The Proust Questionnaire: Adam Nathan
"If it's not a good time, it's a good story."
It’s an unexplainable aspect of Substack that a writer as talented as, known for his compelling prose and distinctive style, doesn’t have a larger following.
By highlighting his work from my modest corner, I am quietly hoping to encourage more readers to explore and appreciate his brilliance.
So without further ado, here is The Proust Questionnaire with…
Adam, what is your idea of perfect happiness?
The very first morning of waking up in a foreign country and my children are still asleep and my wife is coming onto a veranda with two cups of coffee.
What is your greatest fear?
To be trapped in a coffin with oxygen. In the spirit of Marcel Proust, let's line the coffin with cork so that not even the worms can hear me screaming.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
There is a crush of contenders that take turns daily. Today it's needy performing for approval.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A photo finish. It looks like Unfairness... wait... the booth has just informed me that Not Respecting the Dignity of Others is the winner by a nose.
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
I do not consider the price of food when I shop.
What is your current state of mind?
Probably more chuffed with myself than I should be answering these questions. There are, however, 28 to go. Anything can happen.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
(To be free of) Bias. We have a cultural obsession with the fool’s errand of eradicating bias. The political mission of shaming others for perceived bias is turning our society into a three-hundred ring circus.
On what occasion do you lie?
Not here, curiously.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My incessant blinking on film.
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Oh, sorry, it's a slightly different question. I missed the whole gender thing: Men Who Don't Need Approval.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Oops, I did it again. For women, it's Kindness. And with that, 50% of the readers who made it this far will never get to #14 for reasons that will befuddle future generations.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Reading my own writing is a gardening exercise in weeding out the words “really” and "just."
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Whoever asked this question didn't have two grown children and a wife of thirty years.
When and where were you happiest?
Let's keep this hallucinogen free. I was at a silent Zen retreat waiting for the daily interview with the Zen Master. I was sitting on a wooden porch outside of the main hall and putting on my shoes to walk to the teacher's building. It was raining slightly, overcast, Pacific Northwestern, and the Vashon Island pine trees were swaying in the breeze. There was rustling in the treetops and I was looking up. I thought my heart might explode.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Tra-la-la-la-la. Singing. I don't mean carrying a tune (although that would be directionally helpful.) I mean Let-It-Rip Joe Cocker.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be 6' 2" the height I am inside my head, and much braver, and better at counting. While I'm on counting, I am unable to do simple addition in my head whenever it involves the number 7. And I am 58 years old. I think.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Professionally, it's starting a company for the price of a $25 business license and selling it a decade later.
But really it is the collected writing in 365. The essays in 365 were written during a sabbatical year in France where I gave myself a year to write everything that mattered to me and then resolved to never write again to "keep it real." While I failed spectacularly at the “never writing again” part, I do not believe I failed at the everything that mattered to me part. I am as proud of some of the work in there as anything in my life. If it survives me, I’ll be like “I fucking knew that shit was good, Emily. I knew it. Everybody was wrong but me and The Much Smarter People from The Future.”
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Jesus. Lots of responsibility but mind-blowing benefits.
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
A big red box of photographs of my family in a basement storage locker.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
Early morning writing.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Externally: People think I'm smarter than I am.
What do you most value in your friends?
They adore me. Me, me, me, me, me.
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Petya Rostov (War and Peace) He's the hero of the most tragic scene in Western Literature. If you do not know who he is, do NOT look him up or you get the spoiler you deserve. And you’re too old to be on Substack and not have read War and Peace. Particularly if you write posts about writing, which is damn near all of you.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Leonardo DaVinci for "Renaissance Mindset." If you think I think I'm identifying with his talent, you're missing it or deliberately trying to make me seem like an asshole on purpose, in which case you're right, but only by accident.
I also identify with Tolstoy, and he really was an asshole.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Vous avez deja posé cette question, Monsieur Proust. See question #5, svp.
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
Radical politics (Left or Right) followed very closely by the New York Yankees. In fact, if the Yankees wore Make America Great Again hats the entire stadium would sink into the Earth, pop up in Beijing, and the bullpen would start a war.
What is your greatest regret?
At three in the morning of a never-ending night shoot, I allowed the director of a film I was in to convince me to change a line so that my character's university (New York University) was my own (Columbia University) creating a direct identification in viewers that I "was" the character. I loathed the character, and I should have stood up to the director. Editor's note: Nobody else remembers or cares about this at all.
How would you like to die?
With my family holding my hands.
What is your motto?
"If it's not a good time, it's a good story."
Anything else you would like to add?
The missionary position.
Big thanks tofor being game and tackling the questionnaire! Share your thoughts below and don’t forget to check out Nathan’s work! 👇