Proust Q 5.0 April 2011: Mike Boone, Gazette columnist, Habs blogger, man of letters and wordsApril 11, 2011
We’ve had words, Mike Boone and I. Envy was probably the first one. I wanted his job as TV columnist even before I was hired as a copy editor for the Montreal Gazette in 1998. The next word was, inelegantly, wow. As a reader, I admired and enjoyed Mike’s writing, but to work as an editor — where writing becomes a thing to place here, cut there, top with a headline — to reduce the experience of reading to those mechanics and still say wow, that is something. After that came some form of expletive, my trademark NSFW mutterings, to which Mike, a couple of cubicles over, memorably yelled “Enough!” or some such. Point taken (though habit not broken). And then there was the word on which turned my life as a writer, a single word of praise, single not as in miserly, but as in succinct. In response to my first freelance article for the Arts pages, about attending a taping of TV’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in NYC, he pulled out the one phrase over which I had fretted the most and emailed it to me with, well, I think it was the word “perfect”. I’ve lost the email, but not the moment: Prairie girl comes to Canada’s most sophisticated city, lands a job at the big paper and counts down the days until she will be revealed a fraud … until a single word makes her think, maybe, she might be on the right track after all.
Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place? In a bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Montreal.
Who and what would you be wearing? I’d be wearing a button-down blue Oxford cloth shirt, open at the neck, jeans, a black blazer and black Doc Martens or Dansko clogs. Luckily, I have all these items in my humble wardrobe. I would have shaved carefully, but I would not be wearing a fragrance or any jewelry.
And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? Very dry Bombay Sapphire martinis.
Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others? Intelligence, patience and good humour.
What do you like most about yourself? I’m soft-hearted, incurably romantic and slow to anger.
Least? I can be spiteful. I’m insecure, pathologically shy and a world-class procrastinator.
What is your greatest achievement? I’m a pretty good father.
What is your present state of mind? Cautious pessimism.
Where and when are/were you happiest? In the delivery room when my daughter was born. Distant runner-up is the legendary 1975 New Year’s Eve hockey game between the Canadiens and Central Red Army.
What is your first memory? A dog when I was about two or three.
What, currently, do you most love doing? Getting baked for movies and hockey on TV.
What was your worst job? Rock music critic.
Your favourite colour? Blue.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? No such thing. But I’m very happy when my daughter is around.
Of misery? Being ill or not being able to help a loved one who needs me.
If not yourself, who or what would you be? Bobby Orr, circa 1970.
Where would you like to live? Right here in Montreal.
What is your favourite journey? The Atlantic seashore.
What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged? I’ve had several with my friend Alan Richman, the GQ food writer. But he hasn’t been up here for a few years. Au pied de cochon is pretty special.
Name the person who influenced you most and how. My grandfather. My parents split up when I was five. My Mum and I moved to Montreal, and my maternal grandfather lived across the street. He was retired and had loads of time for me.
Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why? The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I’ve never been more immersed in a work of fiction. And many recordings: Kind of Blue, Astral Weeks, Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, Blood on the Tracks … dozens and dozens. And many movies: The Apartment, Singin’ In the Rain, The Godfather, Breaking the Waves … many, many more
In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire? The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, my late Mama.
Who is your favourite fictional hero? Yossarian in Catch-22.
What fault can you most easily forgive? Envy. (Phew! Thank you, Mike.)
What fault can you not forgive? Hypocrisy.
What is your motto? Semper ubi sub ubi.
How would you hope to die? In my sleep, without warning or protracted illness.
Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to volunteer? My favourite dinner companions would be my daughter, the Dalai Lama, Leonard Cohen and Mary Louise Parker.
Deep dark secret? Sorry, secrets stay secret.
Any last words? I’m 62 and kinda falling apart. But I tell my daughter the redeeming virtue of old age is you come to dislike yourself a lot less.
Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.