It’s the most wonderful time of the year…when all the critics and the publications and even academies start naming the best stuff in the arts for 2013. I love reading these lists. Sometimes I start with these lists when I decide what to read next.
I hate making lists, however. So this post may be the world’s worst list compilation. I will try my best to just write on the list as art form, in sentences and paragraphs, but what may emerge is a list of my own–not intended but sure to occur.
Some of my favorite art is in list form. Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary” is a great example. On the music side, some greatest hit collections are fantastic, and sometimes simplicity does the job (“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Greatest Hits of George Michael”). Some movies play like a list–I’m thinking mostly of documentaries at this point, but Wes Anderson films sometimes manifest themselves in what sounds like a list read out loud. But I can’t do it well. The list in of itself requires limitation, something I get enough of on a daily basis.
Every so often I’m asked by a friend or follower on social media to come up with a list of my favorite books, movies, music, writers, etc. Somewhere in the requirement of the list there are the words “of all time” or “in your life.” I back away from these requests and most others; when Facebook first started I was pretty faithful about it, but such loyalty tended to backfire. I couldn’t keep to the number of items needed, or my answer changed depending on where I lived or where I worked. When I get the question now I either pass silently on it or recommend that folks look at my GoodReads queue or Rotten Tomatoes activity. When I find a music website that is similar to GoodReads and/or Rotten Tomatoes, I’ll probably refer folks there as well.
All books, all movies, all music changes my life–even the worst garbage in the world. V.S. Naipaul taught me not to waste my time with V.S. Naipaul. “2001: A Space Odyssey” taught me that Kubrick was a genius, but I didn’t want to watch all of his movies in a marathon or I might go off the deep end. I haven’t finished “Anna Karenina” the book, and never will, but the 2012 movie was a spectacle I didn’t want to miss.
I love Springsteen, Saunders, Sloan, Cooper. And, for clarification, that would be Bruce, George, Robin, and Bradley. I tolerate more in some artists than others…I looked forward to Mel Gibson in “The Beaver” because of Jodie Foster, and while I completely dislike Henry James, I adore the writing of Edith Wharton. There are few Francis Ford Coppola movies that I can sit through, but I love his wine, his Cafe Zoetrope, and his daughter’s films.
I loved the mindset of Steve Jobs…even though he was a jerk.
The bad and best…they both shaped me. To make a 10-point list of them would be a display of mass confusion for the reader, because I am awful at lists and because it would include Bukowski right next to Jong, Garcia Marquez in the same breath with Hemingway.
My discovery is delightfully my own. But, if you want the short list: I’m on GoodReads, Rotten Tomatoes, etc, and so on.