In 1993, Vanity Fair started publishing various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of each issue.
In 2009, the magazine released Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire: 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life (public library) — a charming compendium featuring answers by such cultural icons as Jane Goodall, Allen Ginsberg, Hedy Lamarr, Gore Vidal, Julia Child, and Joan Didion.
Among the most wonderful answers, equal parts playful and profound, are those by David Bowie — himself a vocal lover of literature — published in the magazine in August of 1998. Below are excerpts that give you an understanding of legend’s soul like nothing else!
Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
A: Getting a word in edgewise.
Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A: Discovering morning.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
A: Converting kilometers to miles.
Q: What historical figure do you most identify with?
A: Santa Claus.
Q: Which living person do you most admire?
Q: Who are your heroes in real life?
A: The consumer.
Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A: While in New York, tolerance.
Outside New York, intolerance.
Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Q: What is your favorite journey?
A: The road of artistic excess.
Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A: Sympathy and originality.
Q: Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
A: “Chthonic,” “miasma.”
Q: What is your greatest regret?
A: That I never wore bellbottoms.
Q: What is your current state of mind?
Q: If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
A: My fear of them (wife and son excluded).
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
A: A photograph held together by cellophane tape of Little Richard that I bought in 1958, and a pressed and dried chrysanthemum picked on my honeymoon in Kyoto.
Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A: Living in fear.
Q: Where would you like to live?
A: Northeast Bali or south Java.
Q: What is your favorite occupation?
A: Squishing paint on a senseless canvas.
Q: What is the quality you most like in a man?
A: The ability to return books.
Q: What is the quality you most like in a woman?
A: The ability to burp on command.
Q: What are your favorite names?
A: Sears & Roebuck.
Q: What is your motto?
A: “What” is my motto.
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