Proust Questionnaire: Bill Rowe

Bill Rowe, author of The True Confessions of a Badly Misunderstood Dog, answers questions about St. John's living, Shakespeare, and his ancestral motto.

Bill Rowe photo smallBill Rowe has had many titles — Rhodes Scholar, Member of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, lawyer, public affairs commentator, and bestselling author. His latest book, The True Confessions of a Badly Misunderstood Dog, takes a warm and humorous look at the inner lives of a destined-for-greatness dog named Durf and his human and feline housemates.

ABT: What do you consider your best quality?

Bill Rowe: Skepticism, backed by a built-in, hypersensitive BS detector.

A quality you desire in a partner:

Acute observation, revealed in droll wit.

What do you appreciate most about your friends?

Not calling me at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning with the invitation, “Hey, old buddy, how about giving me a hand moving some furniture?”

Your worst quality:

Entertaining still a remnant of tolerance for self-righteous morons.

Your favourite occupation:

My long-term memory is so good that I can remember when my favourite occupation was being physically active in bed. Now it’s lying quietly in bed, mentally writing my next book. This may not be everybody’s notion of progress.

What is your idea of happiness?

The needy pursuit of “happiness” is a mug’s game. Happiness is elusive and, even if caught, evanescent. Tackling some difficult, creative task, and making progress towards the satisfaction of doing it well, seems better.

Your idea of misery:

Being trapped too long in a social situation requiring polite restraint towards self-righteous morons.

If you could be someone else for a day who would it be?

To get some answers. How could he write so many works of genius in such a short period, all the while becoming rich in business and property? Did he even suspect he was the greatest writer of all time? Did he have syphilis, and was that what killed him in the prime of life at 52? Why did his “personality” seem to make relatively little impact on his own era, compared with, say, Oscar Wilde’s or Earnest Hemingway’s on theirs? Was it because he hoarded his wisdom, wit, insight, and charisma entirely for the blank page in front of him? And so forth.

Where you would most like to live?

Out here, in the middle of the North Atlantic, is good. Sometimes, though, when a St. John’s day in July produces winter temperatures, it almost seems too remarkable a co-incidence that the place where I happened to grow up also happens to be the best place on earth to live. Then I have random thoughts: the South of France would be good, too.

Favourite colour:True Confessions of a Badly Misunderstood Dog Bill Rowe

The subtly varicoloured greens of new leaves in spring.

Favourite Animal:

Domesticated: the Labrador retriever of The True Confessions of a Badly Misunderstood Dog. Wild: “Tyger tyger, burning bright…”

Your favourite poet(s):

Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Wyatt, William Blake, Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes.

Favourite author(s):

William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy.

Your favourite fictional heroes:

Resourceful Odysseus, the man of twists and turns. And Rosalind in As You Like it: she’s so wise and funny she ranks as one of the finest.

Your real life heroes:

Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Your favourite food & drink:

Bouillabaisse with Chablis or Provençal rosé, followed by Sauterne, preferably Chateau d’Yquem, if someone with the money to match his hedonism is buying.

What is your greatest fear?

That Schopenhauer’s answer was right when someone asked him where we go when we die. He replied that you go to wherever you were before you were born. Is he suggesting that our subjective selves will be lurking somewhere just waiting for the chance to do this all over again? Bloodcurdling.

A natural talent you’d like to possess:

To perform brilliantly in the highest of the arts: music.

How you want to die:

Slowly, for the first 85 years, and then very quickly. Maybe after a nice, strong soporific during a trip to Switzerland.

Your present state of mind:

Contented indifference regarding self, reliably alternating with stark anxiety for others.

Favourite or personal motto:

Innocens non timidus, which can translate to: “Innocent not fearful.” Whatever the hell that means. But it sounds ominous, like the plea of someone “wrongfully” accused. I’m stuck with it, though. It’s the motto of my ancestral gang, one of whom claimed, on being arrested later, that he didn’t really comprehend what he was doing when he signed the death warrant of King Charles the First.

The True Confessions of a Badly Misunderstood Dog
by Bill Rowe
$19.95, paperback, 224 pp.
Flanker Press, 2015

Written By

Lauren d'Entremont is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. Originally from Amherst, NS, she currently lives, writes, and edits in Halifax.

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