Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French writer who is to blame for writing a walloping hearty meatloaf of a book called À la recherche du temps perdu (literally, A Book No One is Likely to Read, since it's over 3,200 pages and has over 2,000 characters with French names in it.)
He is also famous for saying, "Like many intellectuals, he was incapable of saying a simple thing in a simple way."
Books of this length are the sort of reading undertaken by Literature majors, French students, and people with lots and lot of time on their hands.
All this took place before reality tv, dating shows and gun control debates started taking so much of our time. Young Marcel was able to take a questionnaire sent to him by a friend named Antoinette, in a book she had compiled for recording everyone's thoughts and intimate reactions to things. You might say this was the French version of Facebook around the turn of the 20th Century.
But, with so few people having personal computers, iPads or smart phones in the 1890s, his answers received but scant circulation, and then it was 1924 that someone found them in the old book that Antoinette had. Thrilled at having something he wrote that didn't take six months to read, the French people started a fashion of asking each other questions, based on the questionnaire.
One question they missed was, what the hell good is a beret? It provides no shade for the ears, nor does it have a brim to keep sun or rain out of one's eyes.
I would have had to bring that up.
As the years went on, French people had so much fun asking each to fill out the Proust questionnaire and eating croissants that our own James Lipton imported it, so that he could grill Hollywood luminaries such as Mr Johnny Depp and Mr Steve Guttenberg with it.
And now the editors of Vanity Fair use it every month to have some fun with the famous. You can take the test yourself online, and Vanity Fair magazine will compare your answers to those of 101 various dignitaries.
I took the test the other night, and I am still stunned that the person like whom I answered the most questions (89.51%) was a man for whom I have virtually no regard whatsoever, namely, weaselly Republican operative Karl Rove.