Tuesday, July 31, 2012

15 of the Greatest Lists in Literature

by . Flavorpill -  July 28, 2012

This week, Threaded reminded us of one of our favorite moments in Joan Didion’s The White Album — when she lists her packing list, incredibly simple and yet so revealing. Lists, of course, are no rare thing in literature, and have many uses, from adding quirk to showing off knowledge, and have storied positions in classic texts like The Faerie Queene (so many different kinds of trees) and The Illiad (200+ lines of Greek chieftains). Inspired by Didion, we spent some time thinking about our favorite lists in literature, from short to impossibly long, from lists that catalogue items to those that follow the train of imagination. Click through to check out the literary lists we think are the funniest, most revealing, most interesting or flat out strangest, and if we’ve missed your own favorite, tell us about it in the comments. And yes, it does not escape us that this is a list of lists. Meta is the way we like it.

From The White Album, Joan Didion
To Pack and Wear:
2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
nightgown, robe slippers
bag with: shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor, deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, baby oil
To Carry:
mohair throw
2 legal pads and pens
house key
This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily. The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard, and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture. Notice the mohair throw for trunk-line flights (i.e. no blankets) and for the motel room in which the air conditioning could not be turned off. Notice the bourbon for the same motel room. Notice the typewriter for the airport, coming home: the idea was to turn in the Hertz car, check in, find an empty bench, and start typing the day’s notes.

The entirety of Joe Brainard’s I Remember, a memoir in lists of memories. An excerpt:
I remember the first time I got a letter that said “After Five Days Return To” on the envelope, and I thought that after I had kept the letter for five days I was supposed to return it to the sender.
I remember the kick I used to get going through my parents’ drawers looking for rubbers. (Peacock.)
I remember when polio was the worst thing in the world.
I remember pink dress shirts. And bola ties.
I remember when a kid told me that those sour clover-like leaves we used to eat (with little yellow flowers) tasted so sour because dogs peed on them. I remember that didn’t stop me from eating them.
I remember the first drawing I remember doing. It was of a bride with a very long train.
I remember my first cigarette. It was a Kent. Up on a hill. In Tulsa, Oklahoma. With Ron Padgett.
I remember by first erections. I thought I had some terrible disease or something.
I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.

The complete filmography of James O. Incandenza, from Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. This thing is 8 pages long (in the footnotes, no less). An excerpt:
“Cage” – Dated only ‘Before Subsidiaztion.’ Meniscus Films, Ltd. Uncredited cast; 16 mm; .5 minutes; black and white; sound. Soliloquized parody of a broadcast-television advertisement for shampoo, utilizing four convex mirrors, two planar mirrors, and one actress. UNRELEASED
“Kinds Of Light” – B.S. Meniscus Films, Ltd. No cast; 16 mm; 3 minutes; color; silent. 4,444 individual frames, each of which photo depicts lights of different source, wavelength, and candle power, each reflected off the same unpolished tin plate and rendered disorienting at normal projection speeds by the hyperretinal speed at which they pass. CELLULOID, LIMITED METROPOLITAN BOSTON RELEASE, REQUIRES PROJECTION AT .25 NORMAL SPROCKET DRIVE
“Dark Logics” – B.S. Meniscus Films, Ltd. Players uncredited; 35 mm; 21 minutes; color; silent w/ deafening Wagner/Sousa soundtrack. Griffith tribute, Iimura parody. Child-sized but severely palsied hand turns pages of incunabular manuscripts in mathematics, alchemy, religion, and bogus political autobiography, each page comprising some articulation or defense of intolerance and hatred. Films dedication to D.W. Griffith and Taka Iimura. UNRELEASED
“Tennis, Everyone?” – B.S. Heliotrope Films, Ltd./U.S.T.A. Films. Documentary cast w/ narrator Judith Fukuoka-Hearn; 35 mm; 26 minutes; color; sound. Public relations/advertorial production for United States Tennis Association in conjunction with Wilson Sporting Goods, Inc. MAGNETIC VIDEO
“There Are No Losers Here” – B.S. Heliotrope Films, Ltd./U.S.T.A. Films. Documentary cast w/ narrator P.A. Heaven; 35 mm; color; sound. Documentary on B.S. 1997 U.S.T.A. National Junior Tennis Championships, Kalamazoo, MI, and Miami, FL, in conjunction with United States Tennis Association and Wilson Sporting Goods. MAGNETIC VIDEO
[Read the rest from Infinite Jest here]

Read the full list of 15 titles here.

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