Welcome to our new column, “Luminary,” in which the Pacific Sun asks questions of local luminaries who kindly answer them. We begin with San Anselmo’s Nish Nadaraja, who inspired this space with his popular Substack newsletter In Search of Lost Answers.
Daedalus Howell: You mentioned the fabled Proust questionnaire as a point of departure for your own Q & A approach to your Substack when interviewing various personalities. Me and most of the readers will know about that damn madeleine and maybe the James Lipton redux used on Actors Theater—what is it?
Nish Nadaraja: Basically, it was an after-dinner parlor game popularized—though not created—by Proust, who believed that in answering certain questions, one would reveal his or her true nature. They didn’t have Netflix back then, in a good way.
DH: Who makes the cut when it comes to your questionnaire?
NN: The key thing is that they are interesting, and I know that’s relative, but I do think everyone after the age of 14 has at least one best-selling novel inside of them. Some of the questions are not Proust’s, however, and center around business and pop culture, so I am looking for people who have done cool and inspiring things with their careers, but also have a sense of wit and wisdom.
DH: Why did you choose Substack, and can you explain what it is?
NN: Sure, it’s funny because my wife works at Patreon, which is another creator platform, but she’s the one who recommended Substack. Basically, it lets people create an easy newsletter. There are big names and celebrities who bring their own following, but for people like me it’s an easy way to share what you want to write about.
DH: Many journalists are fleeing their employers and launching their own Substacks—is it weird that I’ve asked you to join us in print and online?
NN: Ha, so true, it’s definitely trending that way. But I picked Substack because it is still about the written word. I have a Kindle, but I still buy too many books.
DH: You’ve mentioned how you’re relatively new to Marin, having come from San Francisco. What have been some of the defining moments of your experience here?
NN: Yes, we love it here in San Anselmo. What I like is that it’s not defining, but just a generally warm vibe. I did get appointed to the Arts Commission so I do like the town life, and I’m excited that Brian Colbert, our mayor here, is coming up as one of my interviews. I turned 49 in May and posted a personal challenge that I’d meet George Lucas by 50. Are you there George? It’s me, Nish.