The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Joshua S. Levy, author of the MG sci-fi debut, SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY (Carolrhoda Books).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Ooooh. These are going to be interesting questions, aren’t they? Perfect happiness? Weirdly (or maybe not) this one’s easy: Simple, small moments with my family. Playing with blocks on the floor with my four-year-old daughter while my wife keeps my seven-month-old from crawling away. Just the four of us, enjoying a day.
What is your greatest fear? Wowee. I feel like I’ve got all the biggies. Fear of abandonment, fear of loss, fear of being irrelevant, unproductive, or unlikeable. (But don’t we all feel like that now and then?) But my greatest fear (or fears)…? If my ideas of perfect happiness revolve around my family, my most acute fears probably do as well.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I think I’m more self-conscious than I should be some of the time. Maybe one day I’ll stop feeling like three little kids in a trenchcoat—but that day is not today.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Deplore is just such a strong word, isn’t it? I suppose…it’s not showing small kindnesses that don’t cost anything to the person giving them out.
Which living person do you most admire? I’m so curious as to what other authors have put down for this question. (But I don’t want to cheat and review their answers before I give my own.) This is just so hard! Can I just say that I most admire…the kinds of people for whom showing small kindnesses comes easy? (I know—that’s probably cheating too.)
What is your greatest extravagance? Google alerts about Star Wars. Next!
What is your current state of mind? A bit…overextended.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Assertiveness for its own sake.
On what occasion do you lie? To postpone meaningful discussion of small disappointments.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Probably “literally.” And also “probably.”
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? Playing piano. (Although the level at which I’d love to play probably doesn’t necessitate “talent” as much as “time,” something else I’d very much like to have more of.)
What do you consider your greatest achievement? If I use the phrase “my family” to answer three or more questions, does it disqualify the questionnaire??? <No, Joshua; it doesn’t 😄–MR>
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Person > thing. (Sorry—that answer was cheeky. But only because it’s another hard question. On the assumption that I get to choose, I suppose it would be…me, with some shots at doing a few things different.)
What is your most treasured possession? A necklace from my grandfather that he received at his bar mitzvah.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Certain kinds of loss.
What do you most value in your friends? Openness, graciousness, empathy, and just the right amount of (the good kind of) irreverence.
Who are your favorite writers? So here’s a truth about me: I have a hard time not thinking that the writer of the last book I really enjoyed is now one of my “favorite writers.” Does that make sense? (By way of analogy, almost every Avengers/Marvel MCU movie is my favorite…until the next one comes out, which is my new favorite…until the next one comes out, which is my new favorite…) But if I had to choose—and if I couldn’t pick some of my fellow debut #Novel19s middle-grade writers—I’d probably say: Four-way tie between Chuck Klosterman, Ellen Raskin, Timothy Zahn, and Milton Steinberg.
Who is your hero of fiction? Whichever Star Wars character I’m currently thinking most about.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously identified with some historical figure; at least, not some prominent historical figure. And maybe that’s right: Maybe what I most identify with is the average, unremarkable kind of person (contemporary or historical) who values putting my head down and pushing through.
What is your motto? For my birthday one year, my wife got me one of those “Work Hard and Be Nice to People” posters. That’s as good a motto as any I could come up with.
Thanks for having me!
Thank YOU, Joshua!
JOSHUA S. LEVY was born and raised in Florida. After teaching middle school (yes, including seventh grade) for a little while, he went to law school. He lives with his wife and children in New Jersey, where he practices as a lawyer. Unfortunately, outer space doesn’t come up in court nearly as often as he’d like. Learn more about Joshua on his website and follow him on Twitter.