Addison Schacht Answers the Proust Questionnaire
Addison Schacht is a lot of things: high-school student, drug dealer, aspiring classicist, amateur private eye, as well as being the narrator of The November Criminals. He's got a lot to say on every subject. Below, he takes on the Proust Questionnaire. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
No such thing. What is your greatest fear?
That no-one will listen to me, even though I know I'm right. And death. I'm terrified of dying. What historical figure do you identify with the most?
The Greek warrior Neoptolemus. You're totally baffled by that, I can just tell. Which living person do you most admire?
Even if I told you her name, you wouldn't know who she was, but that's private, so I'm not telling. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
That I'm a November Criminal. As I already said. At considerable length. If you're confused, read my essay. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
See above. (But they won't admit it.) What is your greatest extravagance?
It was a gun, but I don't have it anymore. So I guess nothing. On what occasion do you lie?
On what occasion don't I lie? What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I'd have to go with: whatever element of my appearance it is that makes people think I like answering their stupid questions. Where and when were you happiest?
Four years old, just waking up in bed, hearing the rain. Don't remember the exact day or month. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd like to be taller. Although I guess my father is tall and it hasn't helped him any. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
My father. No, I take that back: I'd want my mother to be alive. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Senior year, this girl I went to high school with, Alex Faustner, won an essay prize and got to make this ridiculous acceptance speech. I--without going too deeply into detail--ruined it. And I mean just absolutely, completely wrecked it, caused this whole small catastrophe, for which I got suspended. If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Whoa, Jerry Garcia, Jr.--what a penetrating question! I don't believe in reincarnation, it's always seemed even more cowardly than the idea of an afterlife. Since you're making me choose, though, I would say a sea otter. They have it pretty good, it seems to me. What is your most treasured possession?
My Loeb Classical Library edition of the Aeneid
. What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?
English class. Or possibly my English teacher. Who are your heroes in real life?
Did you know that word comes from Greek, originally? The word heros
, meaning hero. It's the same word in Latin, but it's declined differently. The Romans, who were a bunch of culture thieves, sometimes just blatantly stole words from the Greeks like that. (The technical philological term for such a word is calque
.) Unsettling, right? I mean, if not even words are immune to theft, what's the point of writing at all? What is it that you most dislike?
You'll be here all day if I answer truthfully. How would you like to die?
I wouldn’t. What is your motto?
Anyone who tells you they have a motto should be laughed at.
Munson's funny, stoner-friendly debut follows high school senior Addison Schacht as he stumbles through the Washington, D.C., teenage underworld to investigate a classmate's unsolved murder. Schacht—a small-time pot dealer, consummate anti-social, and Jewish collector of Holocaust jokes—makes for a poor but entertaining detective, and when he places a stoned phone call to his prime suspect, Addison and his friends become caught up in the mystery he set out to solve. As Addison's sleuthing begins to unravel and his life crumbles along with it, his ramblings offer an interesting counter to, and often context for, his misguided attempt to discover the truth. Munson keeps things lightly dark, though his weakness for wandering asides—Addison is just as likely to riff on the Aeneid
, Latin syntax, or his favorite movies as he is to discuss his investigation and efforts to outsmart the police—trips up the pace, even if they are what one would expect from a self-absorbed adolescent. The plotting could use some work, but Munson nails the voice. (Apr.)
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