Mark Kingwell was kind enough to agree to answer twenty random questions, posed by yours truly. If you aren’t familiar with the Professor, please check out his bio at the end of this post. I have an innocent and platonic fascination with his mind. He’s my Glenn Gould. Mark will get that, and so will those of you familiar with his books. If you haven’t read Kingwell’s work, I promise once you do you’ll be just as intrigued. As an aside, Mark will on my podcast La Literati on Jan. 12th. You can find the details at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum We’re excited to speak with him. In the meantime, check out his insightful and humorous answers to total randomness.
1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?
Well, it’s a psychedelic trip, isn’t it? So I would come back, but I wouldn’t tell anybody about it. And I’d figure out a way to get back there at some point.
2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?
“Everyone hates a sad professor.” (Yes, I stole that.)
3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?
That’s easy, because I once published a book about cocktails and I like to mix them for friends. So I’d say I am a dry gin martini, served straight up, with one of those big olives stuffed with a piece of blue cheese. Cold and clear, then some salt and pungency waiting for the right moment to show itself.
4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?
Failure. And since you ask, I’m still not too crazy about wasps. Also frozen hockey pucks to the face.
5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?
No religious zealotry, thank you.
6. What’s your favorite poem?
John Donne, “The Ecstasy.”
7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?
Very soothing stuff, darkness. Except when it isn’t. You know, that noise that doesn’t immediately make sense…
8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?
Cole Porter. Or maybe Hal David.
9. What makes you nostalgic?
This will sound weird if you aren’t, like me, an air force brat: seeing any military airplane. They make me think of the bases where I grew up, the funny houses with the same floorplan no matter where you were in the country, the kids you knew for a few months before their fathers got posted somewhere else. Games of Post Office in somebody’s garage. Sandlot baseball. Soundtrack by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, and Alice Cooper.
10. Clowns., creepy or cool?
You’re not seriously asking that, are you? Creepy of course. Creepy creepy creepy. Also, see Question 7. Bart Simpson had it right: “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.”
11. Do you remember your dreams?
About once a week. They are usually extremely violent, David Cronenberg or Quentin Tarantino violent. I have no idea why.
12. What’s your favorite song?
That’s easy: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” any version, but maybe especially the Platters (1958) and Keith Jarrett (2009). I’m going to cheat and add that my favourite album of all time is Glenn Gould’s “A Consort of Musick Bye William Byrde And Orlando Gibbons” (1984); this just edges out Keith Jarrett’s sublime “Köln Concert” (1975) and “Armed Forces” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979).
13. What’s your favorite season?
Autumn. Especially here in Ontario, where everything looks better when the leaves begin to change colour. Also: playoff baseball.
14. Does pressure motivate you?
Absolutely. The self-applied kind is the best, though.
15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?
I will quote Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise: “There is no fate but what we make.”
16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Also, The Republic.
17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?
I’m not paranoid, but I usually disguise my intense misanthropy under a facade of easygoing amiability. Does that answer the question? Maybe not… Might make sense of Question 11, though.
18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?
Well, there has to be sex with my sweetie in there somewhere, plus music, and art, and then cocktails at some point before dinner. Also a baseball game or a walk in the woods or some fly fishing. Hmm – I guess it matters whether I’m alone or not. Am I alone? Oh no…
19. Are you more like fire or the earth?
Can’t I be both? And also wind? I always wanted to play in the horn section on “Got To Get You Into My Life.”
20. Do you hear voices?
Just my own, incessant and various, about deadlines and ideas, quotations and turns of phrase, things to say and things I wish I’d said. Wouldn’t want it otherwise.
What are you currently working on?
A new collection of essays about democracy and culture, to be published next year
About Mark kingwell:
Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author or co-author of seventeen books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009). His articles on politics, architecture and art have appeared in many academic journals, including the Journal of Philosophy and the Harvard Design Magazine, and in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Utne Reader, BookForum, the Toronto Star, and Queen’s Quarterly; he is also a former columnist for Adbusters, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.
Mr. Kingwell has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia on philosophical subjects and had held visiting posts at Cambridge University, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the City University of New York, where he was the Weissman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities in 2002. Mr. Kingwell is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, the Outstanding Teaching Award and President’s Teaching Award at the University of Toronto, a research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism. His most recent book is a collection of political essays, Unruly Voices (2012); he has also recently published two illustrated pamphlets, Frank’s Motel (2013) and Democracy’s Gift (2014).