An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, November 18, 2005

Listing to starboard

Lists are addictive, we have discovered somewhat to our cost. The past few days have been full of listing activity and by that I do not mean that we are suddenly like some seagoing vessel leaking oil that leans dangerously to one side. No, it's that 100 great writers list that has been occupying us (we're at about 69 agreed entries currently) and while the process has been enjoyable and tough it's the ability of lists to spawn other lists that is the biggest revelation. None of us outside of G is naturally a list maker and this ability to sprout new lists from incomplete lists is new to all of us.

Let me explain by example if I may: reading some comments on an online thread about such lists we came across come one berating all lists for being ethnocentric - the comment was from a Canadian - and so we all thought, almost simultaneously, of a list of great writers country by country. And so we started such a list: one writer per country. Almost at once we were confronted with problems: do Scotland and Wales get an entry since Ireland has to have one?; do we allow two entries so that we can have a male and a female representative so that we aren't accused of gender bias?; what about writers from one place who write in the language of another?

Well, as you can imagine the discussion descended into anarchy fairly quickly with every man and his dog riding particular hobby horses across the field of play, churning up the bridle path and throwing clods of mud in all directions. Not a pretty sight/site. By this time this list had no more than 7 entries anyway! It was at this point that it became clear that everyone was interested in adjusting the criteria in such a way that they could get their own favourites onto the list. If you change the criteria slightly you can have a different list - preferably one that allows space for your own hobby horse and rider/s.

We all became aware of the potential to create lists that are just subtly different in their inclusions and exclusions to make our own points. To push our predilections if you will. The rest of the week had given rise to hundreds of potential lists and the furore is not over yet - not by a long chalk I suspect. It has been a useful insight, though, into how such lists are probably constructed. We are back on track at present with our original list (and I'm whipping the defaulters back into shape daily) but I have decided to show you a partial list that we came up with that demonstrates nicely how the sublist idea works:


English: James Joyce
US English: Gilbert Sorrentino
Canadian English; Elizabeth Smart
Australian English: Christine Brooke-Rose
Scottish: James Kellman
Japanese: Yukio Mishima
Czech: Bohumil Hrabal
German: Franz Kafka (although from Prague Kafka wrote in German)
Norwegian: Knut Hamsun
Polish: Ryszard Kapuscinski
French: Samuel Beckett (we cannot have a great writers list without Sam)
Portuguese: Jose Saramago
Spanish: Miguel Cervantes
Basque: Bernardo Atxaga
Russian: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Gaelic: Flann O'Brien

I think that that makes my/our point and so I will leave it here for you to think about.

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