The Poets & Writers MFA rankings have it all wrong. This unformulated list has unfairly given a bad rap to the whole system of neurotically assigning numerical value to categories that don’t even need to exist. One of my Top 5 Favorite Movies is High Fidelity, a film that is sometimes categorized as one of the Top 5 Worst Book to Film Adaptations. John Cusack’s character Rob owns a record store and has recently broken up with his girlfriend. To find out what went wrong in this relationship, Rob determines his Top 5 Worst Breakups and seeks out his ex-girlfriends. The Top 5 list becomes a running theme. Bruce Springsteen makes a cameo and that’s the gist.
I hope I’m not giving anything away when I say that the ranking method is ineffective when applied to anything of substance in Rob’s life. I see the value in rankings. It’s how my family named our dog (three rounds with a point system) and how I know what my favorite color is, but rankings are inherently debatable and that’s kind of their only purpose. In an effort to get back to the responsibility of rankings as a fun way to ignite discussion and neatly organize subjectivity instead of as a means to divide a community, I’ve compiled three Top 5 lists in a literary tribute to High Fidelity.
Top 5 Complicated Relationship Essays
- Sarah Vowell “Thanks for the Memorex”: A long distance relationship via mix tapes
- Joan Didion “Goodbye to All That”/Vivian Gornick “On Living Alone”: Complex feelings toward New York.
- David Sedaris “Keeping Up”: A boyfriend who walks too fast.
- Amy Hempel “It Takes a Hell of a Man to Replace No Man at All”: On being the marrying kind.
- Richard Rodriguez “Late Victorians”: A home in the San Francisco AIDS community.
Top 5 Movies About Fictional Writers
- The Shining: A writer alone, snowed in, with an ax.
- Barton Fink: Coen Brothers.
- Adaptation: Two Nicholas Cages write a screenplay.
- The Squid and the Whale: Bleak life of an academic.
- Sunset Boulevard: Screenwriter, 1950, film noir.
Top 5 Songs with Literary References
- “Ghost of Tom Joad” Bruce Springsteen
- “Grendel’s Mother” or “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” The Mountain Goats
- “Cemetery Gates” The Smiths
- “Desolation Row” Bob Dylan
- “Alice” Tom Waits
- Bonus: “The Missouri Review” Unknown
Leave behind comments with your own Top 5 Lists (Top 5 Book Covers? Top 5 Most Handsome Writers? Top 5 Book-Related Craft Projects?). Add and subtract from my lists. Be opinionated, use circular logic, and be prepared to passionately defend all rankings with arbitrary reasoning. I know I am.