The Momus questionnaire — Christiana Spens

Christiana Spens is the author of two novels, and one non-fiction book, Shooting Hipsters: Rethinking Dissent in the Age of PR. Published by Repeater Books in 2016, Shooting Hipsters is an astute, entertaining and erudite examination of the problems facing modern protest groups, and the possibilities opened up by PR.

The Momus Questionnaire was created by musician Nick Currie, and is designed to identify the aspects of the subject’s personality which give them a posiive self-image, or ‘subcultural capital’.

Have you rebelled against someone else’s dreary expectations of your life, and become something more unexpected?

I don’t know if I’ve rebelled against anyone’s dreary expectations as such, but I have found over the past decade or so that people have been confused or even disappointed by my life choices. I think this is because they’ve had certain presumptions about me that have been proven wildly inaccurate. I think people just like other people to be more like them, and it annoys them if someone does not conform to their own vision of a good life. It can be quite demoralizing though, to disappoint people simply by not mirroring their own lives. I don’t really understand that mindset; it seems unimaginative. And people can be so rude about it!

What in your life can you point to and say, like Frankie, ‘I Did It My Way’?

I can’t think of anything obvious, really. I think I must make Old Fashioneds in my own (technically flawed) way.

What creative achievements are you most proud of?

I’ve just finished drafts of a memoir and a crime novel and I’m happier with them than anything I’ve written before (although they’re not entirely finished yet). The memoir was especially difficult to write, because it deals with my father’s long illness and death. It’s something I never thought I would be able to write, so there’s something especially cathartic and satisfying about that.

If there was one event in your life which really shaped you, made you the person you are today, what would it be?

Other than those events mentioned above, I would say that having my son Caspian has been the major event of my life. As soon as he was born, I really felt as though I had been missing him my whole life. It felt like a reconciliation as much as a new chapter, when everything fell into place. There is a sense of harmony and purpose I really didn’t have before, and a yearning that has gone.

If you had to make a song or rap boasting about your irresistible charm and excellence, how would you describe yourself?

I don’t think I’d do that! I’d probably rather have one written about me! I love Play With Fire by the Rolling Stones, and Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel, those sorts of songs. I’ve been with two different boys who said that Pale Blue Eyes by the Velvet Underground reminded them of me, though, which is a bit depressing,

Have you ever made material sacrifices because of your integrity?

I wouldn’t say I made material sacrifices because of integrity so much as stubbornness and perhaps a little naivety. I’ve generally made any ‘sacrifices’ unwittingly, though. I suppose I just have different priorities, in the end, than trying to make a lot of money. I think, as well, that I never really felt that getting rich was much of a possibility, not really. I think it depends on luck a lot more than people like to say.  I don’t know if I can say I sacrificed what I never really had.

Describe a public personality who exemplifies everything you’d like to be yourself, then another public personality who incarnates everything you’d least like to be.

It’s easiest to think of the villains: Trump, May, and so on, as people I’d least like to resemble. I can’t immediately think of any public figures I’d emulate. I’d like to meet Philip Roth, Marianne Faithful, and Quentin Tarantino, though.

If you were an Egyptian pharoah and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?

A lighter, a pen, a notebook and a shovel.

Do you have a favourite joke, quotation or proverb?

‘Lady, your room is lousy with flowers.

When you kick me out, that’s what I’ll remember,

Me, sitting here bored as a leopard

In your jungle of wine-bottle lamps,

Velvet pillows the color of blood pudding

And the white china flying fish from Italy.’

—Sylvia Plath.

What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?

I recently found an old album of my grandmother, who died at 26 in ambiguous circumstances, in 1943. I had never seen any pictures of her really, and knew so little about her, that these photographs of her were just incredible to me. There were lots of beautiful images, but one in particular stands out – she is on her honeymoon in Switzerland, in January 1939, wearing a leopard print coat and skis on the slopes. She would give birth to my father nine months later, a few weeks after the war started. I just love, after so many years of thinking of her as a tragic figure, seeing her look so vivacious, stylish, and happy. I finally felt free to adore her.

I do also love those songs I already mentioned, pretty much everything by Egon Schiele, and Anna Karenina.