Uncategorized | October 20, 2011

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

  1. Sarah Vowell “Thanks for the Memorex”: A long distance relationship via mix tapes
  2. Joan Didion “Goodbye to All That”/Vivian Gornick “On Living Alone”: Complex feelings toward New York.
  3. David Sedaris “Keeping Up”: A boyfriend who walks too fast.
  4. Amy Hempel “It Takes a Hell of a Man to Replace No Man at All”: On being the marrying kind.
  5. Richard Rodriguez “Late Victorians”: A home in the San Francisco AIDS community.

Top 5 Movies About Fictional Writers

  1. The Shining: A writer alone, snowed in, with an ax.
  2. Barton Fink: Coen Brothers.
  3. Adaptation: Two Nicholas Cages write a screenplay.
  4. The Squid and the Whale: Bleak life of an academic.
  5. Sunset Boulevard: Screenwriter, 1950, film noir.
Notes: Woody Allen and “Probably a Twilight Zone episode” were considered for this list, but Woody Allen seemed too easy and an episode of The Twilight Zone is not a movie.

Top 5 Songs with Literary References

  1. Ghost of Tom Joad” Bruce Springsteen
  2. Grendel’s Mother” or “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” The Mountain Goats
  3. Cemetery Gates” The Smiths
  4. Desolation Row” Bob Dylan
  5. Alice” Tom Waits
  6. Bonus: “The Missouri Review” Unknown
Notes: Here is something that exists “My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors.” It is not by the Magnetic Fields.

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.