Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Infamous Proust Questionnaire

I found this on the web, through an article about Cookie monster on NPR.
The implication here is somehow that this questionnaire and the Proust's answers are somehow "exceptional", except - they're not, in any way exceptional. I don't understand.

First off - the only exceptional thing I can see is that he's given a questionnaire at a party, which likely means they're going to be read aloud at some point during the evening. What i'd like to see is some of the other people's answers, but because only one of the people at the party became famous - Proust- we're stuck never seeing anyone else's response. It's more a warning to the rest of us, really. Become famous or never be heard from - even the opinions you wrote down at a party in a dopey questionnaire where some woman's idiotic 13 year-old thought he was being clever and all growed-up, you won't ever be heard from again. His answers will be held up for all time, but your answer will be lost to the mists of time and space. If you're not destined to be famous, you might as well have just gotten drunk and vomited on the questionnaire, which would only have wound up as a footnote to Proust's story anyway.

In both questionnaires he's obtuse and churlish. In both he's clearly trying to please his host, likely older women. In the first he answers nearly every one with a slant toward pleasing his momma, which at 13 is only slightly surprising, unless his mother brought him to the party, which is likely. There is nothing out of place about many of his choices - Mozart, Pericles, et al., it's not as if he said "the Rolling Stones", he's completely a creature of his time, what else would he answer? Pliny the Younger is a little weird, but I'm sure he just read about him in the past year of his life, so that wouldn't be odd at all.

In the second questionnaire - he's clearly trying to get laid. He's 20. When asked his favorite flower - he answers "Hers" which he might as well have pointed to his girlfiriend's pants. Under what his favorite occupation is he put "loving", which is different from a 20 year old - how? Steve Bunche would have answered the same damn thing.

I see nothing exceptional here - just a horny 20 year old who listens to the pop music of the day, dutifully reads his books (or at least names authors of books, which is no great skill) and at 13 is at pains to mention his momma, which would likely make an impression on the older women at the party, which is just playing to the crowd. And by older women, we're probably talking about chicks in their early to mid- 30's, which is an awesome target demographic at any party, in my opinion.

Ugh. What is wrong with people?

6 Comments:

At 6:48 PM , Anonymous Mike said...

Proust was gay. At least in the case of the second party, his audience was probably boys.

Obtuseness is sometimes done in the attempt to keep as much in his "field of vision" as possible. Not all obtuseness is done with the resolve to be coy or churlish.

 
At 11:04 PM , Blogger Scott Koblish said...

Interesting!
I would not have guessed from the questionnaire that he was gay. The answer about the flower, especially, threw me.

I suppose it can be used to widen a field of vision - I'm appreciative of his answer to a favorite color, since I've always thought that question to be single-mindedly maddening.

I'm still unsure of what could possibly make these answered questionnaires stand out as exceptional, they still seem to me very pedestrian and obtuse - although I'll grant you the use of obfuscation in the service of widening the possible answer...

 
At 11:15 PM , Blogger Scott Koblish said...

Thinking also on the answers - in regard to his sexual orientation; I confess to being misled by the focus on his mother.

I assumed it pointed to toward a heterosexuality, but I wonder if I wasn't blinded to the previous acceptance of the outdated "understanding" of homosexual sexual orientation that was abolished in the psychiatric profession in the early 70's re: overprotective mothers and male children. we know the link to be non-causal now, but I wonder if this questionnaire would have fed right into that mistaken "understanding".
Couldn't have helped, I guess...

 
At 12:22 PM , Anonymous Mike said...

Well, I didn't see the link literally say that Proust's responses were exceptional. To be clearer, they could have said "Here's a questionnaire filled out by an exceptional guy" if that's what they meant. Maybe if they were braver they could have been more specific, something like "even Einstein couldn't get along with his wife."

Hell, maybe we can't go by what Proust said about his homosexuality. Maybe his mother was a shrew and he honored her like the way children snuggle up to an abusive parent, and he took any adoration regardless of the sex of the admirer. Maybe he was really a sociopath who learned branch out to exploit gay men. (Take a guess at the kind of weblog that holds my attention these days.)

 
At 7:40 PM , Blogger Scott Koblish said...

Um. If I had to guess - Andrew Sullivan?
Christopher Hitchens?

I kinda give up on that one - dare I ask what weblogs hold the attention of the most interesting mind of this century?

 
At 6:18 AM , Anonymous Mike said...

I only meant to imply there are weblogs on every topic, like the weblog on socipaths I'm linking to. It's the Internets, dude. These tubes go everywhere.

 

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