality you most like in a man?


    What is the quality you most admire in a woman?


    You thought you were being clever, and probably a lot of men read your response with a smile, but I was immediately irritated and disappointed in you. Imagine a woman answering the same questions and saying that the “quality” she admires in a man is muscles, while integrity is the the quality she admires in a woman. Of course, a woman isn’t likely to say that, and even if she did it wouldn’t come across as a joke because the demeaning objectification of men by women isn’t an immediately recognizable and accepted commonplace. Nor is the valuing of integrity or other qualities of character in women.

    1. Another woman

      Amen. I thought the same thing when I read that.

    2. Carol

      Given that I have yet to meet a human, male or female, without curves, I guess I could give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you’re saying that you admire every single woman on the planet.

      I wish I hadn’t read this blog post.

    3. Harry

      Yes it could just be an answer directed at making us smile but it could also be as simple as a man admiring the beauty of the female form. It doesn’t necessarily nullify all other female qualities and it doesn’t mean that someone thinks lower of women. Sometimes life can be playful and fun and that is what I see comments like this as, especially ones coming from a person that uses their brain as much as Scott does. My 2 cents :)

      I loved your answers by the way Scott as I can relate with most of them. Thanks for the post.

    4. Scott Berkun

      I don’t really know what to tell you if in an interview where I claim Don Quixote is real, you take a single word answer to a question as a definitive and complete summation of my view of anything.

      To answer your question, no, I would not take offense if a person told me the quality they most admired in something was something other than what I thought was most important.

      The question was not about a specific person – I did not objectify anyone. I happen to think women are beautiful, among many other characteristics. Do you think women are beautiful? If so, we agree. Do you feel women have many other important characteristics? If so, we agree there too.

      Given that the previous question was about men, I naturally was thinking about how women are different from men. Given my sexual preferences, I find women infinitely more attractive. And since the word admire has a meaning that is purely about appearances, that’s where my mind went. I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.

      1. Marcus

        Scott, I don’t think anyone takes your single-word answer as the definitive view of anything. You sound a little overly-defensive there.

        The problem is that if the question was taken out of context, there is nothing wrong with your answer. However, in the context of the previous question, your answer does objectify women, even though that wasn’t your intent. In fact, it’s not even your answer so much as the question itself. Why not simply ask “What is the quality you most admire in a person?” The way it’s worded now really leads you to the kind of sexist remark that you (unintentionally) made. Even if you said you most admire “honesty” in women and “integrity” in men, it would still sound bad – you mean you don’t admire integrity in women? or men can be dishonest but women can’t?

        So while you might have been well-intentioned in answering the questions, you fell into the trap set by the questionnaire and came out sounding like someone who thinks there’s nothing wrong with objectifying women. Someone as smart as you should be able to spot these traps and avoid falling into them (or posting them on your blog, as it were).

      2. Marcus

        By the way, if you read the questionnaire in your link, the questions use the term “admire” for both men and women, unlike in this post.

        The link also provides a much better way to answer without objectifying women:

        The quality you most admire in a man?
        Intelligence, moral sense

        The quality you most admire in a woman?
        Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence

  3. Naresh Sharma

    Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    A. Due to face, always shows that I am laughing

    Q. On what occasion do you lie?
    A. As well get chance to lie

    Q. What is your favorite journey?
    A. Which never visit

    Q. What do your consider your greatest achievement?
    A. That I came on earth

    Q. What is your motto?
    A. To become a helpful person for others


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