The Proust Questionnaire — Book Edition

Nicholas Blechman Answers The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

By Nicholas Blechman November 13, 2013
Nicholas Blechman, Graphic Designer (New York Times Book Review)
View Nicholas Blechman’s Profile

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 Nicholas Blechman sent in response to the Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition:

1. Of these, your reading preference: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama:
Nonfiction, because I find it more useful and indirectly inspiring. It is easier for me to take something from the world of nonfiction and make it fictional.

2. Your favorite childhood book (or favorite childhood author):
Hergé’s Tintin series. Even as an adult, I reread them.

3. Your favorite book character:
Mr. Palomar, in Italo Calvino’s book of the same title. And Gary Panter’s Jimbo.

4. Your favorite book title (because you like the sound of it):
The Sound and the Fury, even if it comes from Macbeth.

5. A book you could never finish:
Moby Dick. I am stuck at page 465.

6. A book you will never start:
Infinite Jest.

7. If for some reason it turned out that you could save one and only one book from among those you own, which would it be:
The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) by Thomas Mann.

8. A book you should have read but haven’t:
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

9. The best “book as object” you own (how it looks over what it says):
The Savoy Cocktail Book, an illustrated Art Deco masterpiece.

10. Your reading speed: very slow, slow, moderate, fast, very fast:
Slow and thorough.

11. While you read, are you a note-taker? If yes, where do you record your notes:
In the margins of the book, which is why I don’t use tablets.

12. Your most idiosyncratic reading habit:
Reading out loud, though it sounds more like mumbling.

13. The most expensive book you’ve ever bought (and, if you can remember, the price):
American Specimen Book of Type Styles, about $200. When I bought it years ago, it seemed like a fortune.

14. If you could be any author:

16. Your favorite writer of the gender opposite yours:
Virginia Woolf.

17. The last book you bought:
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.

18. Your favorite place to purchase books:
It depends where I am. In Brooklyn it’s Spoonbill & Sugartown. In Manhattan, it’s probably McNally Jackson. For photography, Dashwood Books. On the West Coast, Powell’s Books in Portland. I love the “Staff Picks” notecards recommending books. They read like one-sentence book reviews.

19. The book you are currently reading:
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals by John Gray. Every preconceived thought on progress, the Enlightenment, and rationality is torn to shreds.

20. The book you will read next:
Battling Boy by Paul Pope and The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.

21. The current location of the book you will read next:
Inside pouch of my Jack Spade messenger bag (the current book is in the outside pouch).

22. Your favorite format for books: paper or pixels:
If it is not on paper, it is not a book. Nicholson Baker wrote eloquently about the lifelessness of e-books, and I could not agree more.

23. If you could have written any book:
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. It is the most playfully inventive book I’ve read.

24. A book that was particularly meaningful to, or highly recommended by, an acquaintance of yours:
Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt.

25. If you have the chance to plan it, the last book you’ll read:
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.

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

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