The Proust Questionnaire — Book Edition

Alice Rawsthorn Answers The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

By Alice Rawsthorn November 26, 2013
Alice Rawsthorn, Design Critic and Author (London)
View Alice Rawsthorn’s Book List

This November marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust’s opus, In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu), originally known in English as Remembrance of Things Past. To honor the occasion, we developed the Designers & Books version of the eponymous Proust Questionnaire, which we’ve sent out to various contributors and friends. Rather than including the questions from the original that asked about a wide array of “thoughts and feelings,” our adaptation focuses solely on the respondent’s relationship to books.

View the complete questions asked in The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

Here are the answers Alice Rawsthorn sent in response to the Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition:

1. Of these, your reading preference: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama:

2. Your favorite childhood book (or favorite childhood author):
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

3. Your favorite book character:
As a child, it was Jo in Little Women.

4. Your favorite book title (because you like the sound of it):
All That is Solid Melts into Air by Marshall Berman.

5. A book you could never finish:
The Red and the Black by Stendhal.

9. The best “book as object” you own (how it looks over what it says):
There are so many beautiful books, but my favorite is Boom, the miniature book of Irma Boom’s work in book design: original, witty, eloquent, irreverent, and irresistible.

10. Your reading speed: very slow, slow, moderate, fast, very fast:

11. While you read, are you a note-taker? If yes, where do you record your notes:
I only take notes when reading for research, and I record them on my iPad.

12. Your most idiosyncratic reading habit:
I vowed at the age of eight that I would finish every book I started, and I’ve stuck to it ever since with very few (unconscionably bad) exceptions.

13. The most expensive book you’ve ever bought (and, if you can remember, the price):
For a new book, Gerhard Richter’s Patterns for roughly $750, and for an old one, a first edition of an early novel in Anthony Powell’s “A Dance to the Music of Time” series for about $500.

14. If you could be any author:
Too many wonderful ones to choose from, but I’d probably plump for one whose writing had a political impact on their time, as Emile Zola’s did in France, Elizabeth Gaskell’s in Britain, and Tolstoy’s in pre-revolutionary Russia.

16. Your favorite writer of the gender opposite yours:
Emile Zola.

17. The last book you bought:
A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the second volume of “My Struggle,” his series of six novels.

18. Your favorite place to purchase books:
The first time I went to Heffers, the university book store in Cambridge, I was so excited to see so many books in one place. Every time I have gone back there, it has felt just as enticing.

19. The book you are currently reading:
The New English Landscape by Jason Orton and Ken Worpole.

20. The book you will read next:
The Odd Women by George Gissing.

21. The current location of the book you will read next:
On my desk at home in London.

24. A book that was particularly meaningful to, or highly recommended by, a friend of yours:
My publisher, Simon Prosser at Hamish Hamilton, recently recommended a series of six novels by a Norwegian novelist I’d never heard of—Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle.” He’s an extraordinary writer and I’m hooked.

View all Questionnaires.

Also see “Celebrating a Proust Anniversary with The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition.”

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