The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Lynn Crosbie on what perfect happiness means

The author of poetry collection The Corpses of the Future takes the classic Q&A.
Lynn Crosbie is the author of the novel Where Did You Sleep Last Night. (Lynn Crosbie)

Lynn Crosbie is a poet, novelist and journalist who always goes deep with her writing, whether it's about tough and sometimes taboo subjects, or even a deep probe into pop culture. Her most recent collection of poetry, The Corpses of the Future, draws on conversations with her beloved father who suffers from dementia as a result of a stroke. Her new novel, Chicken, is inspired by her obsession with Clockwork Orange actor Malcolm McDowell.

Below, Crosbie takes the Proust questionnaire. This interview originally aired on Oct. 23, 2017.

Name your favourite writers.

"I cannot name my favourite writers because it changes it all the time. I'm going to have to stick with the standbys, which are James Joyce, Herman Melville, Violette Leduc and Jacqueline Susann. The first three I listed were part of a challenge to make my mind stronger because I could feel things slipping away. I used to read a lot of very difficult books when I was young and I realized that I wasn't doing that at all any more. It means a lot to me to have gone back to these books that were very challenging and finish them. Jacqueline Susann is an underrated commercial chronicler of women's lives and the tragedy of women's lives."

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

"My favourite character is Molly Bloom in Ulysses. She's so extravagantly sexual and eloquent and powerful."

If you could change something about yourself what would it be?

"I think I would be a better friend and I would be a better volunteer. I would give more of myself and I would be a far better line dancer than I am so far."

What do you value most in your friends?

"I value loyalty in my friends in a Cosa Nostra kind of way — horse heads in the beds otherwise."

On what occasions do you lie?

"Constantly — no I don't lie constantly. I lie as in 'No that isn't a hideous ensemble.'"

What is your greatest regret?

"I've always followed the Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra model — regrets I have a few. I wish I'd had my own family. I wish there was some little brat out there listening and rolling her eyes at her creepy old mum."

What is your favourite journey?

"My favourite journey ever was to Italy, but my favourite journey of all time is just to get in a car and get going — as a passenger though, I like to go shotgun. My dad used to drive me around when I was a little baby because I never slept. I just feel instantly relaxed when it's road trip time."

What is your principle defect?

"I am too much of a loner. I'm probably scary on some MMPI test, probably up there with the Unabomber — but no Unaboming, just to make that perfectly clear."

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

"Lying on my bed with my dog in the summer and watching a movie that we like — Heart of a Dog is a current favourite — and there's just sun everywhere."

Who are your favourite heroes in real life?

"Currently it's my father who has been battling very serious dementia for three years. He's blind but he still manages to retain quite a great deal of who he is. I also admire very hardcore animal activists — the ones who are really on the front lines."  

What is your greatest extravagance?  

"I have probably 30 bottles of perfume and they go from high end, like Hermes, to Céline Dion, which is actually my favourite. And I'm out of it — just saying."

What is your favourite place in Canada and why?

"I've only been there once, but I really like Winnipeg. I like standing on the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers just feeling the wildness of the wind and it makes me think of the whole city, which is also wild and beautiful."  

Lynn Crosbie's comments have been edited and condensed.