Feb 10, 2010


I seem to remember from music history class in college that the list song is a time-honored tradition. Probably some Mozart aria or whatever, maybe Verdi, you could look it up. Or from the new school, take We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel, pretty much a recitation of names and events from the moderan era...50 Ways to Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon...or for extra credit, Van Lingle Mungo by the eccentric and gifted songwriter Dave Frishberg, in which the title and every word of the lyric is the name of a true-life major league baseball player.

In a meta-reference I cherish, some newspaper article pointed out what should have been obvious, but what I had never noticed on my own - how writers love lists, especially when deadline looms. 19 Ways to Give Him Ridiculous Pleasure, The 14 Things Your Cat Knows, you get the idea.

So when the Palm Beach Post responded to that crazy list of 100 movies from the American Film Institute by asking readers to submit lists of their own, this was meta-reference heaven. Meta, if I understand it as it applies to the digital age means description not present in the item itself, but somehow referencing it. So the idea of a list of movies referencing another list of movies sounded, well, pretty cool.

Submissions by Post readers generated a list of novels as well as one of movies. At least, that's the way my imperfect memory renders it. Or to put it another way, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. After finding lots of books I could agree with, but never seem to find acknowledged in "official" lists (all right! one for the reg'lar folks!), I noticed Continental Divide by Russell Banks. I'd read his Affliction and seen the movie, so I crossed the divide (read the book, that is) and as usual went on to devour more of his oeuvre. I seem to remember a lot of it having to do with the Caribbean, and people of color finding their way in a world of voudun, and human trafficking, and perceptions of glory in these United States. Hey, if I'm wrong, sue me, but we're off to the races on a list and these will be snapshots only, pursuing philological progress, not bibliographic perfection.


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