The Next Chapter

Lee Maracle answers the Proust Questionnaire

The ground-breaking indigenous writer on Chekhov, the dangers of talking without thinking and more.

Lee Maracle's first book, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel, was one of the first aboriginal works of fiction to be published in Canada when it came out in 1975. Since then, she has written award-winning and critically acclaimed books in almost every genre. Maracle is also a teacher, a lifelong political activist and an expert on First Nations culture and history. Her most recent book is Memory Serves. This week, Lee Maracle took The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

Name your favourite writers.

My favourite writer is Chekhov. I think that, more than anybody, he ropes you in and nails your feet to the floor. I've never been able to put the book down and go do something else and get back to it. And every time I read a story, even if it's the same one I read yesterday, I'm moved and entertained. I think stories that just entertain you are a waste, and stories that move you without entertaining you will not be read again.

What do you value most in your friends?

Good times and good conversation. There's not very many people who want to sit down and talk about poetry with you, or writing in general, so those that do are treasures to me. And that they don't mind not seeing me for a year to two if I get immersed in a novel or am writing poetry that I can't let go of.

What is your principle defect?

Sometimes I talk when I should keep my mouth shut. I really try in my later years to censor myself a little bit, but sometimes it doesn't work, and I just blurt things out and wish I hadn't. Words have power. They have impact, they're sacred and they last forever. Words can't leave the atmosphere, they bounce around, they go around the earth and hit the same spot again, and I always imagine little children hearing them. You'll cuss and swear and call somebody a horrific name, and you'll wish you hadn't, but it's too late. It's out there, it's in the universe.

Lee Maracle's comments have been edited and condensed.