The Next Chapter

Douglas Gibson answers the Proust Questionnaire

The author and long-time editor and publisher discusses his favourite fictional characters, his greatest weakness, and more.
Douglas Gibson spent over 40 years editing some of Canada's greatest literary talents before becoming an author himself. (Spur Festival/ECW Press)

Douglas Gibson is best known as the publisher of venerable Canadian press McClelland and Stewart, where he worked with the cream of CanLit, weighing and measuring other people's words. Now the editor has become an author himself, with two memoirs: Stories about Storytellers, and his latest, Across Canada by Story. Gibson shared some of his favourite things with us this week, when he answered The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

I have two answers there. First is Bartholomew Bandy, who is of course is the hero of The Bandy Papers by Donald Jack. The second is the narrator of Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief. He's the man through whose eyes we see the whole plot unfold, and he is a decent, absolutely absorbing character. 

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

Well, my greatest weakness is that I always have a story about something. And you can see people's eyes starting to roll when I say, "Oh, I have a story about that!"

Your favourite painter?

David Milne. He was a very controversial figure in our household, because my daughters, to whom I would send postcards of David Milne paintings, thought he was terrible when they were young. But I realized that this was quite a remarkable painter, and of course he's becoming more and more recognized now.

​What is your favourite journey?

The drive from Banff to Jasper, which I've done maybe 10 times because I used to teach at the Banff publishing workshops each summer. As everyone who's done it knows,it is a superb drive past the Columbia Icefield, and, to my amazement, every time I do it, it's different.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I was born in Scotland. I don't have any extravagancies. My wife will assure you this is true: "It's hard to get the man to buy anything." 

What's your greatest fear?

That inevitably, all this great happiness is going to end someday.