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Lists and bestness.

December 7, 2010 \pm\31 3:43 pm

At the end of the summer of 1993 I evaluated my relationship with a guy who I dated since May. I already developed strongs feelings for this guy, but there were a lot of problems that I could not tolerate. Like he never introduced me to people, even though I was standing right there or how he never paid for my meal or movie ticket, even though I had paid for his countless times and he was financially way better off. He made a lot of stupid comments too. I felt disrespected and used. It seemed likely that I’d have to end the relationship and the thought of that filled me with despair because you know, feelings. So I wrote and gave him a list of everything that was wrong with him, citing details, examples and incidents. It was a very long, honest list. Few men could handle being confronted with such a list. In 2010, as I sit in our lovely townhome, gaze at our son’s kindergarten picture, I am so very glad I wrote that blunt, difficult list and that guy who did indeed become my husband could appreciate its necessity at the time. I come from a long line of listmakers. It’s what my people do.

What you need to know about lists, pretty much all lists ranging from “these are your many faults” to grocery to gift registries to “best ofs” is that they’re both useful tools and primordial soups of fuckery. You can present me with just about any list and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: the flawed methodology, the narrow assumptions, what doesn’t belong and what’s missing. Don’t even get me started on rankings and hierarchies, that’s infinite fuckery plus one. The concept of Best? The wrongiest fuckery imaginable plus a thousand.

When it comes to “best books” lists — there’s a lot to criticize. And appreciate. Book lists tell you about books you may otherwise never hear about and miss. They have the potential to both shine some much deserved light or withhold it. And they have the potential to shine yet more underserved sunshine up some unworthy, overfed fuckwit’s ass. These lists tell you even more about the listmakers. Fuel for speculation and gossip! I find lists absolutely fascinating.

For the third year, No Tells is doing its Best Poetry Books of the Year feature. Sure, I could have called it “Notable Books” or something less fuckish, but I didn’t. That tells you something about me. I invited 360 past and future No Tell Motel and Bedside Guide contributors plus a few others to send their Best of picks (or Holiday Guides). My guidelines were simple: 1-10 best poetry titles from 2010 and my hope that the selections lean on the side of independent presses, but whatever the listmakers select is AOK. Some listmakers broke even those basic guidelines. There’s a few books from 2009, a couple lists with more than 10 titles, etc. Yeah, that’s what you get when anyone can be a gatekeeper. Most people who I invite don’t bother sending lists, which says a lot. But a number of folks do and their lists say a lot too. I find a couple lists to be outright jaw dropping for various reasons. At this writing, I’ve received over 25 lists and find certain overall omissions to be a bit more than curious. There’s something both wonderful and horribly wrong about every single list. I love curating this feature.

Every day until the end of the year No Tells will post a new list by a different person, so check back every day. At the end I’ll post a Bestest List and give you something more to disparage.

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4 Comments
  1. December 7, 2010 \pm\31 7:21 pm 7:21 pm

    You never mentioned what the guy did after you gave him the list. Obviously, you didn’t make it, but did it end instantly, or did it linger?’

    As for lists, there are a time and place, but before I got married I dated a girl who told me that I met 14 of the 20 qualifications on her list, but that wasn’t so bad, as most guys could just meet 10 or 11. We ended up getting engaged, moving in together, and breaking up…the breakup had nothing to do with her list, but nevertheless, ever since I’ve been anti-list when it comes to love.

    But I always like reading lists, and battling or praising the selections, when it comes to art/books/movies etcetera.

  2. December 7, 2010 \pm\31 7:52 pm 7:52 pm

    Oh, no, I married that guy. He’s my now-husband! After I handed him the list, he read it, said something along the lines of “Well ok then” and took me out to dinner (and paid). My giving him that list changed everything.

  3. December 7, 2010 \pm\31 10:48 pm 10:48 pm

    Wow. Also, your list was post-meeting him, not pre-, and thus reasonable and actually based on experience. Guess I didn’t read between the lines very well. Congratulations, glad it worked out.

  4. December 8, 2010 \pm\31 4:08 pm 4:08 pm

    I never knew lists could be so interesting, and I love the story about your husband. ;D

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